The 140th running of the Kentucky Derby has turned from who will come out on top of the 19-deep field to who can best overwhelming favorite California Chrome.
Trained by Art Sherman, who could become the oldest trainer to win the Derby at 77, California Chrome is a 3-1 odds-on favorite from the No. 5 post as the final hours tick away before Saturday’s big race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
The California-bred, three-year-old colt has been the prohibitive favorite for weeks now after winning four consecutive races by an average of more than six lengths, including the Santa Anita Derby and the San Felipe.
Typically the Derby field is 20-deep, but with biggest challenger Hoppertunity scratched due to a foot injury, and would-be replacement Pablo Del Monte also removed with an injury, 19 thoroughbreds will compete for the Run for the Roses.
The weather conditions are also in California Chrome’s favor, with temperatures expected to be in the 70-degree Fahrenheit range and mostly sunny along the 1 1/4–mile dirt track. Last year the favored Orb took the checkered flag under rainy conditions that produced a very sloppy track.
With an advantageous track and a jockey in Victor Espinoza who won the first two legs of the 2002 Triple Crown aboard War Emblem, the only thing holding back California Chrome is his lack of a winning heritage. His sire Pulpit was known as more of a sprinter than a stakes thoroughbred and his dam Love the Chase claimed one victory in a one mile race at Golden Gate Fields.
However, California Chrome’s top competitors own a much richer pedigree.
Slotted beside California Chrome at the No. 4 post, trainer Todd Pletcher’s Danza has a 9-1 shot to win, with Grade I’s Wood Memorial victor Wicked Strong at 8-1.
Danza’s sire was Street Boss, who was a late-running sprinter sired by 2002 Dubai World Cup champ Street Cry. Street Cry counts Zenyatta and 2007 Kentucky Derby-winner Street Sense among his offspring.
Wicked Strong is from the foal of 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winner Charismatic, and was sired by 2007 Derby runner-up Hard Spun. That rich a line of stamina could be in Wicked Strong’s favor from the No. 20 post.
Others to watch include Ride On Curlin, 12-1 odds, and Intense Holiday, 13-1, both due to previous performances and connections.
Churchill Downs-based trainer William G. Gowan counts Ride On Curlin as his pupil, and his runner-up finish at the Arkansas Derby could be a sign of things to come especially with Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel at the reins. Curlin, North America’s highest earning thoroughbred in history with $10.5 million in winnings, is Ride On Curlin’s sire.
Intense Holiday claimed a solid victory at Risen Star, and a runner-up finish at the Louisiana Derby, and he’ll have 13-time Kentucky Derby participant and 2011-winner John Velasquez as his jockey.
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. EST
TV Channel: NBC, whose coverage runs from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Live Online Stream Info: A live online stream is available at NBC Live Extra
Posts and Updated Betting Odds via Kentucky Derby’s official site
1.Vicar’s In Trouble 21-1
2.Harry’s Holiday 35-1
3.Uncle Sigh 22-1
5.California Chrome 3-1
7.We Miss Artie 22-1
8.General A Rod 26-1
10.Wildcat Red 14-1
12.Dance With Fate 14-1
14.Medal Count 17-1
16.Intense Holiday 13-1
17.Commanding Curve 27-1
18.Candy Boy 16-1
19.Ride On Curlin 12-1
20.Wicked Strong 8-1