This may be the toughest Kentucky Derby to predict in years based on the betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.
Even though Classic Empire drew an unfavorable No. 14 post position on Wednesday, 2016's top juvenile looks to be the horse to beat in 2017 at Churchill Downs on Saturday as the +425 betting favorite (wager $100 to win $425) over Always Dreaming (+450), McCracken (+600) and Irish War Cry (+600).
There are 20 horses overall in the field of the 143rd Run for the Roses, with 16 of them having odds of +1200 or higher. Fast and Accurate is the long shot at +6600 after winning the Spiral Stakes as a +2400 underdog at Turfway Park on March 25. But the gray does not have much more going for him in what is a competitive field.
Classic Empire was an early Derby favorite dating back to November until Always Dreaming, McCracken and Irish War Cry enjoyed their winning moments to pass him on the betting boards in early April.
But a victory in the Arkansas Derby on April 15 erased some doubts regarding whether Classic Empire had recovered from a foot abscess that was blamed for his third-place finish in the Holy Bull Stakes on February 4.
In the Holy Bull Stakes, it was Irish War Cry that pulled off the upset win, with Gunnevera (+1200) placing second ahead of Classic Empire. Irish War Cry has another challenge this time around, and that will be trying to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby from the No. 17 post position.
Just two horses have won the Derby from No. 14, giving Classic Empire a difficult spot to start from as well.
Always Dreaming might have the best shot among the favorites based on post position, starting from No. 5. California Chrome won in the No. 5 post three years ago, one of nine horses with a first-place finish in the Kentucky Derby from that position.
McCracken will start from No. 15, with five horses previously winning the Derby from that position.