The pecking order for the 2014 Kentucky Derby is firmly in place after Wednesday's draw set the post positions for the field.
California Chrome drew the fifth post and held his position as a strong favorite for the race. As a sign of how well respected Chrome is, the horse with the second-lowest odds in the morning line is Hoppertunity.
The last time the Bob Baffert trainee got a start, he came in second to Chrome by over five lengths at the Santa Anita Derby.
Have a look at how the horses will line up on the first Saturday in May, and then we'll take a closer look at the top contenders.
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||30-1||11|
|7||We Miss Artie||50-1||18|
|8||General A Rod||15-1||6|
|12||Dance With Fate||20-1||12|
|19||Ride On Curlin||15-1||14|
Source: NBC Sports
I rank the horses differently than the morning odds, but I'll highlight the three horses with the lowest odds below.
California Chrome, 5-2
California Chrome is the clear star of this field, and he's a fabulous story. Relative to the other horses in the field, he comes from the bargain bin in terms of breeding. Co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin are not in the same financial stratosphere as their competitors.
Despite that fact, they have turned down lucrative offers for their horse, as Yahoo! Sports' Pat Forde highlights:
"The answer wasn't no. It was hell no." Why California Chrome's owners declined a huge offer for their Derby horse. http://t.co/Kt1Ws1lE7c— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 30, 2014
Additionally, trainer Art Sherman is attempting to become the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby. He is 77 and making his first appearance in the Run for the Roses as a trainer.
Of course, this doesn't play into California Chrome's low odds. Those are driven by his phenomenal results. He gallops into the Kentucky Derby on a four-race win streak. He hasn't just won those races, either; he's dominated them by over 24 combined lengths.
His last outing was at the Santa Anita Derby. He won the Grade 1 race by over five lengths. Fellow derby participants Hoppertunity and Candy Boy came in second and third, respectively, in that important race.
He certainly makes a strong case as the favorite.
Hoppertunity wasn't among the top three favorites prior to the draw, according to Odds Shark, but he is the firm second choice in the morning line.
Which horse will finish the highest?
Drawing the 11th post, this Bob Baffert trainee is in a good position. The 11th gate has fielded just two winners since 1930 and hasn't won since Winning Colors in 1998, but the posts around it have been very successful. This is a good spot to limit the traffic closing against the rail, which will allow Hoppertunity to maintain a smart pace in the early stages.
Along with his solid place in the Santa Anita Derby, Hoppertunity has two wins in his five starts. One of those wins came in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.
Trained and ridden by Hall of Famers Baffert and jockey Mike Smith, this horse has a great team behind him and a strong pedigree.
As you can see in my rankings, I have this horse fifth. I believe his Hall of Fame team has him a bit overvalued. That said, I wouldn't be shocked if Hoppertunity ran to the win.
Wicked Strong, 8-1
Wicked Strong was riding the second-lowest odds at Odds Shark prior to the draw and then was promptly stuck on the far outside in the 20th post.
Since 1930, the 20th post has fielded just one winner. That winner was Big Brown in 2008, however.
In his last start, a win at the Wood Memorial by 3 1/2 lengths, Wicked Strong showed the kind of closing speed and stamina it takes to win the Kentucky Derby.
Wicked Strong was entirely pedestrian before that start, but his speed can't be ignored, and that is reflected in his low odds.
If the pack jumps out to a fast early pace, Wicked Strong is in the perfect position to hang back and dominate on the stretch run.