The field at the 2017 Kentucky Derby is set, and all that's left is the run for the roses. Wednesday's post draw set the field of 20 horses that will step to the gates Saturday evening in what's shaping up to be a pretty wide-open field.
Based on the oddsmaker outlook, it's a four-horse field. Classic Empire comes in as the morning line favorite at 4-1 and drew the No. 14 post. He's followed by No. 5 post Always Dreaming and No. 15 post McCraken, which are both 5-1. Irish War Cry, lining up on the No. 17 post, is at 6-1 and is the only other horse with single-digit odds.
Fifteen horses, including alternate entrant Royal Mo, are sitting at 20-1 or better odds.
"When you look at it just on numbers, it's very even," trainer Doug O'Neill said, who has Irap in this year's race, per Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun. "There's no horses coming in—there are a lot of really nice three-year-olds that just look like they're getting better and better—but no freakish two-year-olds that have continued on."
Still, Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse told reporters "we couldn't be in a better place right now" coming into the Derby.
"With the average horse you couldn't do what we have done," Casse said. "You need so many things to go right and the good news with this horse is he's so talented he can overcome a lot."
|Kentucky Derby Posts and Notes|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||20-1||Steve Asmussen trained 2016 Belmont winner Creator and won the 2007 and 2009 Preakness Stakes. The Kentucky Derby is the only Triple Crown race he's not won.|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||20-1||Thunder Snow has won his last three races after losing four of his last five.|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||50-1||Fast and Accurate has won both of his career races, which were each in 2017.|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||30-1||Untrapped has never won a race in seven tries.|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||5-1||John Velazquez has won just one Kentucky Derby, in 2011 atop Animal Kingdom. Pletcher's lone Derby win was in 2010.|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||30-1||State of Honor has won just one of seven races in his career.|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||15-1||Girvin was dealing with a partial crack in his right front hoof coming into the race. Trainer Joe Sharp is entering his first Derby.|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||15-1||Hence won the 2017 Sunland Derby.|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||20-1||Doug O’Neill trained 2016 Derby winner Nyquist. He also won the Derby and Preakness in 2012.|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||15-1||Gunnevera is one of the most experienced horses in the field, with nine races. He's won four, including the Fountain of Youth.|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||30-1||Jerry Hollendorfer has more than 7,000 career wins but has never won a Triple Crown race.|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||50-1||The Desormeaux brothers won the 2016 Preakness with Exaggerator.|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||20-1||Dale Romans won the 2011 Preakness Stakes with Shackleford.|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||4-1||Despite training this year's favorite, Mark Casse has never won a Triple Crown race. He has three Breeders' Cup wins.|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||5-1||Ian Wilkes won the 2012 Breeders' Cup Classic but has no real history of Triple Crown success.|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||20-1||Tapwrit won the 2017 Tampa Bay Derby.|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||6-1||Graham Motion was the trainer for 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom.|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||15-1||Victor Espinoza rode 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Espinoza has won three Kentucky Derbys.|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||20-1||Joel Rosario has been among the world's highest-earning jockeys for eight years running. He won the 2013 Kentucky Derby.|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||30-1||Patch has one eye, which has been an inspiring story coming into the race.|
|Kentucky Derby on Facebook|
"I've always said good horses win when everything goes their way; great horses win when nothing goes their way," Casse told John Clay of the Herald-Leader. "And I think he's a great horse. But I guess we'll determine that (Saturday)."
Classic Empire won four of his first five career races, highlighted by the Breeders' Futurity Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His only blemish was a third-place outing at the Holy Bull Stakes in March, which saw him finish behind Derby competitors Irish War Cry and Gunnevera. His pattern of behavior after that loss was a bit of a concern, with Casse taking him back to the barn for extra work.
Always Dreaming is another favorite with some past issues. The horse, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won each of its last two races. Its 1:47.47 time was the fastest at the track since 1978. Pletcher and others have highlighted the atypical aggressiveness of the horse.
"The thing about training horses is you're always looking to make the right adjustments," Pletcher said, per Tim Sullivan of the Courier-Journal. "Some horses in this field don't want to train. Some horses want to train too much. Part of your job as a trainer is to continue to make adjustments and make sure everything is going as smooth as possible."
Pletcher, one of the busiest trainers in the game, will also saddle 20-1 Tapwrit and 30-1 Patch. Alternate entrant Master Plan, sitting at 50-1, also has a chance to make the field in the case of other horses dropping out.
Meanwhile, Pletcher's biggest rival, Bob Baffert, will not enter a horse in this year's field. The 64-year-old, who shepherded American Pharoah to a Triple Crown in 2015, won't have a horse ready after Mastery dropped out of the field.
Pletcher, Steve Asmussen and Casse are the only three trainers in the field with at least two horses.