The 2017 Arkansas Derby was the last chance for a series of Triple Crown contenders to build momentum. No horse had more on the line than reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire, who was last out placing 3rd in the Holy Bull before being saddled by some minor injuries. Needless to say, Classic Empire regained his fine form and is ready to rumble.
Going off as a 9/5 favorite, Classic Empire assumed a stalking position in the middle of the field as Conquest Mo Money took the early lead as a longshot. Malagacy, who was the 2/1 second choice, threatened the front of the pack early and looked like he was going to be able to secure a home stretch surge.
Unfortunately for Malagacy, he overlooked two things: first, Conquest Mo Money wasn’t going to go down without a fight. Second, Classic Empire wasn’t going anywhere but forward. Showing off his world class speed in the homestretch, the champion three-year-old stormed the final lengths to surpass a duelling pair of Conquest Mo Money and Malagacy.
The winning Classic Empire paid out $5.80, $4.40 and $3.80 across the board. Conquest Mo Money was the surprising star of the race, cashing in hard with 17/1 odds to deliver $12.00 and $7.80 in 2nd place. Lookin At Lee was able to catch Malagacy steps from the wire to steal 3rd with $5.40 off 12/1 odds.
The 2017 Arkansas Derby performance was the one that supporters of Classic Empire had been hoping for. It’s reinvigorated his chances heading in to the upcoming derby. There’s little reason to believe that he won’t be one of the favorites heading in to the marquee event at Churchill Downs. It’s been an up-and-down journey to get there since the 2016 World Championships, but it looks like we finally have a bonafide contender to rally behind.