The first Saturday in May is this weekend, which means the 143rd edition of the Kentucky Derby is upon us. A field of 20 horses is ready to go at Churchill Downs. The post positions have been announced, so now we know where they’ll be lining up. With everything set, let’s take a look at the betting odds for the Run for the Roses.
There are four horses that are setting themselves apart from the field as Classic Empire (+400), Always Dreaming (+450), McCraken (+600) and Irish War Cry (+600) lead the way.
Classic Empire enters as the favorite after winning the Arkansas Derby (G1) in April. He had a third-place result before that – finishing behind Irish War Cry and Gunnevera at the Holy Bull Stakes (G2) – but clearly showed as the best Juvenile in the nation last year. That includes wins at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Futurity Stakes (G1). Last year’s two-year-old champ will fire out of the No. 14 gate, which is a decent starting place.
Always Dreaming is coming off a very impressive win at the Florida Derby (G1), but as dominant as that was it was his only graded stakes win. That’s a little bit of a concern. However, he’s trained by Todd A. Pletcher – a six-time Eclipse Award winner – so that’s a good sign as he’s won a Kentucky Derby before.
McCraken has captured the Sam F. Davis Stakes (G3) and the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2), but is fresh off a third-place result at the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) in April. He’ll have to show better this weekend.
Irish War Cry, who is the only horse from this group not to be bred in Kentucky as he comes from New Jersey, will start in the No. 17 gate. That gate has never produced a winner at the Kentucky Derby.
Irish War Cry has picked up wins at the Wood Memorial (G2), Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and the Marylander Stakes, but he also had a seventh-place result at the Fountain of Youth (G2) in March. Irish War Cry is trained by H. Graham Motion, who has also won the Kentucky Derby.
After the first tier of contenders there is a logjam of quality options in the 12/1 to 20/1 range. That includes Gunnevera (+1200), Gormley (+1600), Hence (+1600), Girvin (+1600), Irap (+1800), Thunder Snow (+1800), and Practical Joke (+2000).
McCraken was undefeated for his career (four races) before coming in third at the Blue Grass behind Irap and Practical Joke. However, that is Irap’s only win so far in six starts. Gormley won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and has four wins in six outings, but also has a seventh at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and a fourth at the San Felipe Stakes (G2). The good news is he’s trained by John Shirreffs, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo.
Gunnevera finished third at the Florida Derby (G1) and prior to that won the Fountain of Youth (G2), while finishing ahead of Classic Empire in second at the Holy Bull (G2). He’ll start in the 10th gate, which has produced the highest percentage of Kentucky Derby winners.
Girvin has collected wins in three of his four starts, including the Louisiana Derby (G2) and the Risen Star (G2). He’s never finished worse than second, so he could be offering some value from the No. 7 gate. Hence, who is coming off a win at the Sunland Derby (G3), will start in the No. 8 gate.
The field of 20 horses will vie for the blanket of roses starting at 6:34pm ET this Saturday.