Kentucky Derby 2017 Horses: Contenders and Race-Day Overview for Entire Field

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2017

Kentucky Derby hopeful Always Dreaming works out under jockey John Velazquez at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Friday, April 28, 2017. Always Dreaming is one of five colts eyeing the May 6th horse race from the barn of trainer Todd Pletcher. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Garry Jones/Associated Press

Always Dreaming will start the 2017 Kentucky Derby from Post 5 on Saturday, while fellow contender Classic Empire has been handed Post 14.

Following Wednesday's draw, we now have a clear picture of how the field will line up in the 143rd Run for the Roses.

The horses will be competing for a $2 million purse, with $1.24 million of that going to the victor.

While Always Dreaming and Classic Empire are seen as the contenders to beat, it's an open 20-horse field with a number of others capable of producing a surprise at Churchill Downs.

The post time starts at 6:34 p.m. ET, and with the 10-furlong race lasting just two minutes, it's not to be missed.

Here's a complete breakdown of the post positions from Wednesday's draw:

2017 Kentucky Derby: Complete Order After Post Draw
1Lookin At LeeCorey LanerieSteve Asmussen
2Thunder SnowChristophe SoumillonSaeed bin Suroor
3Fast and AccurateChanning HillMike Maker
4UntrappedRicardo Santana Jr.Steve Asmussen
5Always DreamingJohn VelazquezTodd Pletcher
6State of HonorJose LezcanoMark Casse
7GirvinMike SmithJoe Sharp
8HenceFlorent GerouxSteve Asmussen
9IrapMario GutierrezDoug O’Neill
10GunneveraJavier CastellanoAntonio Sano
11Battle of MidwayFlavien PratJerry Hollendorfer
12SonneteerKent DesormeauxKeith Desormeaux
13J Boys EchoLuis SaezDale Romans
14Classic EmpireJulien LeparouxMark Casse
15McCrakenBrian Hernandez Jr.Ian Wilkes
16TapwritJose OrtizTodd Pletcher
17Irish War CryRajiv MaraghGraham Motion
18GormleyVictor EspinozaJohn Shirreffs
19Practical JokeJoel RosarioChad Brown
20PatchTyler GaffalioneTodd Pletcher

Classic Empire will line up alongside fellow contender McCraken in Posts 14 and 15, respectively.

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Post 14 has only ever produced two winners with the most recent being in 1961, while American Pharoah won from No. 15 two years ago.

The Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman believes both have done well in the draw, though:

Jay Privman @DRFPrivman

RLT, think posts 14 (Classic Empire), 15 (McCraken) are advantageous, since they are last stall in main gate, first in aux gate; gap between

McCraken's prior experience of racing and winning at Churchill Downs puts him in with a good chance of competing for at least a podium place here, while Classic Empire has several impressive wins under his belt including in the Arkansas Derby last month.

Classic Empire's trainer Mark Casse was happy with how the draw went, per BloodHorse.com's Alicia Wincze Hughes:

Alicia Wincze Hughes @BH_AHughes

Said Casse "It worked out perfect. I love having State of Honor right outside Always Dreaming & I like Classic Empire being able to watch"

Alicia Wincze Hughes @BH_AHughes

Added Casse on ML fave Classic Empire in post 14 "That's good. A couple of the key contenders are outside of us, which is kind of nice."

Rival Always Dreaming has reason to be pleased, too.

According to Christina Moore of America's Best Racing, while the outside gates have become more successful in recent years, no position has produced more winners than Post 5 with nine victorious horses starting there, including 2014 winner California Chrome.

The colt beat the field into submission when he won the Florida Derby earlier this year and has trained aggressively since arriving in Kentucky.

The DRF's Marcus Hersh believes he may be a little too explosive:

Marcus Hersh @DRFHersh

No vid but can tell you he still is feeling potentially too good for his own good. Draw reins keeping him on the ground. Powder keg. https://t.co/pI5WWgQyQO

That could translate well in the race or perhaps act as a hindrance, but as far as the inside gates go he'll have a strong starting position at least.

So too will Gunnevera from Post 10, which has also produced nine winners. He won the Fountain of Youth Stakes in March, though he only mustered third in Florida behind Always Dreaming and State of Honor.

Irish War Cry is another contender, but as DRF's David Grening noted, he could be up against it because of his post position:

David Grening @DRFGrening

Irish War Cry draws post 17. Post 17 is 0 for 38 in the Kentucky Derby.

Of course, that's not to say he can't win—he has won four of his five career races and beat both Gunnevera and Classic Empire at the Holy Bull Stakes.

The field is particularly open this year, and with the possible exception of Irish War Cry, all the major contenders have received favourable post positions.

The stage is set for a thrilling showdown at Churchill Downs—it could be the closest contest for some time.

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