All eyes will be on Churchill Downs Saturday, with the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby set to take place. There are a handful of favorites to take the top prize, but with rainy conditions rendering the track wet and muddy, things could get wacky real fast when the horses take off at 6:46 p.m. ET.
Classic Empire has been the betting favorite all week, especially after getting a friendly post position draw at No. 14. However, he’ll have strict competition from the likes of Always Dreaming, McCraken, and Irish War Cry, all of whom have a strong chance to pull off the victory and start their quest for the coveted Triple Crown.
Always Dreaming was a trendy pick leading up to the race, but he spent most of the week being wild and almost out of control, requiring a change in equipment. There’s no doubt that Always Dreaming has the talent to win, but will the horse stay calm long enough for a strong start out of the gate? That’s one of the biggest questions heading into Saturday.
Although Classic Empire remains the betting favorite, he’s not exactly a consensus pick to win the race. The New York Times had two experts predict the race, with one picking Classic Empire and the other going with Tapwrit. At CBS Sports, Jody Demling cautions to “stay away from Classic Empire” and recommends spreading around your bets.
Horse Racing Nation did a poll of its experts, and McCraken emerged as the consensus with six first-place predictions, while Classic Empire, Gunnevera, and Irish War Cry both had four. Finally, Michael J. Cox of The Derby Handicapper predicts the top two will come down to Classic Empire and Always Dreaming.
With no obvious runaway favorite and a sloppy field expected on Saturday, this is shaping up as one of the most unpredictable Kentucky Derbies in recent memory.