Kentucky Derby 2017: odds, post positions, picks to win

By Ched Whitney, The Sports Xchange  |  Updated May 5, 2017 at 1:44 PM
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Classic Empire drew the No. 14 post on Wednesday and was installed as the 4-1 morning-line favorite for the 143rd running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby.

The John Oxley trainee, the 2016 juvenile champion, will lead 19 other 3-year-olds to the gate on Saturday for the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.

Jockey Julien Leparoux, seeking his first Derby win, will be aboard Classic Empire. The two won the Arkansas Derby, the horse's last major prep for Saturday.

Just over three weeks ago, Classic Empire's Derby favoritism seemed in doubt.

After running a disappointing third in his 2017 bow, the colt returned with an abscess on his front right hoof, forcing trainer Mark Casse to change course.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Always Dreaming (No. 5 post, 5-1 co-second choice), was pleased with the Florida Derby winner's latest workout after an equipment change.

"The horse is moving fantastic. We want to be able to control that energy and I think we've made big strides in doing that overnight," Pletcher told The Blood-Horse publication. "I would much rather be in this position than to come in with a horse not feeling good or hanging his head."

Pletcher, who won the Derby in 2010 with Super Saver, will also be represented by Tapwrit (20-1 on the morning line) and Patch (30-1).

McCraken, also 5-1, will break from the No. 5 post, while fourth choice Irish War Cry (6-1), the winner of the Wood Memorial in New York, will try to become the first horse to win the Derby from the No. 17 post.

Lookin at Lee (20-1) drew the rail. Ferdinand in 1986 was the last horse to win from the dreaded inside post.

Posts 18-20 have produced just one winner each. Gormley (15-1), Practical Joke (20-1) and Patch will leave from those spots on Saturday.

Twenty-two horses were entered on Wednesday morning, but the field is capped at 20 runners, based on points earned in designated prep races. Long-time Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia set the morning line.

Royal Mo (20-1) and Master Plan (50-1) are on the also-eligible list and would need others to drop out to make the starting gate on Saturday.


1. Lookin at Lee (Corey Lanerie), 20-1

2. Thunder Snow (Christophe Soumillon), 20-1

3. Fast and Accurate (Channing Hill), 50-1

4. Untrapped (Ricardo Santana), 30-1

5. Always Dreaming (John Velazquez), 5-1

6. State of Honor (Jose Lezcano), 30-1

7. Girvin (Mike Smith), 15-1

8. Hence (Florent Geroux), 15-1

9. Irap (Mario Gutierrez), 20-1

10. Gunnevera (Javier Castellano), 15-1

11. Battle of Midway (Flavian Prat), 30-1

12. Sonneteer (Kent Desormaux), 50-1

13. J Boys Echo (Luis Saez), 20-1

14. Classic Empire (Julian Leparoux), 4-1

15. McCraken (Brian Hernandez), 5-1

16. Tapwrit (Joes Ortiz), 20-1

17. Irish War Cry (Rajiv Maragh), 6-1

18. Gormley (Victor Espinoza), 15-1

19. Practical Joke (Joel Rosario), 20-1

20. Patch (Tyler Gaffalione), 30-1

Also eligible: Royal Mo (Gary Stevens), 20-1; Master Plan (Velazquez*), 50-1

*Eligible horses can have jockeys named to ride that have mounts within the body of the field.

PICKS TO WIN By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer

Include Thunder Snow in a $1 trifecta box with three other horses -- a $24 investment. To cash, you'll need three of the four to finish in the top three on Saturday. So, what other three horses go on Saturday's ticket?

Always Dreaming was jet propelled in the stretch run of the Florida Derby and jockey John Velazquez, starting from gate No. 5, should have him near the front of the field by they time they hit the first turn.

Classic Empire was the 2-year-old champ last year, had a few early setbacks this season and ran well late to win the Arkansas Derby. He drew gate 14 which should be fine for jockey Julien Leparoux.

Irish War Cry has had only one bad race and bounced back to win the Wood Memorial quite nicely. He drew No. 17 and rider Rajiv Maragh might have to ask him from some early run to establish position but he is the only horse in the field with two triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

So: Ask the teller for a $1 trifecta box, 2, 5, 14 and 17. And think about $5 to win and $10 to place on No. 2, Thunder Snow. If you hit, it won't pay $20,000. But if Thunder Snow sneaks into the picture, it will be a fun ticket to cash.

Whatever you do, have fun and don't bet more than you can afford to lose. Anything can happen.

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