Kentucky Derby 2017 Odds: Latest Betting Lines and Predictions

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2017

ARCADIA, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Classic Empire #5, ridden by Julien Leparoux, wins the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile during day two of the 2016 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park on November 5, 2016 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)
Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Classic Empire is the early favourite to win the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, closely followed by Always Dreaming and Irish War Cry.

The trio head the betting ahead of this year's Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, where an open field of 20 horses will be competing for a $2 million purse in one of the sport's most thrilling showdowns.

With the race spanning a distance of just 10 furlongs, there's always an element of unpredictability with the Kentucky Derby, too, while much can change after the release of the post positions, which determine the gates the horses start from.

Here are the latest odds, courtesy of OddsShark, and read on for some early predictions as to how the race might go down:

Kentucky Derby 2017: Betting Lines
HorseOdds
Classic Empire+400
Always Dreaming+500
Irish War Cry+800
Gunnevera+1000
McCraken+1000
Irap+1400
Tapwrit+1400
Gormley+1600
Thunder Snow+1800
Girvin+2000
Practical Joke+2000
Conquest Mo Money+2500
J Boys Echo+2800
Hence+2800
Lookin At Lee+5000
State of Honor+5000
Cloud Computing+5000
Patch+5000
Battle of Midway+5000
Sonneteer+5000
Royal Mo+5000
Untrapped+5000
Fast and Accurate+6600
OddsShark

Classic Empire Leads the Betting

Classic Empire comes in as the favourite at 4-1.

The colt has shown his winning pedigree with victories in two Grade 1 stakes to close out 2016, while in April he enjoyed an outstanding warm-up for Kentucky by winning the Arkansas Derby.

He won the race with an impressive late surge down the final stretch:

Classic Empire made his successful comeback in that race after finishing third behind fellow Kentucky contenders Irish War Cry (8-1) and Gunnevera (10-1) at the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in February.

Per USA Today's Dan Wolken, the emergence of an abscess on his right foot two days later offered some explanation for the defeat.

Now recovered and coming into the Derby on the back of his win in Arkansas, trainer Mark Casse believes Classic Empire is in excellent shape. Per Wolken, he said, "He's happy, he's on his game and he likes it here."

According to the odds, the colt's biggest rival will be Always Dreaming at 5-1.

Trained by seven-time Eclipse Award-winner Todd Pletcher, who also trained 2010 Kentucky winner Super Saver, Always Dreaming romped to victory in the Florida Derby:

However, that is his only prior Stakes experience, and he's likely to face a much sterner test at Churchill Downs, so there's a question mark over his ability to handle that.

Always Dreaming has also been up and down in his preparations for Kentucky, per the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman and Mike Welsch:

He may well have enough talent to win, but whether that translates into a good performance on the day is another matter.

At 10-1 McCraken is a slight outsider, but he may well be in contention when the horses face off on Saturday.

McCraken is likely not among the top favourites because a minor injury saw him come third in his last outing the Blue Grass Stakes in April, but he has four wins under his belt prior to that and three came at his local Churchill Downs.

He's looked excellent in training for the Derby, per the Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh and BloodHorse.com's Steve Haskin: 

A strong finisher, McCraken is experienced in coming from behind to win and could well be a contender on Saturday.

The picture will become clearer once the post positions are released on Wednesday, but he has the ability to seriously rival Classic Empire and Always Dreaming.

Prediction: 1. Classic Empire  2. McCraken  3. Always Dreaming

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