It's staggering to think millions of dollars up for grabs over the course of about two minutes this Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Alas, such is the nature of "the most exciting two minutes in sports," otherwise known as the Kentucky Derby.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have once again analyzed all the data available and crafted betting lines for the event, leaving bettors with plenty of options ranging from surefire contender to worthwhile underdog across the 20 entries.
Below, let's take a look at all the pertinent info surrounding the event, including the odds and payouts, before highlighting a few names bettors should know.
2017 Kentucky Derby Details
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Post Time: Saturday, May 6, at 6:34 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
Prize Money: $2 million purse, with $1.24 million going to the winner, according to Sporting News.
Kentucky Derby Entries
|1||Lookin At Lee||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||28-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Christophe Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||16-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||66-1|
|4||Untrapped||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||50-1|
|5||Always Dreaming||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||4-1|
|6||State of Honor||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||40-1|
|7||Girvin||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||16-1|
|8||Hence||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||22-1|
|9||Irap||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neill||25-1|
|10||Gunnevera||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||12-1|
|11||Battle of Midway||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||28-1|
|12||Sonneteer||Kent Desormeaux||Keith Desormeaux||33-1|
|13||J Boys Echo||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||33-1|
|14||Classic Empire||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||19-4|
|15||McCraken||Brian Hernandez Jr.||Ian Wilkes||13-2|
|16||Tapwrit||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||25-1|
|17||Irish War Cry||Rajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||13-2|
|18||Gormley||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||16-1|
|19||Practical Joke||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||16-1|
|20||Patch||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||33-1|
Horses to Know
Las Vegas likes Classic Empire for good reason.
The colt won four starts back in 2016, battled through an injury and came away with first in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby back in April. Not only is this a colt trained by Mark Casse, Julien Leparoux sits up top in the jockey position and boasts Eclipse Awards and seven triumphs in the Breeders' Cup.
While some bettors might shy away from Classic Empire because of an injury near the start of the year, it's the colt's ability to bounce back in strong form that cemented contending status, as pointed out by Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form (via ESPN.com):
And still, off a limited workout pattern and with only one modest race in five months, Classic Empire won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 15 to cement his role as Derby favorite, a status he gained with a truly high-level win last Nov. 5 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he beat the excellent 2-year-old Not This Time by a neck.
Classic Empire's track record so far is hard to ignore. Few in the field come close when putting resumes up to a microscope, so it's not hard to see why Las Vegas favors Casse's offering.
Though the payout isn't great here, Classic Empire is a great way to provide bankroll cushion while bettors take risks on high-upside plays.
Speaking of resumes, the Ian Wilkes-trained McCraken has one that holds up rather well.
McCraken doesn't boast as many Grade 1 wins as Classic Empire. Few could, but four straight wins are four straight wins, even if the best was only a Grade 2 event. Yes, McCraken's most recent event was a third-place finish, but coming off an injury, it was a gutsy showing.
Other factors make McCraken more attractive. For one, a No. 15 post is a good slot. McCraken also happens to call Churchill Downs home. Add the two factors with his racing style, and it's why some such as Brian Zipse of Horse Racing Nation suggest McCraken will win the race:
He likes to come from behind, but not so far back that traffic or fatigue will likely get in his way. Like so many Derby winners of the past, he can make his move on the turn, and be in perfect position at the head of the stretch. While much of the field will be getting winded, he should be just hitting the front, and ready to sprint home to the wire.
It'll be interesting to see how these factors around McCraken will fare against the sheer dominance of Classic Empire, to say the least.
For bettors, McCraken is a nice alternative to Classic Empire, especially given the starting position. With the sheer talent to best the field late, Wilkes' colt might throw a wrench in the Triple Crown conversation.
Irish War Cry
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On paper, Irish War Cry is as good as any contender this year, provided bettors can overlook an odd seventh-place finish in the middle of his resume.
It doesn't make a ton of sense. The Graham Motion-trained colt won three races in a row, then went down at the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in seventh place before another first-place finish.
Maybe the only explanation for the hiccup was the fact the colt hardly had a month off between races. Motion himself isn't too worried about the fact no horse has ever won from the No. 17 slot, either.
"Someone's going to win from the 17 hole one day Motion said, according to Stephen Edelson of the Asbury Park Press. "I was very happy with it. I think it suits the horse, actually. It doesn't bother me at all."
No exaggeration there—Irish War Cry likes to make a late sprint, which is good news as No. 17 could allow jockey Rajiv Maragh to avoid early traffic and make a late push.
Notice a trend? All of Saturday's favorites like to take off down the stretch, meaning this year's Kentucky Derby could boast one of its most entertaining finishes in a long time. It's great news for observers, even if odds payouts hang in the balance during the thrilling sprint to the finish line.