For horse racing fans, this is flat out the greatest week of the year. The first Saturday in May is just a thrilling time, as over a hundred thousand will cram into Churchill Downs and millions more will watch on television as 20 of the best three-year old thoroughbreds the globe has to offer descend upon the holy grail of the Sport of Kings. Bust out your oversized hats and the mint juleps! It's time for the Kentucky Derby!
This year's run up to the Kentucky Derby has been odd for sure. A maiden won the Blue Grass Stakes at a price of 31 to 1, and another maiden who has tried 10 times to win his first race actually has enough points to run in the field of 20. As this field started to take shape, it became clear that some of the top ponies from the two-year old campaign last year just flat out weren't going to get in. Heck, Prime Power suggests that Malagacy would have been the third best horse in this field, and he was pulled out of the race with just barely enough points to qualify in the first place.
That's why it's really hard to find any semblance of clear-cut favorites to win the Derby. For our money, Classic Empire is the best horse in this field. He won the Arkansas Derby and has been the best horse on the track in most of his races, generally by a relatively wide margin. We're not thrilled with Julien Leparoux on his back, but any horse that has over $2 million in career earnings before ever stepping foot on the track at the Kentucky Derby is worth remembering at the mutuels. For the time being, he's only merely the favorite at +525, but if we had to guess, Classic Empire will be the easy bettors' choice by the time Saturday's post rolls around.
Not surprisingly, most of the rest of the championship round winners are amongst the favorites to win the Kentucky Derby as well. Always Dreaming captured the Florida Derby, while Irish War Cry was the winner of the Wood Memorial. McCraken, the next pony in line, was third best at the Blue Grass Stakes, an odd race that was won by the previously alluded to Irap.
The one international pony in this field will be Thunder Snow. The Godolphin pony just reached America from the UAE on Saturday, and he's going to be quarantined until Tuesday when he can get on the Churchill Downs track for the first time. This year more than most others though, the international racing scene might be better than what we have here in America for three-year olds. The UAE Derby was intense from start to finish, and we unfortunately only get one of the two top colts from that race here at the Kentucky Derby. A price of 18 to 1 on Thunder Snow might end up being a bit of a steal when push comes to shove.
If nothing ends up happening to any of the 20 horses between now and Wednesday's post draw, Royal Mo and Petrov will be amongst the ponies who are left in the paddocks. The field will be finalized on Wednesday afternoon with the draw of the post positions, and that's when so much of the story in Louisville will ultimately start to be told.
Odds To Win Kentucky Derby
Classic Empire +525
Always Dreaming +550
Irish War Cry +575
Practical Joke +1750
Thunder Snow +1800
Battle of Midway +2300
Lookin At Lee +2500
J Boys Echo +3000
Royal Mo +3700
State of Honor +4500
Master Plan +5000
Local Hero +6500
Fast and Accurate +8000
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