Triple Crown season is finally upon us, which means it's time to ramp up preparations for the 143rd Kentucky Derby.
And after Wednesday's post officially slotted this year's 20-horse field into its starting gates in advance of Saturday's Run For The Roses, some clarity has started to emerge regarding which competitors are in best position to take home a title in the shadow of Churchill Downs' twin spires.
With just two days remaining until the proceedings get underway, here's a look at updated odds, courtesy of OddsShark, and a preview of 2017's top Kentucky Derby contenders.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Odds and Post Positions|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||+2800|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||+1600|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||+6600|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||+5000|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||+400|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||+4000|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||+1600|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||+2200|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||+2500|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||+1200|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||+2800|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||+3300|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||+3300|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||+425|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||+650|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||+2500|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||+650|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||+1600|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||+1600|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||+3300|
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The Todd Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming and Mark Casse-trained Classic Empire top the bill this year, and it's not hard to see why.
Although Always Dreaming's resume isn't particularly lengthy, the three-year-old colt enters the Kentucky Derby with back-to-back wins in his last two starts—including a win at April's Florida Derby. All told, Always Dreaming has never finished worse than third in his four career starts.
Then there's Classic Empire, who turned heads at April's Arkansas Derby when he burst past the field down the back stretch to take home a victory:
To date, Classic Empire has five wins in seven starts—one of which came in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
However, Classic Empire may have to buck some historic trends in order for Casse to leave Churchill Downs happy.
According to OddsShark, the 14th post has produced just two Kentucky Derby winners since 1900. Conversely, the fifth post—which is home to Always Dreaming—has a Derby-best 13 champs in that span.
Casse, though, doesn't appear fazed by the odds.
"We couldn't be in a better place right now," he said Wednesday, according to the Associated Press' Beth Harris.
Beyond those two early favorites, a pair of +650 contenders in Irish War Cry and McCraken shouldn't be overlooked when evaluating potential winners.
Irish War Cry, in particular, deserves attention considering the three-year-old is headed into the Kentucky Derby with four wins in five starts. The most notable of those was last month's winning jaunt at the Wood Memorial, which saw the H. Graham Motion-trained colt best Battalion Runner and Cloud Computing to clinch a spot at Churchill Downs.
That said, Irish War Cry would be the first horse since 1900 to win the race starting from the 17th post, per OddsShark.
McCraken is in a slightly better spot since the 15th starting gate has produced five champions since 1900, but Ian Wilkes' horse will have to shake off a third-place finish at April's Blue Grass Stakes in order to break through on horse racing's biggest stage.