Horse Racing

Profile on Kentucky Derby Betting Contender Classic Empire

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Sportsbook and Eclipse Award Sportsbook for top two-year-old was a solid early betting favorite to start the year, but his price drifted up after a disappointing third-place finish in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream Park to start off his 2017 campaign.

The colt came out of that race with a foot abscess and a bad back and his early betting odds at Sportsbook drifted up to 12-1.

The temperamental colt balked during a morning workout and was sent to Ocala for some relaxation and to regroup and it worked.

The Mark Casse trainee bounced back in a big way to win the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park and that effort was enough to regain his status as a top Kentucky Derby contender, currently at 4-1 in betting odds at Sportsbook.

He made five starts as a juvenile, winning four, including both of his starts over the Churchill Downs main track. He broke his maiden over the surface in his debut and then won the six-furlong Bashford Manor (G3) in his stakes debut going six furlongs.

His only blemish during his two-year-old campaign was in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga where he wheeled soon after the break and dropped jockey Irad Ortiz. Julian Leparoux has been aboard for all of his other starts, including his five victories.

The colt was a $475,000 Keeneland purchase by Pioneer of the Nile, who is also the sire of Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

The mare Sambuca Classic has dropped three other Sportsbooks including stakes Sportsbooks Anytime Magic and Uptown Twirl.

Casse has started just three horses in the Run for the Roses, his best finish a fifth by Danzig Moon in 2015.

With just two starts under his belt this year he looks as if he still has room to move forward and is one of just three in the field that has earned a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, his 102 winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall.

  • Race record: 7-5-0-1
  • Career earnings: $2,120,220
  • Sportsbook Odds: 4-1
  • Last race: Won Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park



Handicapper Michael Dempsey will be covering the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown for OddsShark and his full card reports with selections, analysis, fair odds line and wagering recommendations for major tracks can be found daily at

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