As the anticipation builds for the 2014 Kentucky Derby, trying to decide what's going to happen when a crowded field steps up to the gate is enough to drive you nuts.
The field of 20 thoroughbred horses is star-studded and, at least on the surface, one of the most competitive we have seen in years. Finding a stud with the right combination of speed and stamina is easy, but separating one from the pack becomes difficult when you break them down.
Somehow, some way, we are going to try to parse this thing out. We also have a look at the latest betting lines and official post times for Saturday afternoon. It's wild. It's unpredictable. It's the Kentucky Derby!
Betting Lines and Post Time
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||20/1|
|7||We Miss Artie||50/1|
|8||General A Rod||15/1|
|11||Hoppertunity (Withdrew due to injury)||N/A|
|12||Dance With Fate||20/1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||15/1|
Post time for the 140th Kentucky Derby is 6:24 p.m. ET, and the race will be broadcast live on NBC.
Note: Hoppertunity was forced to withdraw from the race due to an injury, as trainer Bob Baffert confirmed to Esther Marr of The Blood-Horse:
Predicted Winner: California Chrome
As deep as this year's field is, California Chrome has been the favorite since day one. It's easy to see why, as the stud has dominated this year by winning all three events he's entered.
The Santa Anita Derby on April 5 was the best showing of his career, at least so far. California Chrome nearly lapped the field with a 5 1/4-lengths win, made more impressive by the fact that he didn't get out of the gate clean and had to come from behind.
If you believe in practice sessions as indicators of future success, Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Forum noted that California Chrome didn't look great on Thursday:
California Chrome galloped 1 1/2 miles, looked stiff jogging over & galloping by grandstand 1st time, much better 2nd time around.
— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 1, 2014
Of course, some of the greatest athletes in the world don't practice well, but when you put them in game situations, their natural abilities shine through.
Don't be afraid of California Chrome this weekend. He's been the best horse on the circuit this year and shows no signs of slowing down.
Sleeper Prediction: Samraat
What's the most likely outcome at the 2014 Kentucky Derby?
It may be because he's lined up right next to California Chrome, but Samraat isn't getting enough attention heading into the Kentucky Derby. He's run six races since the start of 2013, winning five of them and finishing second in the other.
Samraat hasn't been running in second-tier races, either. He had a second-place finish at the Wood Memorial on April 5, the same day California Chrome won at Santa Anita. More encouraging is the fact that trainer Rick Violette Jr. believes he saw what the problem was in that race, per Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
He's run six times and one horse has beaten him. I'll take that anywhere. Even that race (the Wood) he went through a couple inter-race schooling victories. He had never been surrounded before ... that was the first time he had horses in front of him and behind him and beside him and he handled that well.
Calling California Chrome the favorite is easy because he doesn't lose, but Samraat is not to be taken lightly in the Derby.
Dark-Horse Contender: Vicar's in Trouble
There's always an inherent danger in favoring a horse who draws the No. 1 post, especially since it requires a lot of stamina to stay with the pack. Rick Snider of DCPressBox.com doesn't think Vicar's in Trouble will make it.
Vicar's in Trouble's also hurt by 1 post. No way survives pace. Rosie will shoot Vicar to front, but will gas in lane. Off board.— Rick Snider (@Snide_Remarks) May 1, 2014
I'm not exactly bullish on him being in the first gate, which is why he's a deep sleeper, but Vicar's in Trouble is coming off a win at the Louisiana Derby, the longest race he's ever been in.
If jockey Rosie Napravnik is able to take Vicar's in Trouble to the outside, or at least off the rail, early enough so he doesn't have to go full bore right out of the gate, he has the potential to finish near the top of the Derby.
Note: Betting lines as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 3.
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