Kentucky Derby: Run For The Roses Is Wide Open In 2017

The 2017 Kentucky Derby takes place on May 6. A full field of 20 horses is expected to run in the Derby, including last year's 2-year-old champion, Classic Empire.

Due to his Arkansas Derby win, Classic Empire is likely to go off as the favorite on race day. Always Dreaming, and McCraken should both garner plenty of interest. Gunnevera, Irap, Irish War Cry, and Practical Joke are the other horses that have gotten some play.

2017 Kentucky Derby
When: May 6, 2017
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
Distance: 1 ¼ miles on dirt

Probable Entrants w/ Odds

Always Dreaming +400
McCraken +650
Classic Empire +400
Gunnevera +1000
Irap +2200
Irish War Cry +600
Practical Joke +1400
Girvin +1400
Gormley +1300
Lookin at Lee +2500
Tapwrit +2400
Hence +2000
Thunder Snow +1400
J Boys Echo +3000
Sonneteer +2800
Battle of Midway +2500
Untrapped +4500
Royal Mo +2800
Patch +3000
Fast and Accurate +5500
State of Honor +3500

Expected Pace: Because Battalion Runner has been declared from the race, the pace shouldn't be as fast as it often is for the Kentucky Derby. There are few confirmed front runners entered. State of Honor, Battle of Midway, Irish War Cry, Irap, Always Dreaming, and possibly Classic Empire should be close to the pace.

Win: Irish War Cry +600

The son of Curlin bounced back beautifully in the Wood Memorial after running terribly in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. After the Fountain of Youth, trainer Graham Motion said that there was no reason for Irish War Cry to have run the way that he had. My guess is that they tried to rate Irish War Cry in the Fountain of Youth and he just didn't respond to it.

He could have also suffered the dreaded bounce running so big in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes. Unless Irish War Cry suffers another bounce, it's going to be difficult for any horse to run him down once he gets the lead at the top of the stretch.

If nobody goes with him after they break from the gate, he is good enough to take his peers gate to wire in the Kentucky Derby. On May 6, I'm building all my tickets around Curlin's kid.

Place: Classic Empire +400

If the Classic Empire that won the 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile shows up on the First Saturday in May, it's all over but the shouting. He was spectacular when taking the lead and burying his foes that day.

But, the Derby will be Classic Empire's second race after suffering an injury in the Fountain of Youth. I agree that he looked great winning the Arkansas Derby in his prep for the Kentucky Derby. A deeper dive into that race reveals that he faced a terrible field.

Could Classic Empire's impressive win just be the case of him beating a weak field? My problem with picking the 2-year-old champ first is that I'm not sure he's back to the monster that dominated his foes in 2016.

Show: Hence 20/1

Although I think Irish War Cry wins the Kentucky Derby, I'm playing a few saver bets on Hence on top in exactas and possibly trifectas. He's been flourishing at Churchill Downs. When given his cue, the son of Street Boss flew home in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby. He looked exceptional crossing the finish line first.

Since he's trained by Steve Asmussen, I think he could improve on the First Saturday in May. Not only that, but Hence has the breeding. His mother was sired by A.P. Indy while his father, Street Boss, was sired by Street Sense, to get the 1 ¼ mile distance.

Hence is a long shot with a big chance at wearing the garland of roses on May 6. If Classic Empire doesn't fire, and others rough up Irish War Cry early, it can happen. Don't be surprised if Hence blows up everybody's tickets…well, except for yours if you heed my advice.

Fourth Place: Always Dreaming +400

There's not a lot to dislike about the Todd Pletcher trained, Bodemeister sired winner of the Florida Derby. The way that Always Dreaming won the Florida Derby was as professional, and impressive, as I've seen from any of the Derby prep races this year.

Why, then, do I believe he finishes no better than fourth place on Saturday? My biggest problem is that I believe he bounces after such a great race in the Florida Derby. I'm not sure he can carry his form from the Florida Derby win to Churchill Downs.

With that being said, I do think he can win the Kentucky Derby. I just don't believe that at favorite's odd, or even second choice odds, he's worth a bet to win the Kentucky Derby. If you're in love with him bet him to win.

Just don't get angry if he loses as the chalk…in a 20 horse field…against others that have run faster than he has.