LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia believes that Classic Empire will be the favorite for Kentucky Derby 143 Saturday afternoon.

The betting public is not on board. Neither is the WDRB Sports staff.

Always Dreaming, winner of the Florida Derby, moved into the favorite spot during early betting. Odds on the colt are 9-2, slightly better than Irish War Cry (5-1) and McCraken (6-1). Classic Empire, who is also Battaglia’s pick to win, is fourth choice, at 7-to-1, in early betting.

What does the WDRB Sports staff say?

Glad you asked. Here is a rundown of our selections. Irish War Cry is the pick from three of us with J Boys Echo, Always Dreaming and McCraken splitting the other votes


1. Irish War Cry
2. McCraken
3. Classic Empire

I'll stick with my original pick from a week or so ago ... has had one bad race and has a trainer (Graham Motion) who's done it before. McCraken has been a backside star and Classic Empire may be the most talented of the bunch, but may still be making up for lost training time.


1. McCraken

2. Irish War Cry

3. Hence

I like that McCraken trains at Churchill Downs and is three-for-three in races over the track here. I think his experience at Churchill will benefit him.


 1. J Boys Echo - The Derby is sometimes more about stories than pedigrees, and would there be a better story than Louisville-based trainer Dale Romans winning his first Derby? J Boys Echo got a "dream trip" in the Gotham Stakes victory under jockey Robby Albarado, but Luis Saez will have to guide him through the field after Albarado suffered a broken ankle.

 2. Irish War Cry - A jockey change after a 7th-place finish in the Fountain of Youth seemed to be the correct call for trainer Graham Motion. Rajiv Maragh found the right pace to lead Irish War Cry to a Wood Memorial win and a ticket to Derby 143. He could be the pace setter on Saturday.

 3. Classic Empire - An excellent 2 year old campaign and his recovery from the bad start in the Arkansas Derby has Battaglia loving Mark Casse's colt. I like his chances to hit the board, especially with jockey Julien Leparoux aboard (who guided Derby hopeful Irap to a Blue Grass win and had 3 in-the-money finishes on another Derby entry, State of Honor).


1. Irish War Cry
2. Gunnevera 
3. Classic Empire
Irish War Cry proves Fountain of Youth Stakes loss was a fluke and takes care of business Saturday.


1. Always Dreaming
2. Hence
3. Irish War Cry

Always Dreaming finally gets his wish -- to be turned loose.


1. Irish War Cry – Curlin continues to stamp himself as one of the game’s top sires. Stalking style fits the Derby. Only colt with two triple-digit Beyer numbers. And, yes, I like the name.

2. Thunder Snow – Somebody unexpected usually crashes the top three.

3. McCraken – Very good, but very good isn’t enough to win this race.

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