The 2014 Kentucky Derby draw will take place on Wednesday, and three days later, the 20-plus field will take to the 1 1/4 mile dirt track at Churchill Downs for the 140th Run for the Roses.
Here, I'll break down the latest odds for every entry and highlight some horses and jockeys to keep a close eye on this weekend in Louisville.
*Odds according to OddsShark.com.
|Dance With Fate||20-1|
|Ride on Curlin||20-1|
|Vicar's in Trouble||20-1|
|General a Rod||33-1|
|We Miss Artie||40-1|
|Pablo Del Monte||50-1|
As of April 28. Odds via OddsShark.com
Contenders to Bet On
Odds-on favorite California Chrome has been awfully impressive since December 2013, winning four straight races by a combined 24 lengths, including the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in early April.
Trained by Art Sherman, who is returning to the Derby for the first time in 59 years, California Chrome is looking to become the first California-bred horse to win the Triple Crown's first leg since 1962 and just the fourth such horse to ever win the event.
Sherman, who attended the Run for the Roses in 1955 as an exercise rider for eventual Derby-winner Swaps, is thrilled about the possibility of breaking through at Churchill Downs as a trainer nearly 60 years later.
"Any trainer that says the Derby doesn’t mean anything is crazy," Sherman said via The New York Times' Melissa Hoppert. "It’s not an easy race to win. I think it’s a prestigious race, and at least you know, Man, I won the Kentucky Derby. Then I’d be able to say that I’ve done it all."
Sherman's return is one of the top storylines surrounding this year's Derby and could potentially make for a memorable result on Saturday evening.
Wicked Strong may only have two career victories to his name, but one of those wins came in his most recent outing at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes in early April, where he beat out the previously unbeaten Samraat.
Jockeyed by Rajiv Maragh and trained by James A. Jerkens, Wicked Strong has emerged as one of the favorites to finish toward the top on Saturday.
On Monday, Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch pointed out that Wicked Strong appeared "focused" when hitting the track for the first time:
Wicked Strong looked around a bit after jogging to the wire but seemed focused during easy gallop visiting track for 1st time this a.m.— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) April 28, 2014
Wicked Strong isn't the only closer in this year's field, but there's no question his eye-opening performance at Aqueduct a month ago will win over plenty of bettors this weekend.
Jockeys to Watch For
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will sit atop Ride on Curlin this weekend, and many consider the tandem a dark-horse contender on Saturday.
Borel and Ride on Curlin enter Derby week with 20-1 odds of winning, but that could change if the duo draw post near the rail on Wednesday. Borel is often referred to by the nickname "Bo-Rail" for his successful strategy of taking the shortest path to the finish.
Borel has won the Run for the Roses on three separate occasions since 2007 and last won atop Super Saver in 2010.
|2009||1||Mine That Bird||8|
In August 2013, Borel was inducted into horse racing's Hall of Fame as a result of his tremendous accomplishments on the sport's biggest stage.
"I had to work very hard but it paid off. It takes time," Borel said, via The New York Daily News' Jerry Bossert. "I have no idea how long I’m going to ride because I love the game so much. It’s worse than drugs. I love to get up in the morning and go to work and see my friends and I’ll just go from there.
While Ride on Curlin hasn't experienced the same level of success as odds-on favorites like California Chrome, Wicked Strong and others, he's a closer and the son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who finished third at the Kentucky Derby in 2007.
Not to mention Ride on Curlin earned a second-place finish in his most recent outing and toughest test at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on April 12.
Joel Rosario won the 2013 Kentucky Derby atop Orb and will look to become the first back-to-back winning jockey at Churchill Downs since Borel in 2010 when he takes to the post on General a Rod on Saturday.
Rosario, who rode the favored Orb to victory from post No. 16 last year, rode General a Rod to a third-place finish at the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in March and will look to take a different route to the winner's circle in 2014.
Rosario isn't nearly as accomplished as Borel, but by climbing the mountain in 2013, he must be considered a contender atop General a Rod this weekend.
With 50-1 long-shots like Mine That Bird (2009) and Giacomo (2005) shocking the field at the Kentucky Derby over the past decade, let's just say that anything is possible.
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