Kentucky Derby 2014 Contenders: Horses to Watch at Churchill Downs

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

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

There is a reason the Kentucky Derby is called the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Sure, there are buzzer-beating shots in the NBA and March Madness, walk-off home runs in baseball and game-winning touchdown passes in football, but there is certainly not a guarantee that a given game will come down to the final moments in white-knuckle fashion.


Providing Secretariat isn't dusting the rest of the field in 2014, you can count on the Derby for some good ol’ fashioned thrills.

Let Pat Forde, previously with and currently with Yahoo! Sports, break down just how important the Kentucky Derby is every year:

The Kentucky Derby is the ultimate two-minute drill. It's Joe Montana against the Bengals with the clock running out -- every year. With everything riding on it.

It is now or never for every horse in the race -- a single dash at immortality, a mile-and-a-quarter cavalry charge toward history. Unlike John Elway in the Super Bowl or Roy Williams in the Final Four or Phil Mickelson in a major, there are no second chances at the Derby. Thoroughbreds are only 3-year-olds once.

Win and your name is memorialized on the paddock walls of Churchill Downs for as long as the place stands. Lose and you're assigned to the small type of the race charts, on your way to eternal anonymity.

Goose bumps.

With so much at stake, which horses are going to join the history books in 2014? Here is a look at the favorites, courtesy of Odds Shark, as of Sunday, April 27:

2014 Kentucky Derby Odds
California Chrome7-4
Wicked Strong8-1
Vicars 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
Medal Count33-1
Strong Mandate33-1
We Miss Artie33-1
Uncle Sigh40-1
Noble Moon50-1
Tap It Rich50-1


The Favorite: California Chrome


If California Chrome delivers on expectations as the favorite, he will become only the fourth-ever California-bred colt to win the Kentucky Derby.

He has been absolutely dominant lately, with four wins in as many races by a total of more than 24 lengths. California Chrome blew past the rest of the field April 5 at the Santa Anita Derby and looks the part of a legitimate Triple Crown contender.

In fact, nothing could boost the popularity of the sport more in 2014 than if California Chrome (or any horse, but he has the best odds) makes a charge at the coveted Triple Crown. If he wins the Kentucky Derby, it will mark five straight victories, and the talk will certainly intensify.


Considering how dominant California Chrome has looked recently, it may not be premature to consider it. Trainer Art Sherman did nothing to temper the expectations in comments to Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: “This horse is one of those who has a deep, deep desire to run.”


Contenders: Danza and Wicked Strong

Garry Jones

Danza hasn’t looked as dominant as California Chrome, but he has been impressive lately. He finished in third place in a tightly contested Grade II Saratoga Special in August but missed nearly seven months with knee concerns. However, he won the Grade I Arkansas Derby by almost five lengths over Ride On Curlin in preparation for the Derby and looked very comfortable in front of a large crowd in the process.

That certainly bodes well for Churchill Downs.

Chelsea Durand

Wicked Strong, meanwhile, earned a dominant victory in the Wood Memorial April 5 and finished third in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct in November. He doesn’t have the resume that California Chrome does leading up to the Derby but is capable of making a late push in the final stretch of the race.

Chances are it will be a thrilling finish, just like always.


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