The odds heading into the 140th Kentucky Derby point to a predictable outcome of California Chrome galloping past the finish line first.
Well, there's a good chance that happens, but it's far from a lock that the favorite seizes the Triple Crown's opening leg. Plenty of other horses are drawing strong recognition from bettors, preluding a race with several applicable contenders.
One of them is not receiving nearly enough love based on past results, but they hold the actual race for a reason. Let's take a look at the odds before tallying Saturday's top-three finishers at Churchill Downs.
|2014 Kentucky Derby Post Positions and 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 Pletecher||50-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||16-1|
|11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCRATCHED|
|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||William G. Gowan||20-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||James A. Jerkens||10-1|
|21||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley Ward||SCRATCHED|
Odds, courtesy of Odds Shark, are updated as of Friday, May 2, at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Win: California Chrome
Let's go boring with the winning pick and tab the considerable favorite, California Chrome, to emerge victorious in the 140th Kentucky Derby.
Hey, favorites are favored for a reason. It hardly makes him a slam dunk, home run or other out-of-place sports metaphor to run away with first, but it's something he's done time and time again in the past.
On April 5, California Chrome trotted to a 5 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby, a Grade 1 stakes race that the colt treated like a practice run. The smooth triumph gave him his fourth straight victory and sixth first-place finish in the last 10 races.
The fifth post position has boded well for jockey Victor Espinoza in the past. Twelve years ago, he led War Emblem to first place from the No. 5 slot. He now gets a horse who is arguably the fastest creature he has ever mounted.
Happy now, imaginary person in my mind that is only happy seeing underdogs get praised?
Samraat is no Cinderella, but he's also not frequently cited among the Derby's premier contenders. Bettors should reconsider that slight and pay him some attention.
Through five races, Samraat maintained an unblemished track record, crossing the finish line first in each bout. A Negative Nancy (or Sensible Sally) would point to those coming against lesser competition, as none were Grade 1 events.
Fair enough, but he rose to the challenge at the Wood Memorial Stakes, earning a runner-up finish behind Wicked Strong, who I'll get to in just a moment. Never finished worse than second, yet five horses sport better odds as of Friday afternoon. Interesting.
Samraat placing is far from the upset of the century, but the odds will pay well enough barring a major last-second surge.
Show: Wicked Strong
In an event that can rub people the wrong way for its eliteness and the audience's fancy-yet-ridiculous clothing choices, people outside the 1 percent have someone to root for.
Donald Little Jr., who named his horse Wicked Strong to commemorate Boston, told The Boston Herald's Colneth Smiley Jr. that he'll donate some of his winnings to the One Fund, an organization created to help those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings.
“If he’s fortunate enough to win on Saturday that will be roughly a $70,000 donation to The One Fund," Little said.
Little added that he's glad to have acquired Wicked Strong, who won the Wood Memorial Stakes in April.
“We were fortunate to get him,” Little said in Smiley's story. “We had to stretch our budget, but he stood out. He’s very keen-eyed, he didn’t miss a beat. And when we got to our farm in Middleburg, Va., he was a dominant horse of the group. He impressed me from Day One.”
The Washington Post's Andrew Beyer believes Wicked Strong will earn that sizable donation, citing his speed as a reason not to fear the No. 19 post position.
In the Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong belatedly lived up to the promise he showed as a 2-year-old. His Beyer Speed Figure of 104 wasn’t quite as good as California Chrome’s last two performances (107 and 108), but it was superior to other contenders who will be coming from behind — Danza, Intense Holiday and Candy Boy. He’ll have to start from post position 19, but outside posts have not been a disadvantage in recent runnings of the Derby. With the pace and the distance of the Derby likely to work against the favorite, Wicked Strong is the horse to bet.
The third-place prize pot is better than nothing. It'd match jockey Rajiv Maragh's highest previous Triple Crown finish, which he obtained with Mucho Macho Man in the 2011 Kentucky Derby.