Classic Empire Rebounds with Win at the Arkansas Derby

Classic Empire struck back last Saturday, winning the Arkansas Derby (G1), which stamped his ticket to Louisville as one of the betting favorites for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

It has been a roller coaster ride for the talented colt, who became a solid early betting favorite for the Run for the Roses after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall at Santa Anita.

The victory earned him the Eclipse Award for top juvenile of 2016. He won four of his five starts, his lone loss when he wheeled and dumped his jockey in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga as the betting favorite.

Things did not go as well earlier this year, his first start a disappointing third place finish in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park where he was beaten 8 ¾ lengths by Irish War Cry.

He came out of the race with a foot abscess and a sore back, and his early betting odds continued to drift upward, as high as 12-1.

Going into the Arkansas Derby the colt sat 21st in the Road to the Kentucky Derby points standings, meaning he needed a good finish just to earn enough points to get into the big dance.

Sent off as the 9-5 betting favorite, he did not disappoint, rallying from off the pace to get past longshot Conquest Mo Money in the stretch to win by a half-length.

Horseplayers were impressed with the effort, and his price has plummeted back down to 9-2, now the early favorite for the race.

It looked as if Always Dreaming was headed to Churchill Downs as the betting favorite after his impressive victory in the Florida Derby (G1), and he is the second choice in early betting at 19-4.

Churchill Downs morning linemaker Mike Battaglia has stated he will make Classic Empire the slight favorite over Always Dreaming, but there likely will not be much separating the duo in betting when they load into the gate on the first Saturday of May.

However, they will not be the only two taking betting action.

Irish War Cry bounced back from his poor showing in the Fountain of Youth (G2) where he was seventh with a smart looking win in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct.

The Graham Motion trainee is the current third choice in early Derby wagering at 6-1.

McCraken is still getting respect at 9-1 despite losing his final prep. The Ian Wilkes trainee was third in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland in his last start as the beaten chalk.

Gunnevera is sitting at 10-1 after his third-place finish in the Florida Derby (G1) and then it is tough to separate the rest of the field.

In fact, Irap, Tapwrit, Gormely, Battalion Runner, Thunder Snow, and Practical Joke are all at 16-1 in early Kentucky Derby betting.

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