The Kentucky Derby is the premier horse racing event every year in the sport of kings. While the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes will complete the Triple Crown races later on in May and early June, the Derby is the sport's showcase event.
This year's race is scheduled for Saturday, May 6 at 6:34 p.m. and will be televised by NBC from Churchill Downs, and the race figures to be even more wide open than usual.
Twenty horses will go to the post, and there are only three horses who are listed at odds of 8-1 or better, according to OddsShark.
Those horses include favorite Classic Empire at 4-1, Always Dreaming at 5-1 and Irish War Cry at 8-1. (OddsShark lists Classic Empire at plus-400, which translates to 4-1 in classic horse racing betting terminology.)
Classic Empire was the best two-year-old horse in 2016, and he crowned his season by winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He has not had a very active year in 2017, but he won the Arkansas Derby and finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes, and those are his only starts this year.
Classic Empire has had health issues in 2017 and has also shown a stubborn streak. He has had to deal with a foot abscess as well as a back problem, and he has also refused to run at a training session.
As a result, Classic Empire is not a dominating favorite in the Run for the Roses. This race often features long shot winners at huge prices for those that can successfully predict the outcome of the event. There are a number of dark-horse contenders who should have a good chance to either win or hit the board as they run down the stretch in Kentucky.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Entries and Odds|
|Irish War Cry||8-1|
|Conquest Mo Money||25-1|
|J Boys Echo||28-1|
|Lookin At Lee||50-1|
|State of Honor||50-1|
|Battle of Midway||50-1|
|Fast and Accurate||66-1|
One of the long shots that handicappers need to consider is Gunnevera, who is a 10-1 shot at this point in the week.
Gunnevera appears to be in great shape to make a late run and be at his best when the horses turn for home and streak down the stretch. Gunnevera was beaten significantly in the Florida Derby, but he had excuses in that race like a poor post and a speed-favoring track. Despite those issues, Gunnevera ran hard throughout the race and made it up to third place by the time the race had concluded.
He has no guarantees about post position or how the track will impact the pace of the race, but it is almost certain that Gunnevera will be running hard down the stretch.
Girvin is another horse who has had injury problems but should be a factor if trainer Joe Sharp can send him to the post in a healthy state. Girvin has a crack in his right front hoof, and he has been getting therapy for the injury. He was strong enough over the weekend to have an effective workout at Keeneland, and that's a good sign.
Girvin has odds of 20-1 early in the week, and Sharp is confident about his horse's chances without being boastful.
"I'm not saying that I think I'm going to win the Derby, but I definitely wouldn't trade places with anybody," Sharp said, per Beth Harris of the Associated Press (h/t Boston Globe). "He's always consistent and he's got the kind of running style that wins big races."
Gormley is a two-time Grade 1 winner, and he should have a legitimate chance at 16-1.
Gormley is not known for his stretch running, but he has a chance to run a strong tactical race because he can get out of the gate quickly and run with a sharp pace. He won the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes with a gate-to-wire effort.
He has also won the Sham Stakes and the Santa Anita Derby, and he won the latter race by sitting behind the pace and mounting an effective drive to the victory. His ability to win in that style demonstrated a bit more versatility than he had shown at earlier points in his career.