The 2014 Kentucky Derby post position draw took place on Wednesday, and with it came the morning-line odds, which revealed California Chrome as the expected favorite at 5-2.
But starting in post No. 5 doesn't guarantee that the perceived top contender will roll to the winner's circle in the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. Wicked Strong also can't be counted out at 8-1 despite drawing the outermost post.
Below is a complete look at the field and the odds, with a focus on the top favorites and what their positions mean for their chances at Triple Crown glory in Louisville, Kentucky.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of Equibase.com.
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Trainer||Morning Line Odds|
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||30-1|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||50-1|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||30-1|
|4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||10-1|
|5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||5-2|
|6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||15-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||50-1|
|8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||15-1|
|9||Vinceremos||Joe Rococo Jr.||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||15-1|
|11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||6-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||20-1|
|13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||20-1|
|14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||20-1|
|15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||15-1|
|16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||50-1|
|18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||20-1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan||15-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||8-1|
Source: NBC Sports Network broadcast
California Chrome (5-2)
The fourth favorite in Danza also happens to be just inside of California Chrome in the No. 4 post position, and it would be unwise to dismiss Wood Memorial Stakes runner-up Samraat at 15-1 in the sixth post. That makes it all the more critical for jockey Victor Espinoza to get California Chrome off to a fast start.
Uncle Sigh is a long shot at 30-1, but he figures to set the early pace with his brisk speed. Espinoza must strike the balance of not burning out his horse too soon in the 10-furlong race while ensuring he doesn't encounter too much traffic.
If California Chrome trainer Art Sherman is concerned, he showed no signs of such a state of mind following the post reveal, per Kentucky.com's coverage team:
Art Sherman on @CalChrome drawing post No. 5 "My jock said the last time he won the Derby it was No. 5. That's good enough for me." (cont)— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) April 30, 2014
(cont) "I think if we break clean, he will still get out of a lot of trouble. He's got a little gas leaving there. This will be perfect."— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) April 30, 2014
Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde also expressed optimism about the draw:
California Chrome gets No. 5. Wanted 6-10 but certainly won't complain about that.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 30, 2014
Sherman alludes to how Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby the last time he rode from the fifth position, which came aboard War Emblem in 2002. That year, Espinoza also won the Preakness Stakes, and given the morning-line odds, California Chrome appears the most likely Triple Crown candidate of the 2014-15 season.
Although there are strong entrants all around, the clear class of the field is California Chrome, but he will have to prove it by navigating a rather difficult route to the first turn. As long as he makes it there without any significant setbacks, he'll be in prime position to claim victory.
Wicked Strong (8-1)
Mixed reaction ensued when Wicked Strong was announced as the horse furthest from the rail. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens, who is entering his first Kentucky Derby starter, wasn't so thrilled, but jockey Rajiv Maragh was reassuring.
"I said, 'Are you kidding me,'" said Jerkens, per the Daily Racing Form's David Grening. "[Maragh] said, 'Absolutely perfect.' I said, 'Okay, I hope you’re right.'"
SiriusXM Radio personality Steve Byk believes the far post plays into Wicked Strong's strengths:
Danza biggest beneficiary of draw by wide margin; Wicked Strong not fatally injured by 20 given style and positive that he loads last..— Steve Byk (@Steve_Byk) April 30, 2014
The horses who are closest to Wicked Strong should help his cause, too. In the 19th post is three-time Kentucky Derby champion Calvin Borel mounting Ride On Curlin. Borel has made a name for himself by working his way close to the rail, so he figures to crash in quickly to deploy his typical tactics.
Which favorite is likeliest to finish outside of the money?
Then there's Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens attempting to build on last season's comeback effort that saw him ride Oxbow to sixth from post No. 2 at Churchill Downs before winning the Preakness Stakes. Candy Boy should be a trendy long shot bet with Stevens in the saddle, given that he's won the Derby thrice before—though not once since 1997.
Those moves should allow Wicked Strong to roam free toward the cluster of contenders from the beginning and not be at such a disadvantage out of the first turn. Plus, the past three winners in this race have come from the auxiliary gate.
With the amount of viable contenders coming from the outer posts and the sheer speed closer to the rail, this Kentucky Derby should live up to its label as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." California Chrome has immediate threats to him from the starting gates and has a number of dangerous adversaries who threaten to beat him by a nose from out wide with strong bursts to the finish.
A lot of depth and jockey star power characterizes the field at Churchill Downs, but it appears California Chrome has the best shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.