Classic Empire, Always Dreaming Co-Favorites in Early Derby Wagering

With just over a week to go before the first Saturday of May, it’s tough to split Classic Empire and Always Dreaming, the current co-favorites in early wagering for the 143rd Kentucky Derby (G1).

Both horses are at odds of 5-1, with Irish War Cry the third choice in early Derby betting at 13-2.

Classic Empire became the early betting favorite last fall after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but has had a topsy turvy campaign this year.

The colt lost some backers after a disappointing third-place finish in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park in February, and he came out of the race with a sore back and a foot abscess.

After balking in a morning workout, his price steadily drifted upward in early Derby betting, as high as 12-1.

That all changed when he returned for his final prep in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park where the colt rallied for the win, regaining his stature as the early wagering favorite for the Run for the Roses.

The Mark Casse trainee won both of his starts over the Churchill Downs main track last year, breaking his maiden in his debut in the slop at 4 ½ furlongs and then winning the Bashford Manor (G3) last July.

Always Dreaming was late on the scene, breaking his maiden in January at Tampa Bay Downs in his third career start.

The Todd Pletcher trainee came back with a sharp looking win against first level optional claimers and that sent him to the Florida Derby (G1) where he drew off to win by five lengths.

Just days before the Florida Derby horseplayers could have nabbed 50-1 on the colt in early Kentucky Derby betting.

Pletcher is looking to improve off his 1 for 45 record in the Kentucky Derby and Always Dreaming appears to be his best shot.

Pletcher will also saddle Battalion Runner (16-1), Tapwrit (25-1), Malagacy (22-1) and Patch (40-1).

The Graham Motion trained Irish War Cry deserves plenty of respect after he bounced back off his poor showing in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park to win the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct in his final prep.

McCraken has drifted up to 9-1 after suffering his first defeat in a third-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland. The colt won his first four career starts including three trips over the Churchill Downs main track.

Gunnevera came up short as the 6-5 betting favorite in the Florida Derby and his price has drifted up to 12-1. Among his wins in nine starts are the Delta Jackpot (G3) and Holy Bull.

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