The 2014 edition of the Kentucky Derby should be just as much of a captivating scene and race as the 139 entries that precede it, so horse racing enthusiasts and general sports fans won't want to miss Saturday's spectacle.
It is one of the most important events on the sports calendar, as the opening leg of the Triple Crown season gets underway at Churchill Downs in Louisville. According to the Kentucky Derby's official website, post time will be approximately 6:24 p.m. ET.
There figure to be some fluctuations and last-minute lineup changes before this Run for the Roses, but the top contenders slated to run are in place. Wednesday marks the draw for post positions, where it will be easier to determine just how the field stacks up and how "the most exciting two minutes in sports" might play out.
Before getting into some analysis of the favorites and other possible challengers for the winner's circle, here is a look at the basic information for the race.
|2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders, Points Standings|
|California Chrome||Art Sherman||150|
|Vicar's In Trouble||Mike Maker||120|
|Dance With Fate||Peter Eurton||108|
|Wicked Strong||Jimmy Jerkens||102|
|Samraat||Rick Violette Jr.||100|
|Intense Holiday||Todd Pletcher||93|
|Wildcat Red||Jose Garrofalo||90|
|We Miss Artie||Todd Pletcher||60|
|Ride On Curlin||Billy Gowan||55|
|General A Rod||Mike Maker||40|
|Medal Count||Dale Romans||40|
|Candy Boy||John Sadler||30|
|Uncle Sigh||Henry Contessa||24|
|Harry's Holiday||Mike Maker||20|
|Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||20|
|Pablo Del Monte||Wesley Ward||20|
|Social Inclusion||Manny Azpurua||20|
|Big Bazinga||Katerina Vassilieva||14|
|Source: New York Daily News|
Information for 2014 Kentucky Derby
When: Saturday, May 3 (post time approximately 6:24 p.m. ET)
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Race Preview and Analysis
Oddsmakers have California Chrome as the clear-cut favorite with 7-4 odds, followed far behind by Wicked Strong and Danza at 8-1 apiece.
Other than California Chrome, though, no one has had a much more consistent run-up to the Kentucky Derby than 10-1 shot Vicar's In Trouble. Although he hasn't run in a Grade I race before, trainer Mike Maker's top contender hasn't finished out of the money in his past three starts, winning in his last appearance at the Louisiana Derby.
Monmouth Park race announcer Travis Stone provided his analysis on what should be an interesting field this year, noting that even those without high-profile victories could emerge triumphant with the first Triple Crown jewel:
But it is difficult to dispute California Chrome being tabbed as the No. 1 contender, given that he's won his past four races by a combined 24 1/4 lengths. The last of those came in the Santa Anita Derby in his Grade I debut, so there's success to suggest he can handle even the best competition with relative ease.
Victor Espinoza has really figured out when to break at the perfect time as California Chrome's jockey. Given how well they've run away from the other entrants in previous starts, all Espinoza has to do at the slightly longer Churchill Downs track over 10 furlongs is not get the speedy horse moving too quickly at the outset.
If there is an uncommonly fast pace to start, Espinoza just has to make sure he doesn't get California Chrome too excited. As long as Espinoza can rein him back long enough before reaching maximum speed, there's no reason California Chrome can't win.
Danza is a bit of a late riser in that he came out of relative nowhere to storm to victory at the Arkansas Derby. He is the wild card that could challenge California Chrome the most. Jockey Joe Bravo had high hopes after Danza's breakout run at Hot Springs, per KentuckyDerby.com (via Brisnet.com):
It's really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I'm not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I'm crossing my fingers he's my Derby horse. This is what dreams are made of. You've got to take your hat off to Todd Pletcher. He knows how to bring them around at the right time of the year. Nobody does it year in and year out the way he does. I'm so happy for Mr. (Aron) Wellman and Eclipse Thoroughbreds. They put so much into the game. They deserve and good one, and I think they've got him.
Todd Pletcher should have as many as four horses entering the Kentucky Derby, but perhaps unexpectedly as of a month ago, Danza gives him the best chance to win.
Wicked Strong, winner of the Wood Memorial Stakes, has a ninth-place effort at the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes on his resume that makes him a bit of an unsafe bet.
No one has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, but California Chrome could continue his dominant run. By claiming victory, he could use that as a launching point ahead of the Preakness Stakes, and Espinoza would be oozing with confidence. Espinoza won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard War Emblem, so he's proven capable of pulling off the first two legs before.
Although Stone brings up a good point about how there could be some dangerous dark horses to give chase down the stretch, it does seem as though Danza's recent ascent, along with California Chrome, will dominate the headlines leading up to this race. As Bravo alluded to, Pletcher is excellent at preparing for the Kentucky Derby, so any of his contenders could give chase for the top prize as well.
There should be plenty of depth in this field, and the post position reveal will help determine some of the other horses that will become big factors in the final outcome.
Less than a week away from race day, the excitement for the 2014 Kentucky Derby is just beginning.