Among a group of inconsistent favorites, the undefeated California Chrome stands out as the horse to beat at the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
The field won't be set until the draw on April 30, but it looks like we know 18 of the top 20 horses on. Have a look at the leaderboard for the Kentucky Derby.
|1||California Chrome||Art Sherman||150||$782,250|
|2||Vicar’s in Trouble||Mike Maker||120||$760,000|
|3||Dance With Fate||Peter Eurton||108||$600,000|
|4||Wicked Strong||Jimmy Jerkens||102||$630,000|
|5||Samraat||Rick Violette Jr.||100||$640,000|
|8||Intense Holiday||Todd Pletcher||93||$527,500|
|9||Wildcat Red||Jose Garrofalo||90||$610,000|
|10||We Miss Artie||Todd Pletcher||60||$544,000|
|11||Ride On Curlin||Billy Gowan||55||$354,387|
|14||Ring Weekend||H. Graham Motion||50||$260,000|
|15||General a Rod||Mike Maker||40||$240,000|
|16||Medal Count||Dale Romans||40||$226,500|
|17||Candy Boy||John Sadler||30||$380,000|
|18||Uncle Sigh||Gary Contessa||24||$180,000|
|20||Harry’s Holiday||Mike Maker||20||$152,622|
|21||Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||20||$140,000|
|22||Pablo Del Monte||Wesley Ward||20||$102,000|
|24||Social Inclusion||Manny Azpurua||20||$90,000|
The Courier-Journal's Jonathan Lintner reported earlier in the week that 17 of the top 20 had confirmed, with the three not confirmed being Chitu, Ring Weekend and Harry's Holiday. After scratching for the Derby Trial on Saturday, as Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman reports, Chitu is headed toward running at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
If Ring Weekend or Harry's Holiday elect not to run, or any other horse has to back out, replacements will be selected in order of the leaderboard.
However those final few spots shake out, it won't alter the early odds much. Post position will be another story, but in all likelihood, California Chrome will leave the gate as the favorite.
Have a look at all the horses checking in with odds lower than 30-1 according to Odds Shark on April 23.
|Vicar's in Trouble||10-1|
|Dance with Fate||16-2|
|General a Rod||25-1|
|Ride On Curlin||25-1|
Source: Odds Shark
California Chrome is a strong favorite, but look at those tiny odds.
The low odds are understandable. There is a lot to like about the horse. He has won his four races by a combined 24 lengths.
If I'm just naming the horse I think is going to win, I'm siding with California Chrome, but that doesn't mean the small reward is worth the risk.
I like the odds on the following two horses much better:
Danza is the strongest of famed trainer Todd Pletcher's entries. Pletcher, who trained 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, has had the hot hand in horse racing, and his touch can't be ignored. Danza has shown the form it takes to win this race.
Danza is a late charger in terms of being viewed as an elite horse. This horse had a pedestrian beginning before taking a seven-month layoff. After the layoff, Danza had a poor run in an option claimer at Gulfstream.
So it was with that history that he lined up at Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby at 41-1. He won the Grade 1 stakes by over four lengths.
Jockey Joe Bravo rode Danza to victory, and he was excited about the horse afterward. Here is Bravo, per AmericasBestRacing.net's Vince Mathews, after the Arkansas Derby:
Right now it is all about the anticipation. Everything about this horse has been such a nice surprise. Whenever you ride a horse for Todd Pletcher and his team, you always have a little bit of extra confidence; and when I started reading more into Danza, I started falling in love with the horse prior to the Arkansas Derby. Now that we've seen what he can do, it’s all about the anticipation of seeing if he can do more in Louisville.
There is a risk that Danza's performance at Oaklawn was a fluke. His form in that race can't be ignored, and at 8-1, he is worth the gamble.
Along with Danza, the horse with the second-lowest odds is Wicked Strong. Wicked Strong and Danza had similar paths to the Kentucky Derby.
Like Danza, Wicked Strong was earning little attention. Then he blew the doors off the field at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. What added to that impressive victory was that Samraat finished second.
Heading into the Wood Memorial, Samraat was undefeated in five starts, two of which were graded stakes.
Trained by Rick Violette Jr., Samraat had a strong run at the Wood Memorial. He went wide and lost the pace, but he finished strong.
What is really appealing about Samraat is his consistency. Violette talked about this in an article by Paul Daley on LowellSun.com:
[Samraat's] so consistent and tractable and has a number of different gears. He can be put into neutral as the race unfolds and that's what I think separates him from other horses. He has a desire to win that I'm not sure I've ever had in another horse that wants to win as badly as he does. He always shows up.
At 20-1, Samraat's chances of finishing in the money make him a great play.