The 2017 Kentucky Derby is on Saturday, the famous horse race that every year, no matter the winner, produces a Triple Crown hopeful.
Few horses follow through on the initial promise after winning the The Run for the Roses, with the most recent two being American Pharoah (2015) and Affirmed (1978). The unlikelihood of a horse going on to win both the Belmont and Preakness Stakes in no way puts a damper on the Derby, as the race is one of the biggest events in sports and often provides plenty of drama.
The final draw for the Kentucky Derby field is on Wednesday, but the points leaderboard on the Derby's official site gives an idea of which thoroughbreds will get a post at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Here's a look at the top-ranked horses and their pedigree info in the buildup to the big race.
|1||Girvin||Joe Sharp||Mike E. Smith||Catch the Moon by Tale of Ekati|
|2||Classic Empire||Mark E. Casse||Julien. R Leparoux||Sambuca Classica by Pioneer of the Nile|
|3||Gormley||John A. Shirreffs||N/A||Race to Urga by Malibu Moon|
|4||Irap||Doug F. O'Neil||Mario Gutierrez||Silken Cat by Tiznow|
|5||Irish War Cry||H. Graham Motion||Rajiv Maragh||Irish Sovereign by Curlin|
|6||Thunder Snow (IRE)||Saeed bin Suroor||Christophe Soumillon||Eastern Joy by Helmet|
|7||Always Dreaming||Todd A. Pletcher||John R. Velazquez||Above Perfection by Bodemeister|
|8||Gunnevera||Antonio Sano||Javier Castellano||Unbridled Rage by Dialed In|
|9||Practical Joke||Chad C. Brown||Joel Rosario||Halo Humor by Into Mischief|
|10||J Boys Echo||Dale L. Romans||Robby Albarado||Letgomyecho by Mineshaft|
|11||State of Honor||Mark E. Casse||Jose Lezcano||State Cup by To Honor and Serve|
|12||Tapwrit||Todd A. Pletcher||Jose L. Ortiz||Appealing Zophie by Tapit|
|13||Hence||Steven M. Asmussen||N/A||Consequential by Mr. Prospector|
|14||Fast and Accurate||Michael J. Maker||N/A||It's Heidi's Dance by Hansen|
|15||McCraken||Ian R. Wilkes||Brian Joseph Hernandez Jr.||Change Water by Pretense|
|16||Battle of Midway||Jerry Hollendorfer||Flavien Prat||Polly Lee by Midway Circle|
|17||Patch||Todd A. Pletcher||N/A||Windyindy by Union Rags|
|18||Untrapped||Steven M. Asmussen||N/A||Exit Three by Trappe Shot|
|19||Lookin at Lee||Steven M. Asmussen||N/A||Langara Lass by Lookin at Lucky|
|20||Sonneteer||J. Keith Desormeaux||Kent J. Desormeaux||Gay Sonnet by Soy Numero Uno|
|21||Royal Mo||John A Shirreffs||Gary L. Stevens||Royal Irish Lass by Uncle Mo|
|22||Local Hero||Steven M. Asmussen||N/A||Liam's Dream by Hard Spun|
|23||Master Plan||Todd A. Pletcher||N/A||Princess Polly by Jet Master|
|24||Petrov||Ron Moquett||N/A||Saracina by Flatter|
The early favorites for the Kentucky Derby are Classic Empire and Always Dreaming, per OddsShark's Mike Dempsey.
Classic Empire has five wins in seven career races, including a victory at the Arkansas Derby on Apr. 15 and at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile race in November of last year. The colt is second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, with 132 points, and has strong bloodlines in Pioneerof the Nile, which finished second at the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
Always Dreaming has won his past two races, the most recent a breezy victory at the Grade 1 Florida Derby on April 1, a race that saw fellow Kentucky Derby hopeful Gunnevera finish third. Always Dreaming has little in the way of high-stakes racing experience, which apparently hasn't dampened bettors spirits, but HorseRacingNation.com's Brian Zipse warned against the horse's lack of experience.
"In the Florida Derby, his first attempt against good horses, he had a perfect trip and never faced adversity," Zipse said. "Unless he is even better than I think, he is sure to face serious adversity on Saturday. A little headstrong since arriving to Louisville, I wonder if he will be up to the test."
While those two are the early betting favorites, there is no major consensus like there has been for recent winners like American Pharoah in 2015 or Nyquist in 2016.
"I think it's as wide open as we've seen in a long time," trainer Dale Romans said, per the Los Angeles Times' John Cherwa.
Girvin may be the points leader, but his most recent wins have come in Grade 2 stakes. Gunnevera is more of a mixed bag, though he hasn't finished worse than fifth in a race and has a couple of runnings in Grade 1 events.
One of the less notable contenders from the expected 20-horse field could also have a breakthrough moment and surprise everyone. The large field and the race's status as a table-setter for the Triple Crown is a big reason why it's considered one of the most exciting, adrenaline-packed events in sports.
Race info courtesy of HorseRacingNation.com unless otherwise noted.