The Kentucky Derby is always the most anticipated horse race of the year. Although the sport as a whole doesn't generate as much mainstream attention as it once did, there's something special about the Derby that makes people return on the first Saturday of every May.
This year should be no different. And if California Chrome is as good as advertised, there's at least a reasonable chance he could win the first two legs of the Triple Crown and give horse racing the boost its been looking for heading into the Belmont Stakes.
First, he must find a way to conquer a huge field at Churchill Downs. Let's check out updated information from across the board, including the weather forecast for Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, the current odds and a quick glance at the payout info for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Barring a late change to the forecast, it appears weather won't be a significant factor during this year's "Run for the Roses." The Weather Channel predicts mostly sunny skies on Saturday with a high temperature of 74 degrees in Louisville.
Which horse is your Derby pick?
The hourly breakdown forecasts the temperature will be 71 degrees with no chance of precipitation at 6 p.m. ET. The mercury will drop a degree over the next hour, but no other notable changes are expected. Post time is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. ET.
For the race, the clear outlook is good news for California Chrome and the other top contenders. The trainers of the best horses in any given race want to take away as many variables as possible, with weather being one of the most important.
That's especially true when it comes to a massive field like the Kentucky Derby. When the horses race in the slop, falling behind early becomes an even bigger disadvantage because all of the mud gets kicked right into the trailing pack's faces.
Luckily for the favorite, it shouldn't be a factor this year, as he should have a pristine Churchill Downs track to navigate as he looks to build on his four-race winning streak.
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||25-1|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||66-1|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||33-1|
|4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||11-4|
|6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||18-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||40-1|
|8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||18-1|
|9||Vinceremos||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletcher||50-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||16-1|
|SCR||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR|
|12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||22-1|
|13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||28-1|
|14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||25-1|
|15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||18-1|
|16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||14-1|
|17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||40-1|
|18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||25-1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan||20-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||10-1|
|SCR||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley Ward||SCR|
Odds via Odds Shark (as of May 2 at 8:45 a.m. ET)
California Chrome was the clear favorite after the draw for post positions on Wednesday. His status in that role was locked in even further when it was announced Hoppertunity wouldn't be able to run due to a bothersome hoof.
Trainer Bob Baffert reports Hoppertunity (left front hoof) will bypass Saturday's #KyDerby & will be examined later today in Lexington.— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 1, 2014
The next two choices are Danza and Wicked Strong.
Danza wasn't viewed as a serious challenger for the Derby until he put together the best overall performance of his career to win the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby last month. He beat out fellow Derby horse Ride On Curlin to pick up the marquee win.
On the other hand, Wicked Strong is definitely a horse capable of challenging California Chrome, but his chances took a hit when he drew an extreme outside post. The Kentucky Derby's official site passed along comments from trainer James Jerkens about the bad luck:
It might be that speed is quick and they get to rolling in a clump and he can draft in behind them and it'll work out OK. The one positive is that he's not in the gate very long. I'm trying to convince myself that it's not a bad post, but I don't know if I can.
Intense Holiday, Wildcat Red, Samraat and Vicar's In Trouble are the other horses that should be in the mix for top-three finishes. And being a race with such a deep field, it's impossible to completely discount a long shot shocking the racing world on Saturday.
The fact the winner of the race will earn close to $1.5 million shows how lucrative horse racing can still be at its highest levels. In many ways it's a lot like boxing, which doesn't possess the same widespread appeal of decades past, but the top fighters can still command big paydays.
Also of note is that only the top-five finishes get a cut of the purse. So when a horse like Hoppertunity—who wouldn't have been at full strength—withdraws, it helps explain the decision. There's no reason to risk a horse's health, because it wouldn't finish high enough at less than 100 percent anyway.
Ultimately, the other contenders face a tough challenge if they want to beat California Chrome for the top prize. He's without a doubt the horse to beat.