The 2014 Kentucky Derby projects to boast an eclectic group of competitors that will be comprised of some heavy favorites and major long shots.
While we won't know for sure until Wednesday’s draw to determine what will likely be the 20-horse field—barring any late scratches—there are some clear-cut contenders almost sure to be at the starting gate Saturday.
Let's take a look at the latest odds for every potential contestant in the field, as well as a closer look at a favorite and unheralded dark horse you should consider betting.
|Vicars In Trouble||10-1|
|Dance with Fate||16-2|
|General A Rod||25-1|
|Ride On Curlin||25-1|
|We Miss Artie||33-1|
|Tap It Rich||50-1|
As of April 28. OddsShark.com
Top Contender to Bet: Wicked Strong at 8-1
Wicked Strong may not be the odds-on favorite right now, that honor goes to the red-hot California Chrome, but he might be challenging for the top spot once more gamblers begin wagering on the Run for the Roses.
There are plenty of reasons to like the three-year-old colt, including his blazing speed, impressive victory at Wood Memorial and even the tale behind his namesake.
According to Jacqueline Tempera of The Boston Globe, this horse had his name changed in honor of the Boston Marathon victims, and his owner believes fate has brought him this far.
Don Little Jr. spoke to Tempera about the colt’s surprising surge into the Derby, the first representative to make the field in the 32-year history of Centennial Farms:
"Absolutely, totally, I believe in fate," Little said. "There are things we don’t have control of, that are bringing us good energy. ... I truly believe this is meant to be. Too many coincidences have aligned."
How will Wicked Strong fare in the Kentucky Derby?
Wood’s confidence isn’t misplaced, as winners at the Wood have traditionally found success at Churchill Downs. Eleven victors from that prestigious Aqueduct Racetrack-based race have gone on to claim the blanket of roses in Kentucky. Even more impressive, four of them would continue their dominance and earn a rare Triple Crown.
While Wicked Strong has much work to do to claim the first Triple Crown since Affirmed pulled off the feat in 1978, it’s definitely unwise to count him out. Consider backing the colt at 8-1 now and getting a good price, as he is sure to boast less favorable odds as we draw closer to the starting gun.
Unheralded Long Shot Worth the Risk: Ride on Curlin at 25-1
If you look back at the most recent winners of the Kentucky Derby you will notice an intriguing trend of dark-horse competitors crossing the finish line first.
The last odds-on favorite to win was Big Brown all the way back in 2008, while five of the last six victors were double-digit long shots at post time.
Curlin is looking to continue that streak, and it would be smart to put at least a few bucks on him with the possibility for a major return on investment at 25-1. He has a superstar jockey, plenty of power and a lot of potential on the dirt in the Bluegrass State.
Calvin Borel will be on board this experienced colt who has run nine races leading up to the Kentucky Derby but won only twice. Regardless, he’s a tough competitor who hasn’t had lower than a fourth-place outing, and there is little doubt he’ll be right up at the front Saturday.
Of course, a starting position closer to the rail would be a big boon for Ride on Curlin, as Borel is known for his ability to sail up the sideline for dramatic finishes at or near the front. It would be wiser to bet this horse now than wait for the draw because his odds are likely to plummet when the public makes this connection.
The 47-year-old jockey has three Derby titles under his belt and is looking to add a fourth to his Hall of Fame resume. He clearly has the mount to do it, as Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form posted one of Ride on Curlin’s solid workout times:
Ride On Curlin 7F from the 6 furlong pole 1:28.98 under strong handling to finish, final 3/8's 37.13— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) April 27, 2014
Those looking for a long shot could do much worse than championing Ride on Curlin during the Run for the Roses. He’s a strong contender that will likely be right in the hunt as they come down the stretch this weekend.