Classic Empire Wins Way to Top of Kentucky Derby Futures

David Schwab

Wednesday, April 19, 2017 6:13 PM UTC

Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2017 6:13 PM UTC

The 2017 Kentucky Derby prep race season came to a close last Saturday with Classic Empire winning the $1 million Arkansas Derby to top the list of a number of strong contenders trying to capture the first leg of the Triple Crown racing season.

Bovada has posted some early betting odds to win this year’s “Run for the Roses” in the form of its 2017 Kentucky Derby futures, and there are five horses on the board that would be on my short list of favorites to win in a crowded field of 20 possible contenders.

Classic Empire +400

As a champion 2-year-old with victories in both the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on his early resume, this Kentucky-bred colt trained by Mark Casse took a step backwards in his 3-year-old debut with a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Holy Bull stakes at Gulfstream behind both Irish War Cry and Gunnevera. He redeemed himself this past Saturday by rallying to best the field in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn over a distance of 1 1/8 miles.


Always Dreaming +500

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s top Kentucky Derby prospect firmed up his place as one of the top favorites to win with his impressive victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream over State of Honor and Gunnevera at a distance of 1 1/8 miles. Relatively unknown as a juvenile with a third- and second-place run in a pair of Maiden Special Weight races, this Kentucky-bred colt broke his maiden with a victory in an Allowance Claimer at Gulfstream in early March.


Irish War Cry +800

This 3-year-old New Jersey-bred colt might just offer the best value on Bovada’s Kentucky Derby futures board following his stunning victory in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct over a distance of 1 1/8 miles on April 8. Trainer H. Graham Motion had him ready this time around following a very disappointing seven-place finish at Gulfstream in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at a shorter distance of 1 1/16 miles. This was the only race this horse had failed to win in five previous events.


Gunnevera +1000

The stock in trainer Antonio Sano’s top Kentucky Derby contender may have slipped a bit with this Kentucky-bred colt’s third-place finish in the Florida Derby, but with an extensive racing history that includes nine races over the course of both his juvenile and 3-year-old campaign, he would still have to be considered one of the top horses in the field at Churchill. His biggest victory as a 2-year-old came in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot in late November at a distance of 1 1/16 miles, and he held off both Practical Joke and Three Rules to win the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream on March 4.


McCraken +1000

I really like the value in this Kentucky-bred colt’s odds as well given what he has been able to accomplish on the track under the guidance of trainer Ian Wilkes in five previous races. He first made a name for himself as a juvenile with a victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs in late November over a distance of 1 1/16 miles. He kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with a win at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes before placing third in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland behind Irap and Practical Joke.

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