There has not been a Triple Crown in horse racing since Affirmed achieved the feat in 1978, and the chances of seeing one in 2014 took a major hit Thursday when Hoppertunity scratched from the Kentucky Derby field.
Hoppertunity wasn’t the overall favorite like California Chrome, but he was among the top contenders in the 20-horse race.
It will be interesting to keep an eye on how the betting lines change without Hoppertunity in the field, but here is a look at what the odds were as of Thursday, May 1, according to Odds Shark:
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||25-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||40-1|
|8||General A Rod||18-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||22-1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||20-1|
So, who has the best chance at making a run for the Triple Crown? Let’s take a look at a couple of horses on the short list of favorites.
If there is a Triple Crown threat in this year’s field, it is California Chrome.
The favorite has won six of his past 10 starts and completely blew away the rest of the field in his last four races. What’s more, he is boosting interest in the sport as a whole and hasn’t even run in the prestigious Kentucky Derby yet, per Los Alamitos race announcer Ed Burgart:
Win or lose, California Chrome has rejuvenated horse racing interest. Non racing people are talking about Chrome due to excess publicity.— Ed Burgart (@qheddie) May 1, 2014
Victor Espinoza will be California Chrome’s jockey Saturday. Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in 2002 with War Emblem, so he is familiar with what it takes to win on the sport’s biggest stage.
How many Triple Crown races will California Chrome win?
With the combination of an experienced jockey and the best horse in the field, it is difficult to envision anyone beating California Chrome.
He can grab an ideal position in the early going of the race from the No. 5 posting and avoid getting trapped on the rail. From there, California Chrome can use his impressive closing speed to ride to victory.
A Kentucky Derby championship from the most recognizable horse in the field will boost interest in the sport even more.
There is both reason for optimism and reason for concern when it comes to Danza.
For one, he won the Arkansas Derby and flashed impressive closing speed in the process. However, he also experienced a knee injury and recently missed nearly seven months of action.
Danza brings a solid pedigree combination of speed and endurance to the table, which are clearly two traits necessary to compete for a Triple Crown. He is sired by Street Boss, who was a sprinter who won the Bing Crosby, Triple Bend and Los Angeles Handicaps in 2008, and his dame is Champagne Royale, who is credited with multiple long-distance winners in Consider Yourself and Majestic Harbor.
Trainer Todd Pletcher seemed fine with his horse’s No. 4 posting, via Darren Rogers of Kentuckyderby.com: "Good spot for him. He won the Arkansas Derby out of the No. 1 hole. He's fine with being on the inside."
Danza is one of the more impressive horses in the field, but he isn’t the dominant racer that California Chrome is. What’s more, the injury history is worrisome in such a crowded field.
If there is going to be a Triple Crown contender, it will be California Chrome, not Danza.
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