Kentucky Derby 2017 Odds: Early Look at Vegas' Lines for Each Horse in Field

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2017

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - APRIL 30: Classic Empire, owned by John Oxley and trained by Mark E. Casse, exercises in preparation for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Jon Durr/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

Classic Empire is the favourite for Saturday's Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in what looks to be an open field.

While the Run for the Roses has held a reputation for being unpredictable in its previous 142 runnings, in recent years horses at the top of the market have thrived in the race meeting's marquee event. Classic Empire, narrowly shorter than Always Dreaming in the betting, will be well fancied as a result.

Although the post positions can make a significant difference to the odds, here are the latest lines ahead of the big race and a closer look at some of the horses expected to be in contention.

Kentucky Derby 2017: Odds
HorseOdds
Classic Empire+400
Always Dreaming+500
Irish War Cry+800
Gunnevera+1000
McCraken+1000
Irap+1400
Tapwrit+1400
Gormley+1600
Battalion Runner+1600
Thunder Snow+1800
Malagacy+2000
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.com

Numbers are from sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. Odds are accurate as of 12 p.m. (ET) on Monday, May 1.

Classic Empire the Early Favourite

LOUISVILLE, KY - APRIL 30: Kentucky Derby favorite, Classic Empire gets a bath at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images)
Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

As noted by Ben Roberts of the Herald Leader, the last four winners of the Kentucky Derby—Nyquist, American Pharoah, California Chrome and Orb—have been the pre-race favourites; over the last 10 years, six favourites have crossed the line first, too.

It means that while the Derby is dubbed the Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport, surprises have been in short supply lately. It's why plenty will be looking at the likes of Classic Empire when filling out their betting slips.

Mark E. Casse's colt was the juvenile champion in 2016 and, after a difficult start to the year, returned to form with a strong win at the Arkansas Derby. Here's a reminder of that excellent performance:

There are some lingering doubts about the favourite, though. Classic Empire has been a little erratic at times and didn't show his best at Holy Bull, when he was beaten by Irish War Cry, who will also line up for the Derby. He has also been suffering with a foot abscess.

Those with concerns about his temperament may turn to Always Dreaming, who could easily usurp the favourite at the top of the betting if he were to pick up a favourable draw.

A brilliant win at the Florida Derby made plenty take note of this Todd Pletcher-trained horse. There was a sense he had more in the tank, too, and according to James Scully of Brisnet, in early preparations the second favourite went "fast and easy…with a remarkable gallop-out." 

Always Dreaming was excellent in winning the Florida Derby.
Always Dreaming was excellent in winning the Florida Derby.Eclipse Sportswire/Getty Images

However, according to Nicole Russo of Daily Racing Form, that initial composure and pace hasn't been consistent through the preparations:

Away from the two standout competitors, other horses possess the pedigree needed to challenge here.

Irish War Cry, as aforementioned, enjoyed a brilliant outing at Holy Bull and has won in all but one of his races so far. A disappointing performance at the Fountain of Youth will put some off, although Graham Motion's horse has the raw speed to stay in contention with the two big names aforementioned.

As relayed by Joe Clancy, he's showcasing that pace ahead of the big day, too:

McCraken, a Kentucky local, would be a popular winner with the punters and has won on all three occasions when he's raced at Churchill Downs; that familiarity may prove key. Still, he's had some injury problems and didn't look at full throttle in last month's Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes. 

All in all, Classic Empire is tough to look beyond at this stage. Every horse in the field has weaknesses that can be pointed to, but Caase's horse has bounced back strongly from his only poor performance. Post permitting, he's going to be tough to keep pace with on May 6.

Prediction: 1. Classic Empire, 2. Irish War Cry, 3. Always Dreaming

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