| Sat 06/05/2017 - 06:02 EDT

      2017 Kentucky Derby Picks

      2017 Kentucky Derby Picks

      Best Kentucky Derby Odds

      There’s basically one of two different ways to look at the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Option 1 is that this is a very average group of three-year-olds and that chaos is likely to ensue along the Churchill Downs homestretch. Option 2 agrees that this field is average, but acknowledges that it’s so average that horses in the second and third tier of the betting odds are simply too mediocre to win.

      In short, we agree with Option 2 as Classic Empire (4/1) and Always Dreaming (5/1) are solid betting favorites who possess a decisive talent edge over most of their rivals. After the top two, McCracken (co-5/1 betting choice), Gunnevera (15/1) and Hence (20/1) are the other horses we could see winning the race if things break just right.

      Classic Empire will break from post 14 with regular rider Julien Leparoux in the irons. The strapping colt is trained by Mark Casse and was easily the most dominant horse of his generation as a juvenile. In 2017, however, it’s been far from smooth sailing as Classic Empire finished a disappointing third in the Holy Bull Stakes before suffering from a foot abscess and back problems.

      There was also some aborted training sessions and downtime at the farm suggesting he’d miss the Kentucky Derby. Thanks to some crafty moves by Casse and the colt’s prodigious natural talent, Classic Empire came back to win the Arkansas Derby in April to punch his ticket to Louisville.

      Always Dreaming is the only horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby who hasn’t hiccupped along the way. The Todd Pletcher-trained colt is undefeated in three starts this year and took a major step forward last out crushing the Florida Derby field.

      Always Dreaming earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure in that race, some 18 points better than his previous best. While some handicappers may point towards a regression, it seems more likely this colt is just maturing and getting really good at the most opportune time. His pre-Derby workouts at CD have been marked by fast times and boundless energy suggesting he’s ready to fire. 

      2017 Kentucky Derby Picks

      • 1st: Always Dreaming
      • 2nd: Classic Empire
      • 3rd: Gunnevera
      • 4th: Hence 

      Gunnevera and Hence represent a pair of live longshots who should benefit from the added distance of the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby. Gunnevera, has kept top company all year while racing against a speed biased racetrack at Gulfstream Park. A new track and more distance should be positives as ace jockey Javier Castellano will guide this colt through traffic.

      Hence was a middling type of horse on the Derby trail until he broke through with a key win in the Sunland Park Derby. That race produced the Bluegrass Stakes winner in Irap and second-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby (Conquest Mo Money). He has reportedly taken well to the Churchill track in workouts and can fire at a nice price. 

      In many ways, handicapping the Kentucky Derby requires the knowledge of who to toss or completely eliminate from consideration. Here are our top five key tosses:

      TOSS # 3 Fast and Accurate (50/1): Don’t get any delusions of Giacomo or Mind that Bird types of longshot stories here. Belying his name, this colt is much slower than most horses in the field and performed poorly in his only start on dirt. He beat a bad field in the Spiral over a synthetic track to get here. Toss with enthusiasm. 

      TOSS # 4 Untrapped (30/1): Fans of trainer Steve Asmussen should focus on Hence in this race and not this colt. He’s lost ground in each of his last two starts and will not handle ten furlongs. 

      TOSS #7 Girvin (15/1): Despite earning more qualifying point than any other runner in the field Girvin is a toss based on how he’s coming into the race. The colt would have been on the boundaries of a fringe player in perfect health, but is dealing with quarter cracks, and unfortunately, the old saying is true: no feet, no horse. 

      TOSS # 17 Irish War Cry (6/1): Here’s the most key toss of the group because he’ll take plenty of betting action. We feel strongly that Irish War Cry is a horse who has benefitted from very easy trips in each of his wins this year. He likes to make an uncontested lead or track closely and comfortably. Both of those things will be difficult to do while breaking from post 17 against the deepest and most talented field he’s ever faced. 

      TOSS: #9 Irap (20/1): This colt somehow broke his maiden in the Bluegrass Stakes. We believe it was a complete fluke. His own trainer Doug O'Neill commented after the race that the horse normally doesn’t like to win races. Lightning will not strike twice in the Derby. 

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