Classic Empire is early 4-1 favorite for Kentucky Derby


Since the Kentucky Derby was first nationally broadcast on television in 1952, just eight men have called the race for USA viewers.

The inside-most post position, from which no horse has won the Kentucky Derby since Ferdinand in 1986, went to the Steve Asmussen-trained colt Lookin At Lee. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. The field of 20 horses is set, but the odds are always shifting, even up until the starting gun at 6:46 p.m. ET local time on NBC. No trainer wants his horse landing on the far inside or outside.

As Louisville gets ready for the biggest day of horse racing this Saturday, May 6, we want you to pick a victor on the sole basis of the horse's name.

The two horses most likely to be part of a sizzling pace, if there is one, would be a pair of long shots - State of Honor, and Fast and Accurate.

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Patch figures to be a long shot Saturday, but already he has a following among racing fans and on social media. The loss of his eye from an unknown infection he suffered at age 2, only delayed Patch's first race and, as his talent has shown, did not harm is career. Some horses who have such a procedure were a prosthesis, but Patch has an empty, ping-pong ball-sized socket there.

Recent history is on Classic Empire's side, too. There have been just two Post 14 winners and not since 1961. And Nyquist was a very good two-year-old champion who was in good shape, which doesn't always happen. The Eclipse Award-winning jockey has almost 2,400 wins with seven Breeders' Cup triumphs, including last year's Juvenile aboard Classic Empire. The colt opened 2017 with a disappointing third at the Holy Bull Stakes but wasn't 100% healthy. Leading the field is the odds-on favorite Classic Empire, the horse that won the Arkansas Derby by a half-length.

After he endured hoof and back injuries and displayed a reluctance to train, things are looking up for Classic Empire.

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).

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Classic Empire was listed as a 4-1 favorite after drawing the outside position while Always Dreaming went to 5-1 after receiving the No. 5 position in the draw, reported the Sporting News. The Cat Man has his son-in-law Channing Hill in the irons and proclaimed that he'd take 5-1 right now at the post draw.

Patrick Costello, the Managing Officer of Paramount Sales in Lexington, says two of this year's Derby contenders Untrapped and Gormley went through Paramount Sales consignment in a pin-hooking operation in last year's September sale. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. The colt beat an excellent field at last month's Florida Derby.

Just over three weeks ago, Classic Empire's Derby favoritism seemed in doubt. Always Dreaming has a hockey connection as one of his owners is Vincent Viola, owner of the NHL's Florida Panthers. However, I do not believe that he will become the fifth straight favorite to win the Derby, a feat that has not been accomplished since the 19 century. McCracken starts from Post 15, the first stall of the auxiliary gate.

The Washington Post reports Patch will not be the first horse to compete in the Derby with only one eye. Their entry this year is Irap, who starts from Post 9 and is +2000. Also eligible are Royal Mo and the Pletcher-trained Master Plan, who would need defections by early Friday morning to get into the 1 1/4-mile race. The over/under winning time is set at 2.02.5, with the under a -139 favourite. She has a wet track win in Louisiana and had two wins on the Churchill surface including the Grade 2 Goldenrod.

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