Classic Empire and Always Dreaming maintain the top odds heading into the 2017 Kentucky Derby following a favourable draw for the post positions and solid work leading up to the race.
The duo are followed closely by Irish War Cry, McCraken and Gunnevera, as this year's field is remarkably deep and could serve up a few surprises.
According to SportingNews.com, the total prize money for this year's race is $2 million, with the winner's stable receiving $1.24 million. Here's a look at the field, complete with post positions and odds, courtesy of Oddsshark.com (Odds accurate as of Friday, May 5):
|Kentucky Derby Post Positions, Odds|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||33-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||18-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||66-1|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||50-1|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||9-2|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||33-1|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||16-1|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||16-1|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||18-1|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||12-1|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||20-1|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||40-1|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||28-1|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||19-4|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||6-1|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||28-1|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||6-1|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||18-1|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||25-1|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||33-1|
Classic Empire and Always Dreaming have been regarded as the favourites for the Run for the Roses for some time now, and the latter has boosted his profile with some excellent work the last few days.
The colt previously looked difficult to handle, but that has since changed, per David Grening of Daily Racing Form:
David Grening @DRFGrening
Always Dreaming much better today galloping in draw reins. Maybe got antsy for two strides during 1 1-4-mile gallop. Otherwise perfect.2017-5-2 09:57:55
Always Dreaming will start from Post 5, giving the speedster an excellent opportunity to nestle near the head of the race from a good start. With excellent stamina―displayed in the Florida Derby―he should have an opportunity to explode coming out of the turn.
Classic Empire is more of a finisher, relying on superb closing speed in the final stretch. Post 14 hasn't favoured runners in the Derby as much as the inside slots historically, but it's far from a death sentence, especially given the colt's running style.
Irish War Cry has impressed leading up to the race, and per Grening, he seems to be peaking at just the right time:
David Grening @DRFGrening
Irish War Cry has best morning yet in Kentucky https://t.co/gR9Mwuar3F2017-5-4 15:04:10
While punters may be intrigued by the colt, it's worth noting Post 17 hasn't produced a single winner in Derby history. While the outside slots have been more productive in the last few years than before, Post 17 is still one to stay away from.
McCraken was drawn into Post 15, another slot that historically doesn't favour horses but has seen success recently, with American Pharoah starting there on his way to winning the first leg of the Triple Crown.
Prediction: Always Dreaming's starting position closer to the rail and his excellent long speed are a fantastic combination. If he can't create a good gap coming out of the turn, however, Classic Empire should be ready to pounce. The latter is an excellent finisher with a proven track record―he should be able to gallop to the win.