This Saturday, May 3, marks the start of horse racing’s Triple Crown season for three-year-old thoroughbreds with the running of the 140th Kentucky Derby at fabled Churchill Downs in Louisville.
This is the sport’s biggest race in terms of both popularity and size, with a full 20-horse field expected for this year’s event. While the actual field along with each horse’s post position will not be decided until this Wednesday, this year’s field is expected to be more wide open than any in recent memory.
I have studied the potential field at length to come up with five 2014 Kentucky Derby contenders that may not have the best odds to win on Saturday, but they are all more than capable winning this year’s Run for the Roses.
5. Uncle Sigh
The immense popularity alone of Duck Dynasty will attract attention from the betting public to this three-year-old, but he is a legitimate contender after placing second in a pair of Kentucky Derby prep races earlier this year. He finished second in the Grade III Withers Stakes on Feb. 1 at Aqueduct and then followed that up with another second-place finish in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at the same track on Mar. 1.
He is trained by Gary Contessa and expected to be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
4. Ride On Curlin
This three-year-old has run a heavy prep race schedule in his career, starting with a third-place finish in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park last October as a juvenile. Trained by Billy Gowan, he made his debut as a three-year-old by taking third in the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park in mid-February. He also finished in the money in two additional prep races, including the Grade I Arkansas Derby his last time out on April 12.
3. Vicar’s in Trouble
This three-year-old is ranked second in total points from the Kentucky Derby prep race season. Look for him to go off with only the fifth- or sixth-best odds on the board come post time at Churchill this Saturday depending on how he fares in the post-position draw. This is where all the value lies in this horse.
His main claim to fame is a victory in the Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on Mar. 29. He also won the Grade III Lecomte Stakes back in January at the same race track.
This horse is trained by Mike Maker and expected to be ridden by Rosie Napravnik.
Todd Pletcher trains this horse through Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, and he has brought Danza along very slowly by keeping him off the race track for much of the Kentucky Derby prep race season. The one race he did run in was the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 12 at Oaklawn with Joe Bravo aboard for the ride. The result was a first-place finish in a very strong field after going off as a 41-1 long shot in that race.
The big question the betting public will be asking is if that was a fluke or if he can upset the field again this Saturday.
This three-year-old is my personal favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby. Trained by Rick Violette Jr. and ridden by Jose Ortiz, he went undefeated as a two-year-old in three races, including the Damon Runyon Stakes last December at Aqueduct.
He made his debut as a three-year-old in the Withers Stakes and outran Uncle Sigh in what quickly became a two-horse race. Samraat also won his next time out with a first-place finish in the Gotham Stakes after once again edging out a familiar foe. Despite seeing his impressive five-race winning streak come to an end, he caught everyone’s eye with a second-place run in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 5.