The scratch of Hoppertunity and questions surrounding whether also-eligible Pablo Del Monte would remain in the race as a replacement led to some uncertainty following the post-position draw. With both horses out, the 2014 Kentucky Derby field should finally be settled.
Now, the biggest question becomes whether any horse in the field can beat California Chrome. The favorite's status became more secure with Hoppertunity, who was originally the second choice, no longer among the contenders.
While it's undoubtedly a talented field, the Art Sherman trainee is seemingly on a slightly higher level than any of his counterparts heading into the Run for the Roses. Knowing that, let's check out the payout information and the updated odds for Saturday's race.
2014 Kentucky Derby Payouts
Current Kentucky Derby Odds
|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 3 p.m. ET)
One reason to be confident in California Chrome's ability to live up to his favorite status is his experience. He's been trained in an old-school fashion, with 10 races before arriving to Churchill Down, which isn't a surprise given his 77-year-old trainer, Art Sherman.
It wasn't always smooth sailing for the talented colt, though. In fact, he only won two of his first six starts and certainly didn't look like the most promising Derby contender. But he's transformed into a nearly unstoppable force over his last four races.
The most recent was the storied Santa Anita Derby. Using what was probably the best single performance of any horse in the Derby field during the prep schedule, California Chrome pulled away from the pack to get the win and establish himself as the horse to beat.
After the draw, the Kentucky Derby's official site passed along comments from Sherman, who was pleased with how it played out:
I like it fine. Victor (jockey Victor Espinoza) says he likes it. Says he won the Kentucky Derby from the five (on War Emblem in 2002). I'm happy and I feel no pressure.
It's hard for any horse to become an overwhelming favorite in the Derby. Between the unknown factor when dealing with younger horses and the high level of competition, the general feeling is to go against conventional wisdom.
Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer relayed similar thoughts:
I'm very anti-chalk in the Derby, but it's very hard to be anti California Chrome. This is a potential monster.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) May 2, 2014
California Chrome is the best horse in the race. That doesn't mean he's definitely going to win. Anything from a bad jump out of the gate to being caught near the front with an overzealous lead pack could cost him. But it's hard to pick against him.
Will California Chrome win the Derby?
Yes, there are horses capable of knocking him off if things don't go exactly according to plan for Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza.
Vicar's in Trouble is dangerous and will benefit from moving off the extreme inside post. Danza is coming off a terrific showing in the Arkansas Derby. Wicked Strong has the closing speed to overcome the outside post as long as he can get toward the rail quickly.
Horses like Samraat, Intense Holiday, Wildcat Red and Medal Count can't be counted out, either. Even the long shots will attract some attention. This is the Kentucky Derby, after all.
Alas, if California Chrome is in anywhere near the same form as he was in the Santa Anita Derby, none of those horses are going to beat him.
The best option is to use him atop some exotic wagers and get creative behind him. If he's on his game, the battle for second and third will be more exciting than the battle for first.