All it takes is two minutes to define a legacy.
The Kentucky Derby is the most prestigious event in horse racing and almost always serves as a barometer for which horses will be remembered forever. Without success at Churchill Downs, even the best horses often fade into obscurity, no matter their performance across the rest of the Triple Crown races.
Which horse will be taking his place among the greats on May 3?
Below is a list of the projected field for the 2014 Kentucky Derby, along with the most updated odds.
|2014 Kentucky Derby Odds|
|Vicar's in Trouble||10/1|
|Dance with Fate||16/1|
|General A Rod||25/1|
|Ride On Curlin||25/1|
|We Miss Artie||33/1|
|Tap It Rich||50/1|
Note: The odds are courtesy of OddsShark.com and up-to-date as recently as 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 27.
Although these four horses have the best odds heading into the race, that's not always an automatic guarantee of success. Here's a brief look at each of the favorites and how well they might do.
California Chrome has opened as the early Derby favorite for a reason. He's won each of his three races in 2014 and his last four dating back to 2013. His finishing kick in the Santa Anita Derby demonstrated how well he can close a race. Jockey Victor Espinoza didn't even need to use the whip.
The three-year-old recently had a workout run at Los Alamitos. Trainer Art Sherman believes that California Chrome couldn't look any better, per USA Today's Jennie Rees.
Speaking of the workout, he said:
Very good. Exactly what I needed for the horse. He doesn't need much now. He's ready. I just wanted to put some air into him. He's happy and fresh. That's the way I want to keep him for this race. Victor told me he couldn't believe how easy the horse went. He just said he felt so good. Victor wrapped up on him and didn't let him do too much. He knows this horse so well.
With all of that said, favorites don't have a great history at Churchill Downs. Revolutionary was viewed as the top contender last year yet had to settle for a third-place finish. The quick nature of the race means the slightest slip can lead to falling behind with no chance of a recovery.
As well as California Chrome has been running, he'll hit a snag in the Derby and walk away with runner-up.
Danza has just two races under his belt in 2014 and four between this year and last. As if inexperience isn't enough of a problem, Danza's win at the Arkansas Derby will have come less than a month before the Kentucky Derby.
That doesn't leave a ton of recovery and preparation time. Even the most experienced of horses would have problems with just three weeks off heading into Churchill Downs.
Trainer Todd Pletcher doesn't think it will be a big problem, though.
"I don't think that race took much out of him," he said, per Blood-Horse's Frank Angst. "It wasn't like he had to battle through the stretch or anything."
Danza will start the race strong but fade in the final stretches.
Vicar's in Trouble
One of the fastest horses in the field is Vicar's in Trouble. You only need to watch his run in the Risen Star Stakes to see how quickly he can make up for a poor start. Although he finished third, his final kick was something to behold.
The key for Vicar's in Trouble at Churchill Downs will be nailing the start. If he struggles again, it will likely be a repeat of the Risen Star—slow start, great push in the middle and then running out of steam in the final stretch.
With the deep field at the Kentucky Derby, the three-year-old won't be afforded much cushion.
Vicar's in Trouble will fall behind early. Although he'll make a strong push down the final stretches, it won't be enough to claim the Derby crown.
It's anybody's guess as to how Wicked Strong will perform at Churchill Downs.
Before Wood Memorial, he was only an afterthought for the Kentucky Derby. Wicked Strong had one win in his first five races, and his first two races of 2014 resulted in ninth-place and fourth-place finishes, respectively.
Then came the Wood Memorial, which Wicked Strong won by 3 and 1/2 lengths over Samraat, who was unbeaten heading into New York.
This will seem an upset, but I'm going with Wicked Strong to pull off the Derby victory. He's got the pedigree and talent to win and in addition to that, an entire city will be cheering him on.
Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News wrote about how owner Don Little Jr. was inspired by the "Boston Strong" movement after last year's Boston Marathon bombings:
'If you talk to anyone from the Boston area, they all know of somebody who knew somebody that was affected that day,' Little said.
Little wanted to do something to honor the victims and survivors of that horrible day, so in their honor he decided to rename a promising horse that they’d bought at the Keeneland September 2012 sale for $375,000.
'Wicked Strong, it’s so Bostonian,' Little said of the familiar slang term. 'We went with it.'
'It’s nice. It brings everything together,' said Wicked Strong’s trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, who had to scratch top Kentucky Derby contender Quality Road in 2009 due to quarter cracks. 'A lot of people will be rooting for him. Every little bit helps. It’s nice to be a part of it.'
Unless you literally and/or figuratively have a horse in the race, you should be pulling for Wicked Strong.
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