No horse has won the thoroughbred Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, and while it remains to be seen if that drought will come to an end in 2014, there is no question that several horses are talented enough to make it happen.
Although the field for the 140th Kentucky Derby has yet to be finalized, a handful of talented contenders have already come to the forefront. If any of them is to win the Triple Crown, then capturing the first jewel on May 3 is an absolute must.
Here is a look at the three horses that stand the best chance of conquering the most exciting two minutes in sports.
On the heels of a thrilling victory in the Santa Anita Derby, California Chrome enters Churchill Downs as the overwhelming favorite to reach the winner's circle. The three-year-old colt enters the Kentucky Derby on a four-race winning streak, and he certainly hasn't shown any signs of slowing down.
There is a lot to like about California Chrome, but perhaps his biggest asset is his versatility. California Chrome has found a way to win regardless of the factors surrounding him, and Los Alamitos race announcer Ed Burgart believes that will serve him well in the Kentucky Derby:
Jockeys always enter races with grand plans, but sometimes track positioning forces them to be altered. Since California Chrome can win from anywhere at any pace, he looks to be an extremely safe bet. California Chrome is in such great form that Bleacher Report's Adam Lefkoe views him as a Triple Crown shoo-in:
Winning the three biggest races in the sport is easier said than done, but there is no doubt that California Chrome has the tools necessary to take the Kentucky Derby at the very least. Although the best horse doesn't necessarily always win due to the fact that things can get muddled with so many horses on the track, California Chrome is good enough to overcome pretty much anything.
Vicar's In Trouble
Although he appears to be somewhat of a late riser, Vicar's In Trouble has put himself in position to do some damage in the Kentucky Derby. Fresh off a triumph in the Louisiana Derby, Vicar's In Trouble is the most hyped horse in the nation aside from California Chrome.
Despite having picked up two wins in his first four career races, Vicar's In Trouble wasn't initially viewed as a Kentucky Derby threat. That has changed in recent weeks, and while it has likely come as a surprise to most observers, assistant trainer Joe Sharp has seen Vicar's In Trouble's potential firsthand for quite some time, per Katherine Terrell of NOLA.com.
"We've liked this horse since Keeneland in October," Sharp said. "And as he started to develop a little more, we said 'Wouldn't it be neat if we ended up on the big stage together in the Louisiana Derby, and if everything stays well, the Kentucky Derby.'"
Sharp's dream has seemingly been realized, but there is still work to be done. As good as the three-year-old colt has looked, he has never had to deal with the level of competition that he will be faced with at Churchill Downs. If Vicar's In Trouble's recent surge is any indication, though, a Kentucky Derby win may be on the horizon.
Dance With Fate
Despite an awesome showing and victory in the Blue Grass Stakes, Dance With Fate's Kentucky Derby standing was very much in question until recently. Even though Dance With Fate clearly established himself as a contender, it was far from guaranteed that he would take part in the 140th Run for the Roses.
According to Jennie Rees of USA Today, Dance With Fate co-owner Joe Ciaglia Jr. didn't initially intend to enter the horse into the Kentucky Derby fray.
Our idea was not to go there. We wanted to see how it played out. The horse shows the ability to close and go long. It's something we'll talk about. ... In this race today with 14 horses, I was very nervous. ... God, you go to 20 horses in the Derby. How am I going to really feel? ... Just to go to the Derby just to say I was in the Derby, that's not what we're about. We want to go there and feel like our horse has a chance. We care about our horses, and we want to make sure they're here for a long time.
Even with plenty of uncertainty within Dance With Fate's camp, the decision was ultimately made to go for the gusto. Per Churchill Downs PR on Twitter, trainer Peter Eurton's daughter announced that Dance With Fate will compete in the sport's biggest race:
Dance With Fate didn't run a great race on dirt in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last year as he finished eighth, so there is some concern regarding his ability to adjust. He has come a long way in the past several months, though, and he will certainly be in the mix.
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