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Finally, one of this year’s top Kentucky Derby favorites has punched his ticket for Louisville. Classic Empire took down the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on Saturday, beating Conquest Mo Money by half a length and posting a preliminary Beyer Speed Figure of 94. The victory gives Classic Empire 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, locking in an invitation to the 143rd Run for the Roses on May 6 – and leaving him first on the Kentucky Derby futures market at +450.

But it was more relief than celebration in the winner’s circle. It’s been a rough year for the reigning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion. Classic Empire finished third at the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes, then he picked up an abscess on his right front hoof, and started experiencing issues with his back in early March. After skipping the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes, Classic Empire put in some work and came prepared for Arkansas. Now he’s the Kentucky Derby favorite.
 

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Conquest Mo Money earned 60 points for finishing second, but owners Tom and Sandy McKenna announced on Tuesday that their horse wouldn’t make the trip to Louisville, choosing instead to aim for the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.

That leaves an extra hole in the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings, and now that all the qualifying races have been run, it looks like No. 21-ranked Untrapped (34 points, +5000) will get a chance to compete. So with all five horses just above Untrapped in the standings with 40 points each, including previous Derby favorite McCraken (+1000). He breezed 4 furlongs in 47.80 seconds on Tuesday, the first of three planned workouts at Churchill Downs before Derby Day.

Expect at least one more spot to open up. Cloud Computing (+4000), who also finished the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 40 points, figures to join Conquest Mo Money in the Preakness Stakes. Trainer Chad Brown says Cloud Computing has been “lightly raced” and might not be ready for Louisville. That’s good news for Lookin at Lee (+4000), who sits at No. 22 in the standings with 32 points. Handlers have until May 3 to pay the entry fee, then the post position draw will take place at 11 AM ET. Bovada will have freshly updated Kentucky Derby odds as we get closer to May 6.

 

*Odds as of April 19, 2017