Classic Empire set as sportsbook favorite in 2017 Kentucky Derby betting

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While Classic Empire has the bloodline and has given his owners a big bankroll, being the best two-year-old horse is not necessarily a harbinger of Kentucky Derby glory.

Classic Empire is the +425 betting favorite to capture the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. It appears bettors have the 1A-or-1B mindset, with Always Dreaming listed at +450.

The top of the board also features McCraken (+600), Irish War Cry (+600), Gunnevera (+1200) and Girvin (+1600). The large 20-horse field and the potential for a wet track at Churchill Downs could make for a highly randomized outcome.

At one point, Classic Empire’s price was as high as +1000, but the sire off 2009 Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile became a popular pick after his victory in the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start. Classic Empire’s record also includes winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race for two-year-olds, last season. However, since 2000, only three colts who have claimed¬†that prize have gone on to win the Derby the following season.

Always Dreaming has three wins in five career starts, although there is reason to wonder whether the dark bay colt has benefited from suspect competition. With Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez as his mount, Always Dreaming stands a good chance of pushing to the front of the pack during the crowded first quarter-mile at Churchill Downs.

Horse players might have cooled on McCraken after he was pulled out of the Tampa Bay Derby two months ago, but the colt owns three wins at Churchill Downs where he had to come from behind on the home stretch.

Irish War Cry, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, will try to be the first horse to win from Post 17. His position in the starting gate aside, Irish War Cry was impressive earlier this season with wins in the Holy Bull and Wood Memorial races.

The price on Gunnevera is enticing, especially since Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano will be his mount. Gunnevera has shown he has the stamina to pour it on on the backstretch, which is always a concern with three-year-olds who are new to running 1 1/4 miles.

A foot problem has wreaked havoc with the training for Girvin. While the track conditions could be an equalizer early Saturday evening, it’s hard to feel good about a horse whose preparation has been set back.

Irish War Cry is 5-2 favorite in $1M Haskell Invitational

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OCEANPORT, N.J. (AP) Irish War Cry, the runner up in the Belmont Stakes, is the 5-2 favorite in the $1 million Haskell Invitational for 3-year-olds.

The richest race of the season at Monmouth Park drew a field of seven for the 50th edition on Sunday.

With a victory, Irish War Cry would join Thanks To Tony (1980) as the only New Jersey-bred winners of the state’s biggest thoroughbred stakes.

The Garden State connection runs even deeper. The race is named for Amory Haskell, the first chairman and president of Monmouth Park, whose daughter Isabelle de Tomaso bred and owns Irish War Cry.

The morning-line choice breaks from the rail with Rajiv Maragh aboard for trainer Graham Motion.

Irish War Cry was a top contender heading into the Kentucky Derby after winning the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. After chasing the early pacesetter, he faded to 10th.

Motion initially planned to give the horse time to regroup after the Derby and await the Haskell. The colt was training so well that Motion sent the horse to the 1+ mile Belmont.

It was a good decision. Irish War Cry led most of the way but was beaten two lengths by Tapwrit.

“At the end of the day, we are all very excited that we got to this point,” Motion said. “This was certainly our goal of the summer.”

Trainer Chad Brown sends out the second and third choices in the Haskell: the undefeated Timeline, 3-1, and Practical Joke, 4-1.

Timeline, winner of Monmouth’s Pegasus Stakes last month, is 4 for 4 coming into the biggest test of his career.

“He’s a horse that’s always shown a lot of natural ability,” Brown said. “I’ve had my eye on the Haskell for this horse for a long time. I felt this race would suit him.”

Javier Castellano will ride Timeline from post 3.

Practical Joke is alongside in post 4 with Joel Rosario in the saddle.

The full Haskell field, in post-position order with jockeys and odds: Irish War Cry, Maragh, 5-2; Battle of Midway, Flavien Prat, 5-1; Timeline, Castellano, 3-1; Practical Joke, Rosario, 4-1; McCraken, Brian Hernandez, Jr. 9-2; Hence, Paco Lopez, 12-1 and Girvin, Robby Albarado, 6-1.

The 1 1/8 miles Haskell is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race. The winner earns a qualifying berth in the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar.

Arrogate remains on course for Pacific Classic at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Bob Baffert wasn’t beating himself up a day after Arrogate’s upset loss in the San Diego Handicap at Del Mar that snapped the seven-race winning streak of the world’s top-ranked horse.

The Hall of Fame trainer said Sunday that other than getting a lot of dirt in his eyes and mouth the 4-year-old colt emerged in good physical condition after finishing fourth, beaten by 15 \ lengths as the 1-20 favorite.

Baffert says that as long as Arrogate continues working out well and nothing comes up, the colt will run in the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19 at Del Mar. Baffert says Arrogate “will be ready next time.”

Arrogate was never better than fourth among the five-horse field during the race. Accelerate led all the way and won by 8 + lengths.