Kentucky Derby Trio Classic Empire, Always Dreaming and McCraken Favored in Run for the Roses
The post-position draw for the Kentucky Derby was Wednesday, and the morning line odds are set. A trio of favorites lead this year’s 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby, and Classic Empire (4-1) along with Always Dreaming (5-1) and McCraken (5-1) are the early race favorites according to Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
Classic Empire won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November, and made his case as the Kentucky Derby favorite when he won the Arkansas Derby in April. A son of Pioneer of the Nile and half-brother to 2015 Derby and Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh, Classic Empire is a 3-time Grade I winner. But earlier this year he was not behaving well and had a foot abscess. His trainer Mark Casse knew he wasn’t right, and he sent him to Winding Oaks Farm for a little rest. He returned to like his old self in the Florida Derby, and in his final tuneup before the Derby, Classic Empire went 5 furlongs in :59.60 at Churchill Downs.
“It gave me chills,” Casse said afterward. Jockey Julien Leparoux is 0—for-9 in the Derby, but will be riding the favorite Saturday.
Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby by 5 lengths with a fantastic finish that clocked in at 1:47.07 – the fastest 1 1/8 mile time in the Florida Derby since Alydar in 1978. Not bad for his first stakes start. His final 3/8 mile time of :36.56 seconds was the second-fastest of all Derby horses. Some bullet works at Churchill including 5 furlongs in :59.60 have many dreaming and believing this Bodemeister colt is Above Perfection and a Derby Dandy that can get top trainer Todd Pletcher his 2nd Derby winner.
“I thought he went great this morning,” Pletcher said following his most recent 1 1/16 mile gallop experimenting with “draw reins” for a second day. “I very much liked what I saw.”
McCraken has won 4-of-5 starts and is 3-for-3 over the Churchill Downs track. But his recent start raised questions in his 3rd place finish as the 8-5 favorite in the Blue Grass Stakes. Many horses have not adjusted well to the Keeneland track, but then no runner in the Blue Grass has won the Kentucky Derby since 2007. McCraken set the Tampa Bay Downs track record when he won the Sam F. Davis Stakes in February. He’s been sharp but not his best over the Churchill track in his recent works before the Derby, posting a pair of 5 furlong times of 1:00.80.
It was a day of laying odds Wednesday. Trying to figure out who will be on top Saturday now becomes the challenge.
The rest of the Derby field with post position, odds, jockey, trainer and most recent race finish are listed below.
Before you make your final picks for this year’s Kentucky Derby, be sure to check the weather, as rain is 100% likely on Thursday, 80% on Friday for Kentucky Oaks day, and up to a 70% chance of rain showers on Saturday is forecast for Kentucky Derby day and the Run for the Roses.
|1||Lookin at Lee||20-1||Corey Lanerie||Steve Asmussen||3rd Arkansas Derby|
|2||Thunder Snow||20-1||Chris Soumillon||Saeed bin Suroor||1st UA Derby|
|3||Fast and Accurate||50-1||Channing Hill||Mike Maker||1st Spiral Stakes|
|4||Untrapped||30-1||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||Steve Asmussen||6th Arkansas Derby|
|5||Always Dreaming||5–1||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||1st Florida Derby|
|6||State of Honor||30–1||Jose Lezcano||Mark Casse||2nd Florida Derby|
|7||Girvin||15-1||Mike Smith||Joe Sharp||1st Louisiana Derby|
|8||Hence||15-1||Florent Geroux||Steve Asmussen||1st Sunland Derby|
|9||Irap||20-1||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O’Neil||1st Blue Grass Stakes|
|10||Gunnevera||15-1||Javier Castellano||Antonio Sano||3rd Florida Derby|
|11||Battle of Midway||30-1||Flavien Prat||Jerry Hollendorfer||2nd Santa Anita Derby|
|12||Sonneteer||50-1||Kent Desormeaus||Keith Desormeaux||4th Arkansas Derby|
|13||J Boys Echo||20-1||Luis Saez||Dale Romans||4th Blue Grass Stakes|
|14||Classic Empire||4–1||Julien Leparoux||Mark Casse||1st Arkansas Derby|
|15||McCraken||5–1||Brian Hernandez, Jr||Ian Wilkes||3rd Blue Grass Stakes|
|16||Tapwrit||20-1||Jose Ortiz||Todd Pletcher||5th Blue Grass Stakes|
|17||Irish War Cry||6–1||Fajiv Maragh||Graham Motion||1st Wood Memorial|
|18||Gormely||15-1||Victor Espinoza||John Shirreffs||1st Santa Anita Derby|
|19||Practical Joke||20-1||Joel Rosario||Chad Brown||2nd Blue Grass Stakes|
|20||Patch||30-1||Tyler Gaffalione||Todd Pletcher||2nd Louisiana Derby|