Wide Open Field Lines Up for 143rd Kentucky Derby on Saturday

The 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby is all set for Saturday with a wide-open field of 20 going to the post for the two most exciting minutes in sports.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup champion Classic Empire was installed as the 4-1 morning line favorite while Florida Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming is the second choice at 5-1.

In early Kentucky Derby wagering at the sportsbooks, Always Dreaming is actually the slight favorite at 4-1 while Classic Empire is 9-2.

Classic Empire drew the 14 post with trainer Mark Casse giving jockey Julian Leparoux a leg up in the saddle.

The colt has had an eventful run up to the Kentucky Derby. He came out of his third-place finish in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park in February with a foot abscess and a sore back.

The colt came back strong with a victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park in his final prep, and his fans jumped back on the bandwagon, his early betting odds dropping from 10-1 to 9-2.

Always Dreaming is one of three contenders sent out by trainer Todd Pletcher, one of the top trainers in the U.S. who has struggled on the first Saturday of May, just 1 for 45 in the Kentucky Derby.

The colt won the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in his stakes debut and has gone from 50-1 at the beginning of the year down to the early betting favorite at 4-1.

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will be in the irons and the colt will break from the five post.

The co-third choices in early Kentucky Derby betting are Irish War Cry and McCraken at 6-1.

Irish War Cry will break from the 17 post with Rajiv Maragh aboard for trainer Graham Motion, who saddled 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who returned $43.20 to win.

The colt won the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct in his final tune-up for Saturday.

McCraken breaks from the 15 post with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. for trainer Ian Wilkes. The colt won his first four career starts including three over the Churchill Downs main track.

This year he won the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs but lost some time with a minor ankle issue.

The colt returned with a third place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland and has been working brilliantly leading up to the big race on Saturday.

Gunnevera is currently at 12-1 while four horses are at odds of 16-1 – Gormley, Practical Joke, Thunder Snow and Girvin.

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