The 2015 Kentucky Derby is roughly three weeks away, and while no odds-on favorite has been tabbed just yet, Las Vegas odds makers are openly skeptical on the chances this year’s field ends the 37-year Triple Crown drought.
Currently, Bovada.lv has pegged early odds at +600 that any thoroughbred becomes the first to win all three Triple Crown races, and -1000 that the streak continues. Last year, fan favorite California Chrome became the latest contender to threaten for the Triple Crown, but he lost gas toward the end of the Belmont against many thoroughbreds who hadn’t participated in the first two races. Thus, Affirmed’s spirited run in 1978 stands as the last Triple Crown anyone has seen in nearly 40 years.
But this year’s field does sport several legitimate contenders who could win not only the Derby but perhaps do some damage at the Preakness three weeks later, and potentially the Belmont Stakes.
The New York Times has kept up its Derby “Dartboard” for the last three weeks, ranking the 10 thoroughbreds who have made the biggest pushes in the Derby prep races. The Derby’s official point standings, which determine the 20 participants in this year’s race, have International Star as the current leader but he’s not considered the favorite.
Here are the top five ranked contenders and their odds, with one three-year-old colt so far standing well above the rest of the pack.
The rankings begin with Dortmund, who won the Santa Anita Derby by 4 1 /2 lengths and is the latest contender from the stable of esteemed trainer Bob Baffert. The victory was just the latest in a six-race winning streak for Dortmund, including the Grade 1 victory at the Los Alamos Futurity back in December. The fact that he blew away the field at the 1 1 /8-mile Santa Anita means he could have a huge kick on the final turn in Louisville. The lineage to near-Triple Crown-winner Big Brown gives Dortmund’s stock a boost as well.
Not too far back is American Pharoah, a three-year-old colt who picked up a crucial and telling win at the G1 Arkansas Derby over the weekend, and banked two other G1 victories in September, the Del Mar Futurity and FrontRunner. He took a near six-month rest before taking down the G2 Rebel Stakes and carried that momentum into Arkansas. Another member of Baffert’s lot, American Pharoah has won four straight and currently figures to be Dortmund’s biggest challenger next month.
After coming in second to Dortmund at Los Alamitos and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Firing Line moved down to the G3 Sunland Derby and claimed his first win in months. The motive behind the move down likely resides in building Firing Line’s confidence before the Derby, a savvy move from a young trainer in Simon Callaghan, who learned from the great Todd Pletcher.
And speaking of Pletcher, his Carpe Diem has won four of his five races, and finished second in the one he didn’t win. Most recently he took home the Blue Grass Stakes to move into third in the points standings, but didn’t run away with the victory. Bred in Kentucky, Carpe Diem has the chance to win over the home crowd, and one Times’ expert predicted he will enjoy the Derby’s longer track.
Like Baffert, Pletcher is expected to have two contenders in his year’s race, with Materiality only weeks removed from his Florida Derby victory. Materiality has only started three races, but he’s won them all, with Pletcher slowly working him up to G1. The gradual increase in quality competition is one thing, but Materiality has shown great promise on 1 1 /8-mile tracks and could be itching for a breakaway from the pack in a few weeks.