Less than a week remains before the best geldings in the sport of horse racing trot onto the track at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.
The premier race is set to start on Saturday evening, and the field is rounding into shape with several favorites rising to the top of the crop.
California Chrome comes into the race as the resounding favorite, having won all of its races this season. But with a field that includes the surging Wicked Strong and Samraat, the Derby presents plenty of challengers worthy of mention.
With the Derby fast approaching, here's a look at the full field, points schedule, pedigree information and more before the epic race begins on Saturday, per the Kentucky Derby's official website.
Kentucky Derby Race Information
When: Saturday, May 3, 2014
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports LiveExtra
|1||California Chrome||150||Lucky Pulpit and Love the Chase|
|2||Vicar's In Trouble||120||Into Mischief and Vibrant|
|3||Dance With Fate||108||Two Step Salsa and Flirting with Fate|
|4||Wicked Strong||102||Hard Spun and Moyne Abbey|
|5||Samraat||100||Noble Causeway and Little Indian Girl|
|6||Danza||100||Street Boss and Champagne Royale|
|7||Hoppertunity||95||Any Given Saturday and Refugee|
|8||Intense Holiday||93||Harlan's Holiday and Intensify|
|9||Wildcat Red||90||D'wildcat and Racene|
|10||We Miss Artie||60||Artie Schiller and Athena's Gift|
|11||Ride On Curlin||55||Curlin and Magical Ride|
|12||Chitu||54||Henny Hughes and Sea Gift|
|13||Tapiture||52||Pulpit and Tap Your Heels|
|14||General A Rod||40||Roman Ruler and Dynamite Eyes|
|15||Medal Count||40||Dynaformer and Brisquette|
|16||Candy Boy||30||Candy Ride and She's An Eleven|
|17||Uncle Sigh||24||Indian Charlie and Cradlesong|
|18||Vinceremos||20||Pioneerof The Nile and Kettle's Sister|
|19||Harry's Holiday||20||Harlan's Holiday and Daisy Mason|
|20||Commanding Curve||20||Master Command and Mother|
|21||Pablo Del Monte||20||Giant's Causeway and One Hot Wish|
|22||Social Inclusion||20||Pioneerof The Nile and Saint Bernadette|
|23||Big Bazinga||14||Bluegrass Cat and Darling Daughter|
Storylines to Watch
California Chrome the Class of Kentucky
It takes a pretty special colt to be considered the favorite at the most prestigious competition in horse racing, and that's exactly what California Chrome has been throughout the season.
The gelding has emerged from a strong field and brought Art Sherman back to the sport's biggest event after a 59-year hiatus. Not only is California Chrome winning races, he's pulled away from the field by a considerable margin in every run this year.
Sherman spoke about his horse's success and the experience of returning to Churchill Downs, per Ed McNamara of Newsday:
It's been a great experience. A young horse comes to you and you have no idea he'll become the horse he is right now. I've never gotten so much publicity in my life. ... I haven't been on a horse in at least 10 years. But I told (jockey) Victor (Espinoza) that if he keeps winning by that far, I might take my license back out.
After a strong showing to start the season, California Chrome also has the respect of several top analysts before the race gets underway. Matt Carothers of TVG believes the horse deserves the No. 1 spot for bettors ahead of the running on Saturday, per TVG's official Twitter account:
Thus far, California Chrome has lived up to the billing and crushed the rest of his competition. With the Run for the Roses on tap, expect the gelding to do the same with quite a few other colts nipping at his heels to take over the throne.
Wicked Strong Hitting His Stride
Who are you rooting for in the Derby?
There's something to be said about a horse that rises to the challenge with the bright lights shining, and that's exactly what Wicked Strong did at the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
Wicked Strong earned his name in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and has shown the same tenacity of the city. After getting off to a slow start at Gulfstream Park with a ninth-place finish, the colt recovered by finishing fourth in the next race and eventually won in Aqueduct by defeating Samraat, among others.
In a race where horses like California Chrome and others are front-runners, watch for Wicked Strong to come from behind late, as Bill Speros of Boston.com explains:
Wicked Smart is considered a "stalker" in racing parlance. He likes to run slightly behind the leaders and then let go with a big stretch run. Wicked Smart picked up speed down the home stretch at the Wood ... and the extra 1/8th of a mile in the Derby could afford him even more of a chance to accelerate and drive at the end.
Given his dominant finish at the Wood Memorial and the confidence that comes along with it, Wicked Strong and his team appear to be at the top of their game coming into the Derby.
Even with a strong class of geldings around him, look for Wicked Strong to live up to his name with a strong close at the end. Will it be enough to end California Chrome's chances at the Derby? We'll have to wait to find that out on Saturday.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.