2014 Kentucky Derby Horses: Dialing in Field and Best Bets from Early Odds

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IApril 25, 2014

In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza pose in the winner's circle after victory in the Santa Anita Derby horse race Saturday, April 5, 2014, at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. (AP Photo/Benoit Photo)

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.  

Danny Johnston

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.

2014 Kentucky Derby Leaderboard
1California ChromeArt Sherman150$782,250
2Vicar’s in TroubleMike Maker120$760,000
3Dance With FatePeter Eurton108$600,000
4Wicked StrongJimmy Jerkens102$630,000
5SamraatRick Violette Jr.100$640,000
6DanzaTodd Pletcher100$620,000
7HoppertunityBob Baffert95$576,000
8Intense HolidayTodd Pletcher93$527,500
9Wildcat RedJose Garrofalo90$610,000
10We Miss ArtieTodd Pletcher60$544,000
11Ride On CurlinBilly Gowan55$354,387
12ChituBob Baffert54$440,000
13TapitureSteve Asmussen52$470,378
14Ring WeekendH. Graham Motion50$260,000
15General a RodMike Maker40$240,000
16Medal CountDale Romans40$226,500
17Candy BoyJohn Sadler30$380,000
18Uncle SighGary Contessa24$180,000
19VinceremosTodd Pletcher20$191,666
20Harry’s HolidayMike Maker20$152,622
21Commanding CurveDallas Stewart20$140,000
22Pablo Del MonteWesley Ward20$102,000
23BayernBob Baffert20$100,000
24Social InclusionManny Azpurua20$90,000
Source: KentuckyDerby.com


Best Bets

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, 8-1

2014 Kentucky Derby Odds
California Chrome7-4
Wicked Strong8-1
Vicar's in Trouble10-1
Dance with Fate16-2
Wildcat Red16-1
Intense Holiday20-1
Social Inclusion20-1
Candy Boy25-1
General a Rod25-1
Ride On Curlin25-1
Ring Weekend25-1
Source: Odds Shark

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. 

Chelsea Durand

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. 


Samraat, 20-1

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. 

Chelsea Durand

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.