Irish War Cry Becomes Derby Contender in Latest Odds

Trainer Graham Motion is seeking a second Kentucky Derby victory with Irish War Cry (Photo credit: Churchill Downs).

Updated futures betting shows Irish War Cry has overtaken Classic Empire in the betting to win the Kentucky Derby after beating him in the $350,000 Holy Bull at the weekend. Classic Empire still heads the points standings on 32 points, ahead of El Areeb and Gormley, who both have 20, but his lackluster performance has seen his odds shoot way out, while Irish War Cry has seen his odds shorten after winning in style.

Futures betting on the biggest worldwide horse racing event of the year will shift all over the place in the build up to the big race on May 6, so it is worth keeping an eye on the odds. Check established betting sites as typically a reputable bookmaker like 5Dimes has the best lines for the Kentucky Derby and other races thanks to its competitive odds, and has the liquidity to make sure you are paid out. Futures betting had Classic Empire as low as 2/1 going into the weekend as the son of Pioneer of the Nile and Sambuca Classic was the outstanding two-year-old in 2016 by a long distance.

He dominated the $500,000 Grade I Breeders’ Futurity Stakes in October, when he ran straight and true to surge to victory. He followed it up with another Grade I victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes, holding off Not This Time to win by a neck. He was put away for the winter and was expected to return triumphant for the Holy Bull.

It was not to be. Classic Empire started off as heavy favourite at just 1/2, but it was 9/2 shot Irish War Cry that went straight out in front. From there he only grew stronger and won comfortably, finishing 3 3/4 lengths ahead of Gunnevera. Classic Empire, meanwhile, had nothing to offer and finished third, almost 9 lengths behind Irish War Cry. It was a stunning defeat for a colt that was tipped to take 2017 by storm. Nobody could have pictured the way the Kentucky Derby picture would be totally turned on its head. Some will argue that Classic Empire was short, rusty and suffered pre-race anxiety, but it was hard to believe it was the same colt that lit up 2017.

The bookmakers responded accordingly and shifted Classic Empire all the way out from 2/1 to 16/1. Now might be the time to back him if you do think it was a freak result and that he will be back strong and challenge for the Kentucky Derby.

The odds on Irish War Cry also shortened dramatically, going into around 14/1. This son of Curlin and Irish Sovereign, bred and owned by Isabelle de Tomaso, has won all three career races and relished stretching his legs over two turns. Winning trainer Graham Motion called him “a pretty classy horse” and is considering the Grade II Fountain of Youth on March 4 or the Grade I Florida Derby on April 1 for Irish War Cry’s next outing.

Slightly ahead of Irish War Cry in the futures betting for the Kentucky Derby is Mastery, another unbeaten horse who won by 4¼ lengths at 6 furlongs at Santa Anita and by 1¼ lengths 7f Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Mastery heads the futures betting at 12/1. Not This Time is 14/1, along with Irish War Cry, thanks to his strong performance in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Joining Classic Empire out at 16/1 are El Areeb and Royal Mo, who won the other two Kentucky Derby point prep races at the weekend. El Areeb swept to victory in the $250,000 Withers, a Grade III race, where he justified starting as odds-on favorite by winning by 4 1/2 lengths over True Timber. Royal Mo won by 3 1/2 lengths in the $150,000 Robert B Lewis Stakes, but his time was not amazing and he was barely challenged in a limited field.