The Kentucky Derby post-position draw didn't provide much clarity for a cloudy field lacking a runaway favorite.
According to OddsShark, Classic Empire remains a small favorite as of Friday morning despite receiving the No. 14 spot. The owners of two other top contenders each sporting 6-1 odds, McCraken and Irish War Cry, likely didn't jump for joy after drawing No. 15 and 17, respectively.
Leading up to the 143rd Run for the Roses, Wednesday's reveal bodes best for Always Dreaming. On the heels of two impressive victories, the colt will start from a No. 5 slot, which has already produced 13 victors. As a result, he's the new favorite based on the KentuckyDerby.com moneylines.
Will that boost lead him to victory? Let's look at the updated odds before predicting Saturday's top-three finishers at Churchill Downs.
|2017 Kentucky Derby Field and Odds|
|1||Lookin At Lee||Steven Asmussen||Corey Lanerie||25-1|
|2||Thunder Snow||Saeed bin Suroor||Christophe Soumillon||17-1|
|3||Fast and Accurate||Michael Maker||Channing Hill||33-1|
|4||Untrapped||Steven Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr.||58-1|
|5||Always Dreaming||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||9-4|
|6||State of Honor||Mark Casse||Jose Lezcano||46-1|
|7||Girvin||Joe Sharp||Mike Smith||21-1|
|8||Hence||Steven Asmussen||Florent Geroux||17-1|
|9||Irap||Doug O'Neil||Mario Gutierrez||35-1|
|10||Gunnevera||Antonio Sano||Javier Castellano||9-1|
|11||Battle of Midway||Jerry Hollendorfer||Flavien Prat||37-1|
|12||Sonneteer||Keith Desormeaux||Kent Desormeaux||36-1|
|13||J Boys Echo||Dale Romans||Luis Saez||43-1|
|14||Classic Empire||Mark Casse||Julien Leparoux||7-1|
|15||McCraken||Ian Wilkes||Brian Hernandez Jr.||6-1|
|16||Tapwrit||Todd Pletcher||Jose Ortiz||29-1|
|17||Irish War Cry||Graham Motion||Rajiv Maragh||5-1|
|18||Gormley||John Shirreffs||Victor Espinoza||23-1|
|19||Practical Joke||Chad Brown||Joel Rosario||32-1|
|20||Patch||Todd Pletcher||Tyler Gaffalione||13-1|
Win: Irish War Cry
Every post position except No. 17 has drawn a winner. That changes this weekend, when Irish War Cry ends the drought on a possibly muddy course.
A month after finishing seventh at the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes, Isabelle de Tomaso's horse recovered to emphatically win the Wood Memorial on April 8.
Trainer Graham Motion, who guided Animal Kingdom to a 2011 Derby upset, didn't mince words regarding his horse's lone blemish to USA Today's Dan Wolken.
"I try to wipe it out of my mind," Motion said. "It was a disaster. It very clearly stands out. It was a debacle. Hopefully it will never happen again."
The New Jersey-bred contender earned rave reviews from Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch, who said Irish War Cry will likely receive more backers following Thursday's "picture-perfect training session."
"Unlike a couple of days earlier, when he was a bit headstrong and rank while galloping, Irish War Cry was relaxed and happy, moving effortlessly over the track and looking a picture of health, galloping approximately 1 3/4 miles after the renovation break," Welsch wrote.
His colleague, David Grening, offered a similar sentiment on Twitter:
With no safe favorite on the card, Irish War Cry has the breakaway speed necessary to overcome an unlucky starting gate.
Place: Always Dreaming
The favorites have recently flourished at Churchill Downs, but Always Dreaming is no California Chrome or Nyquist. He comes with enough uncertainty to instead predict a second-place finish.
The son of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister won both of his two races after breaking his maiden in late January. His April 1 graded stakes debut was no joke, as he cruised past Derby competitors Gunnevera and State of Honor to seize the Florida Derby crown.
There's also the impeccable team of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey John Velasquez preparing him for the 10-furlong race. As a result, plenty of bettors will flock to Always Dreaming following the favorable post position.
His aggressiveness, however, should cause some concern. Pletcher has run the antsy colt in draw reins all week, which initially yielded shaky results.
Following a rough Monday practice, Grening reported a better run on Tuesday:
Nevertheless, how will Always Dreaming handle a 20-horse field on a potentially muddy course? He remains this high as the most feasibly Triple Crown candidate, but there's also a low floor to beware.
McCraken hopes to follow American Pharoah's hoofs by winning the Kentucky Derby with a misspelled name from the No. 15 post. Having won all three races at Churchill Downs last year, the Kentucky native also has a home-field advantage.
The New York Times' Joe Drape called him this year's "buzz horse" who has "worked like a machine here in the mornings." Yet he didn't pick the four-time winner for a top-three finish.
He was unbeaten before placing third at the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, but most favorites enter Churchill Downs with a recent victory on the ledger. Nevertheless, McCraken gets the recognition here with the potential for an even better result.