The 140th Kentucky Derby is nearly upon us and, if last year's thrilling race is any indication, we're in for a real treat.
Having won all of his races this year, California Chrome is the favorite to win and a handful of other thoroughbreds are serious contenders.
However, as the past 140 years have shown us, long shots are always a threat.
Will we be surprised yet again in 2014 by an unlikely victor or will one of the favorites cruise to an easy win?
Here is a primer to get you familiar with what to expect and who to watch come the first weekend of May.
When: Saturday, May 3, 2014
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports LiveExtra
California Chrome has been the talk of the horse racing world leading up to The Run for the Roses—and not just because of his awesome name.
The Art Sherman-trained horse has entered three races this year and won all of them, including the Santa Anita Derby earlier this month (video above).
So far in 2014, California Chrome has earned $920,000, trailing only Charles Town Classic winner Imperative. However, Imperative has entered two more races than California Chrome has, so in terms of earnings per start, California Chrome is number one.
Perhaps most telling, however, is the fact that he's the only horse who owns three different triple digit Brisnet.com Speed Ratings, the best of which was 106 for his Santa Anita win.
Incredibly fast and consistently so.
Hence why he's the favorite.
Wicked Strong, named to honor the people of Boston after last year's Boston Marathon bombing, had a slow start to 2014. However, he immediately silenced any skeptics with a three-and-a-half length victory at Wood Memorial.
|Wicked Strong: 2014 Results|
|Aqueduct||4/5/2014||Twinspires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (Grade I)||1|
|Gulfstream Park||2/22/2014||Allowance Optional Claiming||4|
|Gulfstream Park||1/25/2014||Holy Bull Stakes (Grade II)||9|
There's a lot to be said about a horse hitting his stride at the right time and this resounding victory suggests that Wicked Strong might be doing just that.
By Hard Spun out of a Charismatic mare, Wicked Strong also has an excellent distance pedigree. Hard Spun finished second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby, while Charismatic won the 1999 Run for the Roses despite being a 31-1 long shot (video).
Here are the results from Samraat's last six races:
|Samraat's Last Six Races|
|Aqueduct||4/5/2014||Twinspires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (Grade I)||2|
|Aqueduct||3/1/2014||Gotham Stakes (Grade III)||1|
|Aqueduct||2/1/2014||Withers Stakes (Grade III)||1|
|Aqueduct||12/18/2013||Damon Runyon Stakes||1|
|Belmont Park||11/22/2013||Maiden Special Weight||1|
Five victories in six tries is pretty darn impressive.
However, don't let the tremendous success blind you to these two important facts:
1. The Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs, not Aqueduct. That's clearly a track that Samraat is familiar with, but the fact that most of his victories came at Aqueduct must be taken into consideration.
2. Past success does not dictate future results. If it did, horse racing would not be nearly as exciting.
Don't get me wrong, Samraat is still a safe bet.
He just isn't a favorite.
Kentucky Derby experts have Hoppertunity listed at number two in their most recent Power Rankings. We're supposed to trust the experts, right?
With Hoppertunity, we can trust the facts and a little bit of history, too.
First, the facts:
Hoppertunity is still just two-years-old, so he won't bring any fitness worries into the Derby—always a significant factor.
Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity's trainer, is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner.
Now, the history:
According to Brisnet.com's James Scully, six of the last 13 Kentucky Derby winners dropped their final prep.
After Hoppertunity's second-place finish at Santa Anita, could he make it seven for 14?
Sound off in the comment section below with who you think will win the 2014 Kentucky Derby. All comments welcome. Thanks for reading!