Following a come-from-behind victory in the Arkansas Derby, Classic Empire is atop the odds as the +425 betting favorite for this weekend’s Kentucky Derby at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Sired by Pioneer of The Nile, who also fathered 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Classic Empire overcame a difficult start from the No. 2 position in Arkansas and has now tallied three wins in four races going into Saturday’s 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. However, the Mark Casse-trained colt faces stiff competition, with Always Dreaming closely trailing at +450, followed by McCraken and Irish War Cry, who are knotted at +600.
The son of Bodemeister, a second-place finisher in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Always Dreaming looked more than ready for this weekend’s 1 1/4-mile run after jockey John Velazquez rode him to an impressive 5 1/2-length victory in last month’s 1.125-mile Florida Derby. Always Dreaming is one of three horses trained by Todd Pletcher in this year’s Derby.
Tapwrit will start from the No. 16 position as a +2,800 bet, while Patch will be the first one-eyed horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby since 2004.
Patch looked good while finishing second in last month’s Louisiana Derby, his second outing since losing his left eye due to a serious infection last June. However, the progeny of the legendary Seattle Slew will have little view of his rivals exiting the gate on Saturday after drawing the No. 20 position and sports long +3,300 odds.
With jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. onboard, McCraken starts alongside Classic Empire at No. 15 and looks to bounce back from a disappointing third-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes after picking up wins in his four previous events.
Irish War Cry is coming off a win in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct following a worrisome seventh-place finish in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream.
This year’s Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevara leads the middle of the pack at +1,200, ahead of both Louisiana Derby winner Girvin and Hence, who each sport +1,600 odds. A surprise +3,100 longshot winner in the Blue Grass Stakes, Irap is one of three horses pegged at +1,800, joining Thunder Snow and Gormley.
Battle Of Midway sits at +2,000, followed by Practical Joke at +2,500 and J. Boys Echo at +2,800, while State of Honor and Looking at Lee are knotted with Patch at +3,300 ahead of Sonneteer at +4,000, Untrapped at +5,000 and Fast and Accurate at +6,600.
Thumbnail photo via Mark Zerof/USA TODAY Sports Images