California Chrome is taking all of the hype leading up to the Kentucky Derby and running away with it. That is certainly reflected in the odds.
The Art Sherman trainee is currently checking in at 5-2 at OddsShark (as of April 28). Those odds have dropped from the 7-2 he was checking in at last week. They are also far lower than the horse with the second-lowest odds.
Wicked Strong and Danza had previously shared the second-lowest odds on the board at 8-1. While Todd Pletcher's Danza has dropped to 9-1, Wicked Strong has moved to 13-2 and become the clear second choice in the field.
Here, it's probably just easier if I show you all the horses with odds at 33-1 or lower, per OddsShark.
|Dance with Fate||20-1|
|Vicar's in Trouble||20-1|
|Ride On Curlin||20-1|
|General a Rod||33-1|
Brushing up on the Favorites
California Chrome stands out in this field for a number of reasons. For starters, this horse has relatively pedestrian roots. On top of that, trainer Sherman is 77 and bidding to become the oldest trainer to ever win the Kentucky Derby.
Of course, those items are what make the horse a great story, not a great contender. There are reasons for that as well, though. California Chrome has won each of his last four starts and done so by over a combined 24 lengths.
Two of those races were graded stakes races and the last was the Santa Anita Derby, where he won by over five lengths against a field that included Bob Baffert's Hoppertunity.
There is little not to like about this horse. One slight concern is that he has yet to race outside of California and faced a long trek to Chuchill Downs. As SA Press Box tweets, the colt handled the trip well:
Meanwhile, Wicked Strong is coming off of an equally strong showing, but his record was spotty prior to that.
Wicked Strong won just one of his first five races. There were two graded stakes races among his first five and he finished third and ninth in those races.
Then he lined up for the Wood Memorial for 3-year-olds at Aqueduct on April 5 and beat a strong field by 3.5 lengths. Taking second in that race was previously undefeated Samraat.
Wicked Strong is already comfortable and training at Churchill Downs. TVG's Joaquin Jaime passes along, from trainer James Jerkens, that the horse traveled well:
Wicked Strong arrived at CD at 5:30a this morning for @Centennial_Farm. Jimmy Jerkens told me "everything is good" via text message.— Joaquin Jaime (@JoaquinTVG) April 27, 2014
Darley tweeted this update:
Checking in with the third-lowest odds, Danza presents a case similar to Wicked Strong. He had a pedestrian start to his racing career and was then given a seven-month layoff due to some knee trouble. He's had two starts since returning.
The first was a poor run in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. The second was a dominant victory in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. It would appear that Pletcher took the right plan of action with this horse because he lined up at Oaklawn Park with odds at 41-1 and won by four lengths.
Danza has been at Churchill and training well. NYRA & HRTV racing analyst Richard Migliore tweeted this update:
2 horses that worked and galloped out well were intense holiday and Danza who might be blossoming at the right time— Richard Migliore (@RichardMigliore) April 27, 2014
Barring a poor post, don't be surprised to see Danza's odds drop.
Which horse will finish the highest?
All of this is subject to change after the draw and post positions are considered, but California Chrome is almost sure to remain a big favorite. There is a lot to like—most notably his consistency.
Still, the odds are so small; the risk is not worth the reward. This is especially true considering the recent surges from Wicked Strong and Danza.
When it comes to those two, I'm siding with Danza. He looks to be finding his stride after his knee issues and Pletcher's guidance has the horse peaking. Given his odds, this is currently the best bet to win.
Another strong play comes with Samraat, who came in second to Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial.
As mentioned, Samraat was undefeated prior to that run and his consistency is appealing. Trainer Rick Violette Jr. discussed this in an article by Paul Daley on LowellSun.com:
[Samraat's] so consistent and tractable and has a number of different gears. He can be put into neutral as the race unfolds and that's what I think separates him from other horses. He has a desire to win that I'm not sure I've ever had in another horse that wants to win as badly as he does. He always shows up.
Samraat will be ready to finish in the money, and at 16-1, that makes him a solid bet.