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143rd Kentucky Derby – Advance Odds and Favorites Preview

Colts(128 Wins) @ Fillies(3 Wins)

  • Where: Churchill Downs. Louisville, KY
  • When: May 6, 2017 6:34 pm EST

Your faithful MSB pundit once had the honor of talking with an accomplished racing jockey. After a few minutes, I posed a question I had always wanted to learn the answer to, but had never heard discussed on TV or radio. “Do the horses know what a race is? Do they care who wins?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “Not really. They want to lead the pack, and if they lead the pack and then everyone celebrates them, they feel good because they pleased their master. But they really have no idea what all the fuss is about.”

If only the ponies knew. The contestants might only want to run fast and chomp on gourmet oats, but bettors around the world have their financial fortunes made, ruined, or toyed with every spring when the Kentucky Derby takes place in Louisville. And win or lose, gamblers almost always come back for more.

Several favorites in a row have won the Run for the Roses, including the legendary American Pharoah in 2015 and Nyquist in 2016. But this season, a rash of injuries and a closely-matched field could potentially lead to a more surprising result. Is there finally an upset in the offing?

Grab a mint julep and read ahead for MSB’s advance-odds preview of several contending thoroughbreds at the 143rd Kentucky Derby.

Classic Empire – 9/2 at Bovada Sportsbook

The two year-old colt Classic Empire began futures betting with second-best odds, but has become the most popular and lowest-payout bet on the board.

A half-brother of American Pharoah, the horse impressed pundits at the 2017 Arkansas Derby by not only running a fast race and winning, but dealing successfully with traffic. At the 1/2 mile mark, the up-and-comer found himself boxed-in by a group of horses, but managed to emerge and blow away a strong field in the stretch run.

The colt’s sire is Pioneer of the Nile, who finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Early outlook: Excellent, but not a prohibitive favorite.

Always Dreaming – 19/4 at Bovada Sportsbook

Called the fastest entry in the field by more than one sportswriter, Always Dreaming recently dazzled with the sixth-fastest winner’s time in the history of the Florida Derby. But his odds are moving in a dubious direction, as the horse began as high as a 3/1 front-runner in some books and is now merely a favorite to place.

Why are the numbers changing? Some consider the pony a one-hit wonder, as he logged average Beyer Speed figures in four previous races. Though his trainer, successful veteran Todd Pletcher, claims that his team has taken it easy with the three year-old and knew all along the Florida race would be a watershed, this thoroughbred is largely unproven at the ten-furlong length of Churchill Downs.

Bettors shouldn’t be too skeptical, though. The horse’s bloodline includes Secretariat, still considered the greatest stallion of all time by many…and whose lineage has conquered the last four Derbys.

Early outlook: Strong and potentially increasing in value as the odds go down. 

Irish War Cry – 6/1 at Bovada Sportsbook

This interesting two year-old has had a wild debut season, with a terrible seventh-place finish at the Fountain of Youth sandwiched between a pair of terrific wins, an almost four-length triumph in Tampa Bay and another runaway win at The Wood. Irish War Cry’s only loss weighed heavily on the early odds, but cash players have quickly gobbled up futures bets on the Jersey-bred colt, leading to his odds shooting up the board.

Early outlook: Good, and potentially a solid favorite by race day. 

McCraken – 9/1 at Bovada Sportsbook

A formidable entry who was undefeated in four races before finally showing third at the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 8th. Despite the loss, wagerers and bookies alike seem confident in the colt as his odds-to-win have improved from a projected 12/1 mark. Trainer Ian Wilkes reports that the horse is gaining muscle mass and looking stronger in each race, though having a winning streak snapped is not the ideal way to head into Louisville.

Early outlook: Unclear 

Gunnevera – 10/1 at Bovada Sportsbook

This horse could potentially be the most interesting and fun play on the board. Winner of the 2017 Fountain of Youth (where he blew away Irish War Cry by over 20 lengths), Gunnevera is an average competitor around the first half of the track – but a fabulous closer. Remember, horses are not people – whereas Usain Bolt wins by slowing down at a lesser rate than other runners, a thoroughbred with great closing ability can actually strengthen its stride down the stretch if a jockey (in this case the excellent Edgard Zayas) knows just when to pull the trigger.

Gunnevera finished third in the Florida Derby, but that was only a nine-furlong race. At 10/1 odds, his Kentucky Derby bid promises a longer track and the opportunity to sprint to an upset win in the closing moments.

Outlook: Warm and trending up in value. 

Stay tuned to MSB for a closer look at the Kentucky Derby, as odds settle and tips pour in on the week of the big race in Derby City.


Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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