The final field for the 2014 Kentucky Derby is still not settled, but the early odds reveal several dark horses that are worth watching for in the 140th annual Run for the Roses.
Those who plan to make this opening leg of the Triple Crown more exciting by placing a wager will be seeking out the under-the-radar contenders who could very well finish in the money. Whether it be connections, recent form or a combination of both, some of those being downplayed at the moment by oddsmakers may be close to the front coming down the final stretch on May 3.
Below is an overview of the complete odds for this thrilling race, along with analysis on a few dark horses to watch for at Churchill Downs.
|Vicars In Trouble||10-1|
|Dance with Fate||16-2|
|General A Rod||25-1|
|Ride On Curlin||25-1|
Wildcat Red (16-1)
A brilliant burst to the finish by Constitution at the Florida Derby was all that kept Wildcat Red out of the winner's circle by a nose for the third consecutive time in his Grade 1 debut.
Which dark horse is likeliest to finish in the money at the Kentucky Derby?
An extra furlong to the distance he traveled at the Florida Derby may actually benefit him, because Wildcat Red set a slower pace in his last start and was thriving.
However, in his most recent work at Gulfstream this last Sunday, he showed that he has the burst to get it done down to the wire, which had trainer Jose Garoffalo pleased.
"He was flying. The good thing was: he got his last eighth in 11 (seconds) flat," said Garoffalo, per USA Today Sports' Jennie Rees. "That’s all we needed."
That type of acceleration to finish and the stamina on display should allow jockey Luis Saez, who rode Wildcat Red in the Fountain of Youth Stakes victory, to post a strong finish in the most exciting two minutes in sports.
Wildcat Red, deservedly, has the shortest odds among the strongest dark-horse candidates.
Intense Holiday (20-1)
Trainer Todd Pletcher should have at least three Kentucky Derby starters, with Intense Holiday being an excellent bet at 20-1 odds. After winning the Grade II Risen Star Stakes in February, he was runner-up only to Vicar's in Trouble at the Louisiana Derby last month.
Vicar's in Trouble is among the top favorites at Churchill Downs, so there is little reason to believe that Intense Holiday can't compete with him or any of the other top horses.
Monmouth Park track announcer Travis Stone weighed in on Intense Holiday, noting that he looks impressive in his early work:
The bandwagon is growing, but count me as one with an eye on Intense Holiday. He had no shot w/pace in LA Derby, ran well at GP etc.— Travis Stone (@TravisStone) April 25, 2014
It's no guarantee that jockey Mike Smith will get the mount in the Kentucky Derby—he also rides Hoppertunity—but Pletcher has to feel good about how well Intense Holiday has performed regardless of who's aboard. The key for Intense Holiday will be for a slower pace than what he had as the pre-race favorite at Fair Grounds Race Course, which should happen by default on a longer track.
A lot of the attention around Pletcher will go to Arkansas Derby winner Danza, but don't sleep on Intense Holiday to possibly finish in the money.
The local Kentucky product will hopefully put together a strong effort in front of a friendly Louisville crowd. This past November, he won the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs, so there is previous success on this track to draw from.
Tapiture backed that triumph up with a win at the Southwest Stakes in February, followed by a second-place effort at the Rebel Stakes and a near miss at the money in the Arkansas Derby, where he finished fourth.
Strong work this past week suggests Tapiture is ready to be a strong contender, per the Kentucky Derby's official Twitter account:
Tapiture breezed 5F in 1:02.80. Splits: 13.40, 25.80 & 38. Galloped out 6F in 1:16.40. #KyDerby— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) April 21, 2014
Steve Asmussen, who trains Tapiture, felt that his horse was in good form given the close time between his short turnaround from Hot Springs, as reported by the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman:
Asmussen said he thought Tapiture "worked really well." Said wasn't looking for fast time, being as ran 9 days ago. Final drill next Monday— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) April 21, 2014
All indications are that as long as he can put in some good work on Monday, Tapiture is in for a strong run at the Kentucky Derby. Although he doesn't boast the strongest connections, he has a stellar enough resume to be a Triple Crown contender.
Now that the top dark horses have been set, it is worth keeping an eye on how the odds fluctuate moving forward. Depending on the work the entrants put in leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the odds landscape can experience multiple, massive shifts. Even as the final field approaches the Churchill Downs starting gates, odds tend to fluctuate at a rapid rate.
Unless his odds become shorter, though, look for Wildcat Red to be among the most highly thought-of, underrated contenders leading up to the Run for the Roses. Both Intense Holiday and Tapiture should only gain more steam as the race gets closer, too, once oddsmakers take a closer look at their strong race histories.