Finally, it's Kentucky Derby week.
Nothing quite ushers in May like mint juleps, fluctuating odds and the most exciting two minutes in sports. And this year's race promises to be another classic.
So, who are the contenders? Which horse is currently the favorite to win it all? Who are the dark horses?
While the actual racers won't be announced until Wednesday, the race's website listed the top 23 contenders for the Derby, which you can find below, along with recent race odds:
|Horse||Season Ranking||Season Points||Odds|
|Vicar's In Trouble||2||120||10-1|
|Dance With Fate||3||108||16-1|
|We Miss Artie||10||60||33-1|
|Ride On Curlin||11||55||25-1|
|General A Rod||14||40||25-1|
|Pablo Del Monte||21||20||n/a|
Contenders via KentuckyDerby.com. Odds via Oddsshark.com (4/25/14).
Without question, the prohibitive favorite is California Chrome, who comes into the Derby having won four straight races by 24 1/4 lengths. That's dominance, folks.
If you've any doubt as to why the horse is the favorite, just take a look at him skewer the field in the Santa Anita Derby:
Both his trainer and jockey have justifiably high hopes for the horse, and they don't need to say much to pass that along, via Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times:
Trainer Art Sherman, who at 77 would break Charlie Whittingham's record by a year as the oldest Derby-winning trainer were California Chrome to shine as expected, doesn't temper the expectations.
"This horse is one of those who has a deep, deep desire to run," he said Saturday morning.
[Jockey Victor] Espinoza was briefer, but no less enthusiastic. Nor are there many more qualified to assess things. He is 42, won his 3,000th race last year and has been in five Kentucky Derbies, winning in 2002 aboard War Emblem.
Asked to identify the ingredient that separates California Chrome from the other greats he has ridden, Espinoza said, "Talent."
Actions speak louder than words. More aptly, four straight wins in such a dominating fashion practically scream. California Chrome is the latest Triple Crown hopeful. All that's left to do is to live up to the hype.
But while betting on California Chrome is probably the safe move, it's also the boring one. Dark horses are what make the sport truly special.
So who are a few you should be keeping an eye on?
Candy Boy is an interesting horse to look out for. He finished second in the CashCall Futurity Stakes, won the the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and finished third at the Santa Anita Derby. A deep stalker, Candy Boy is at his best when he can keep his distance early and rely on a late kick to surpass the field.
If he gets caught up in a fast early crowd, he'll be in trouble. But with the right post position and approach out of the gate, he could be dangerous.
Samraat is a really intriguing play. Though his odds will probably become less favorable for bettors as the race approaches and more people sniff out this intriguing horse, he's still a great horse to target. His consistency is really impressive, as he's won five of his six stars, and if he gets a good post position, he could be really dangerous.
But like Candy Boy, if he's enticed to run at breakneck speeds right off the bat, he'll probably drift off the lead by the end. Randy Moss of NBC Sports certainly likes him:
RT @jrodrigue1: Really liking Samraat. Live one or bust?…Very live. Wood was strongly-paced, and he took dirt & kept coming. Hard to knock.— Randy Moss (@randy_moss_TV) April 26, 2014
Intense Holiday is generally the bridesmaid rather than the bride, but boy, does he have a lot of weddings under his belt. He's raced eight times with one win, a second-place finish, a third-place finish, two fourth-place showings and one fifth-place finish.
This feels like the type of horse who could sneak up on everybody in the figurative sense but literally run away from the pack. He has the ability to chase a fast pace initially and then just grind out a win down the stretch, holding off the late finishers and deep closers.
Per the Lexington Herald-Leader's horse racing Twitter account, Intense Holiday is coming into the race looking sharp:
Todd Pletcher says can't recall Intense Holiday ever working better than today. Said that We Miss Artie had his worst work ever on dirt.— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) April 27, 2014
Don't be shocked if he finishes in the money.
As the race approaches, it's possible these three horses will lose their dark-horse status. But for now, all three are very intriguing plays and more than capable of interrupting California Chrome's coronation.