The Kentucky Derby is a haven for bettors who want to cash in on favorable odds via risky bets that come in all shapes and sizes, but the participants themselves have a lot of finances on the line, too.
Believe it or not, the 2014 rendition of the extravaganza at Churchill Downs seems more favorable toward bettors than most years thanks to a clearly defined favorite in California Chrome and a few scratches that have narrowed the field.
Luck plays a major role in any bet, but that's even more so the case at the Derby as 20 (this year only 19) contestants in close proximity duke it out for position. Here's a quick look at a projected finish and the current Vegas lines.
|1||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||11-4|
|2||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||25-1|
|4||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||33-1|
|5||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||10-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||40-1|
|8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||18-1|
|9||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||14-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||16-1|
|11||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||22-1|
|13||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||25-1|
|14||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||18-1|
|15||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||40-1|
|16||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||25-1|
|17||Vinceremos||Joe Rococo Jr.||50-1|
|18||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||20-1|
|19||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||66-1|
KentuckyDerby.com. Odds via Odds Shark (as of May 2 at 8:45 a.m. ET)
It's simply unwise to bet against California Chrome, even if the individual payout isn't all that enticing. Chrome has won four races in a row and three with current jockey Victor Espinoza. The duo's most recent triumph came at the Santa Anita Derby, where the two actually eased off the gas in the final stages of the dominant showing, per Steve Anderson of Daily Racing Form:
California Chrome (3-5) won Saturday's Santa Anita Derby after being eased down in the final yards by jockey Victor Espinoza. #santaanita— Steve Andersen (@DRFAndersen) April 5, 2014
With the No. 5 post in hand, trainer Art Sherman—who has experience at the Derby that dates back to the 1950s—is pleased with the historical implications, as he wrote for America's Best Racing:
Well, I feel as though we cleared another hurdle when we were assigned post five in the draw at Churchill Downs on Wednesday. Our jockey, Victor Espinoza, was very happy with it. He has one Derby victory, and that came when War Emblem broke sharply from the fifth position, took command early, and never looked back for the entire mile and a quarter in 2002.
I am not saying it will play out that way again. There are so many horses in this field capable of setting a hot pace. But that post will only add to Victor's confidence, and it gives him plenty of options as long as we enjoy a clean break.
California Chrome has a better chance than ever thanks to two scratches. The first was a horse with very sound odds to challenge for the top spot, but Hoppertunity had to bow out of the proceedings thanks to a minor injury scare:
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
Alternative Pablo Del Monte was the next domino to fall revealed by trainer Wesley Ward, per Marty McGee of DRF:
BREAKING NEWS: Pablo Del Monte is OUT of the #KyDerby, per text from trainer W.Ward.— Marty McGee (@DRFMcGee) May 2, 2014
Pablo Del Monte wasn't exactly a favorite to take home first place, but there is now more breathing room for favorites like California Chrome to operate.
But what about those payouts? As if fans well-versed in the happenings of the Derby didn't know already, there is a hefty reward for the team that can land in first place.
It's an interesting caveat of horse racing that only the top-five finishers at the Derby actually cash in on the total purse, so it makes sense that horses who are not 100 percent healthy are yanked from the competition in order to heal up for a better draw down the line.
For those that remain, the end goal is a shot at one of the top five slots and a gigantic payday. Of course, first place is ideal for a shot at the cash and a chance to make history via a Triple Crown title, but it's hard for any of the top five finishers to complain.