If you thought the 2014 Kentucky Derby was going to be drama free, you don't pay close attention to this event and the sport of horse racing.
A crowded field of 20 star thoroughbreds got weaker on Thursday when legendary trainer Bob Baffert announced that Hoppertunity, the No. 2 horse in this year's Derby based on the odds, was unable to run due to a foot injury:
As big as that loss is, it's not like Churchill Downs was lacking for competitors this year. Hoppertunity's absence would appear to open things up for favorite California Chrome, but how often do things go as they should in sports?
Here are the latest Kentucky Derby odds coming out of Las Vegas, as well as the horses we are keeping a close eye on.
|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|
Following Hoppertunity's withdrawal from the No. 11 post, the horses in posts 12-20 will move up one gate.
Predicted Winner: California Chrome
What horse is getting overrated in the Kentucky Derby?
The loss of Hoppertunity is good news for the rest of the field, no one will dispute that. Unfortunately for the 19 other horses running, California Chrome is still at the top of his game leading into Saturday's race.
Channeling his inner Mark Messier and Joe Namath, California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn guaranteed a victory for his horse on Saturday in a discussion with Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times.
"I think it is a done deal. I got this solid feeling in my chest, and it wasn't gas."
There's nothing wrong with Coburn's funny bone, but it's always a dangerous proposition to say anything in sports is a done deal. California Chrome is easily the most talented horse in the race and coming off a dominant 5.25-length win at the Santa Anita Derby.
The only thing that hasn't gone right for California Chrome, according to Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports, up to this point is the draw he got, and even that isn't bad:
California Chrome gets No. 5. Wanted 6-10 but certainly won't complain about that.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) April 30, 2014
Bottom line: California Chrome enters the Kentucky Derby like Floyd Mayweather in that you can't predict a loss. It's just something that will happen, then you can analyze why afterwards.
Strangest Odds: Danza
There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about Danza in the Derby, but none more than the fact he's named after Tony Danza. Did they watch his talk show from the early 2000s?
As for the actual merits of Danza, they're compelling for sure. He's like the talented 5-star recruit with all the upside in the world and a lot of refinement needed.
Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune polled various handicappers to get their take on which horse will win the race. Here's what oddsmaker Mike Diliberto said about Danza's chances:
Danza ran a fantastic race in the Arkansas Derby. His time was only a fifth of a second off what Will Take Charge ran in the previous race. And Danza finished the last quarter (of a mile) in 12 and 2/5th seconds. If he can improve, I think he'll be tough to beat.
That last line is what confuses and throws the entire betting situation into obscurity. If any of these horses improves, they will be tough to beat.
Danza's Arkansas Derby win on April 12 was brilliant, but keep in mind he went into that race as a 40-1 underdog. It would be like betting on Appalachian State to defeat Michigan in college football again because it happened once.
Upset-Minded Horse: Samraat
If we are looking at resume leading up to the Derby, Samraat is much better than Danza. He's won five of his six career races, with the lone loss being a second-place finish at the Wood Memorial in April.
On top of that, based on practice runs, Samraat has been dazzling, according to Claire Novak of Blood-Horse Magazine:
Practice doesn't tell you everything, but it's a strong indicator that a horse has taken to the track and had dirt under their hooves. Feel for the ground is vital to success in any race. Samraat is hitting his peak at the right time.
The biggest problem Samraat has is running right next to California Chrome, who is the dominant figure in this race that no one standing beside him will stand out. Samraat is falling so far under the radar that it will be considered an upset if he wins when it really shouldn't be.
Note: Odds are as of 8 a.m. ET on May 2.
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