California Chrome is the favorite to win the 2014 Kentucky Derby from Churchill Downs on Saturday and for good reason.
The California-bred colt will be ridden by 2002 Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza and will run out of the No. 5 post this weekend, a starting slot that has produced eight Derby champions since 1930, including War Emblem. That's important to remember because Espinoza jockeyed War Emblem to victory from the fifth post a dozen years ago.
But while California Chrome's pedigree is devoid of impressive stamina influences, a four-race winning streak and a somewhat lackluster field have many jumping on the colt's bandwagon ahead of the weekend, per NBC Sports:
But before you go picking California Chrome to run away with the Triple Crown's first leg, consider the key factors surrounding some of the other top contenders.
Date: Saturday, May 3
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||Sire: Into Mischief, Dam: Vibrant, Dam Sire: Vicar||20-1|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||Sire: Harlan's Holiday, Dam: Daisy Mason, Dam Sire: Orientate||50-1|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||Sire: Indian Charlie, Dam: Cradlesong, Dam Sire: Pine Bluff||30-1|
|4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||Sire: Street Boss, Dam: Champagne Royale, Dam Sire: French Deputy||8-1|
|5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||Sire: Lucky Pulpit, Dam: Love the Chase, Dam Sire: Not for Love||5-2|
|6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||Sire: Noble Causeway, Dam: Little Indian Girl, Dam Sire: Indian Charlie||15-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||Sire: Artie Schiller, Dam: Athena's Gift, Dam Sire: Fusaichi Pegasus||50-1|
|8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||Sire: Roman Ruler, Dam: Dynamite Eyes, Dam Sire: Dynaformer||15-1|
|9||Vinceremos||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletcher||Sire: Pioneerof the Nile, Dam: Kettle's Sister, Dam Sire: More Than Ready||30-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||Sire: D'Wildcat, Dam: Racene, Dam Sire: Miner's Mark||15-1|
|11||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||Sire: Two Step Salsa, Dam: Flirting with Fate, Dam Sire: Saint Ballado||20-1|
|12||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||Sire: Henny Hughes, Dam: Sea Gift, Dam Sire: A.P. Indy||20-1|
|13||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||Sire: Dynaformer, Dam: Brisquette, Dam Sire: Unbridled's Song||20-1|
|14||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||Sire: Tapit, Dam: Free Spin, Dam Sire: Olympio||8-1|
|15||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||Sire: Harlan's Holiday, Dam: Intensify, Dam Sire: Unbridled's Song||8-1|
|16||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||Sire: Master Command, Dam: Mother, Dam Sire: Lion Hearted||50-1|
|17||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||Sire: Candy Ride, Dam: She's An Eleven, Dam Sire: In Excess||15-1|
|18||Ride on Curlin||Calvin Borel||William G. Gowan||Sire: Curlin, Dam: Magical Ride, Dam Sire: Storm Cat||15-1|
|19||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||James A. Jerkens||Sire: Hard Spun, Dam: Moyne Abbey, Dam Sire: Charismatic||6-1|
|20||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley Ward||Sire: Giant's Causeway, Dam: One Hot Wish, Dam Sire: Bring the Heat||50-1|
Odds and info via KentuckyDerby.com
Winner: General a Rod, 15-1
A dark-horse contender to watch for this weekend is General a Rod, who will run from the No. 8 post on Saturday, as noted by Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde:
General A Rod gets No. 8. No, not named for Alex Rodriguez. Nobody's that dumb. Chitu gets No. 13, speedball for Bob Baffert.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 30, 2014
Not only has that post produced eight Derby champions since 1930, but Mine That Bird won from the eighth slot as recently as 2009.
Plus, General a Rod will be jockeyed by Joel Rosario, who won the Derby a year ago atop Orb.
General a Rod's pedigree is also very encouraging and suggests that he could potentially capitalize on the longer distance. General a Rod's sire, Roman Ruler is the son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. And on his dam side, General a Rod features strong stamina influences. His dam sire is Dynaformer, who sired 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.
Therefore, with 15-1 odds, General a Rod appears to be a smart bet this weekend.
Place: Danza, 8-1
Grade I Arkansas Derby winner Danza boasts encouraging odds and a strong pedigree heading into this weekend's Run for the Roses and will have an excellent shot to reach the winner's circle at Churchill Downs.
A little piece of history to keep in mind: Danza is trained by Todd Pletcher, who won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver. Oddly enough, Super Saver won from post No. 4, the same slot Danza will start from on Saturday.
In addition to having momentum and history on his side, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners president Aron Wellman (the company that owns Danza) likes what he's seeing from Danza ahead of Saturday's race, per USA Today's Jeff Greer:
"There are two schools of thought: One that says the Arkansas Derby had to be a fluke. The second is people delving deeper into his form and saying he hadn't done anything wrong and that maybe it wasn't a fluke...This could be the horse that's in the right place at the right time."
The Kentucky Derby will obviously be a huge test, but Danza's performance on the dirt at Oaklawn Park last month, in which he beat out fellow Derby contenders Ride on Curlin and Tapiture, suggests he's capable of conquering the 10 furlongs at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Show: California Chrome, 5-2
It's obvious why California Chrome is considered one of the favorites to win on Saturday, In addition to having won four consecutive races, the colt drew an excellent post and will be jockeyed by a past Derby winner in Espinoza.
But the lack of strong stamina influences in California Chrome's pedigree seem to suggest that Art Sherman's favorite will wind up surrendering the lead late.
Had Wicked Strong drawn a more favorable post on Wednesday, he'd have a much stronger chance to show or even win on Saturday. However, jockey Rajiv Maragh will have his work cut out for him while operating from way outside the rail in post No. 19.
Despite his tremendous potential, there's a good chance that Wicked Strong will lose too much ground heading into the first turn and struggle to recover.
And while California Chrome won't have the same challenges, the longer distance could derail his hopes. Still, at 5-2, he's a safe bet to finish in the money this weekend.
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