Nicknamed “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports,” the Kentucky Derby is known for its chaos. Prior to the 140th Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs, only one thing about the race is certain: anything can happen.
To help reduce the anxiety of the unknown, here are three bold predictions for Saturday’s Race.
The Derby Winner Will Finish In 2:01
The two-kilometer race got its aforementioned nickname because it takes roughly two minutes from start to finish. However, the winning horse seldom takes the crown in less than 2:02. Since the 2004 Derby, only three horses have run a sub-2:02 time. The short list includes I’ll Have Another in 2012 (2:01.83), Big Brown in 2008 (2:01.81) and Barbaro in 2006 (2:01.36).
Winning the race in less than two minutes is extraordinarily rare, as the feat has only been accomplished twice in the 140-year history of the Derby. Monarchos ran a 1:59.97 in 2001, while Secretariat completed the race in a Derby-record 1:59.40 in 1973.
Because the Kentucky Derby is annually held on the first Saturday of May, rain leading up to and during the race often results in sloppy track conditions as dirt turns to mud. These sloppy conditions then lead to slower times, as horses find it harder to gain traction.
But on Saturday, pleasant conditions should make for a fast track and a 2:01 time likely. A long-lasting downpour is not expected on the day of the race, and the vast majority of Saturday should be rain-free, according to senior meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. Sosnowski also adds that any showers on the days leading up to the race will be spotty and thus provide ample time for the track to dry.
California Chrome Won’t Win The Run For The Roses
Per OddsShark, California Chrome is the clear favorite to win the Derby with 11-4 odds. The horse sits atop the standings with 150 season points and has won his last four races, including an impressive victory at the Grade I Santa Anita Derby earlier this month, where he won by 5 1/4 lengths.
Heading into the Derby, trainer Art Sherman (via Larry Stumes of SFGate.com) believes his horse is truly special, saying, “I have to pinch myself sometimes because I haven't been around a horse like him in a long time.” He is also confident his horse will emerge victorious, adding, “I'd rather be in my shoes than anyone else's in the Derby.”
However, the favorite rarely wins the race. Since 1980, only five favorites have won the Derby, including last year's winner, Orb. Over that same span, five horses have gone off at odds of less than 2-1 and all five lost (via The Wall Street Journal’s Jim Chairusmi). Chairusmi also points out that no California-bred horse has won the Kentucky Derby since 1962, indicating that, despite the favorable odds, a victory isn’t likely.
Intense Holiday Will Win The 2014 Kentucky Derby
Intense Holiday is not one of the top favorites to win the Derby, coming in at 18-1 odds, per OddsShark. Nevertheless, the horse is experienced, notching eight races under his belt heading into the Derby. Notable finishes include a victory in the Grade II Risen Star, a runner-up finish at the Louisiana Derby (Grade II), placing third at the Holy Bull (Grade II) and a fifth-place showing at Champagne (Grade I).
Not only is Intense Holiday experienced, he has also shown the ability to grind out races with effective late kicks, according to SB Nation’s Matt Gardner. If jockey John Velazquez, who has won two Belmont Stakes (2007, 2012) and a Kentucky Derby (2011), can keep his horse in contention early, the duo could make up ground late and seize a victory. Come Saturday, watch for Intense Holiday, an under-the-radar, proven horse. paired with an accomplished jockey, to come away with the win.
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