No two minutes evoke as much anticipation as the Kentucky Derby, horse racing's Super Bowl that is set to deliver a sensational show.
The 140th running of the Triple Crown premiere has all the makings for a sizzling finish. Although California Chrome is the favorite to win, a stacked lineup features several other horses led by the world's finest jockeys and trainers.
With the post positions decided, the field is set heading into Saturday's Run for the Roses. There's not much left to do but take a look at where each horse is slotted before projecting the Derby's top finishers.
|2||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||25-1|
|3||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||66-1|
|4||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||33-1|
|5||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|6||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||11-4|
|7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||18-1|
|8||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||40-1|
|9||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||18-1|
|10||Vinceremos||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletecher||50-1|
|11||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||16-1|
|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|
Odds courtesy of OddsShark
|4||General A Rod|
With Hoppertunity and Pablo Del Monte being late scratches, according to Gary Mihoces of USA Today Sports, the horses in the top 10 slots each move a spot while the top position remains vacated. Instead of the intended 20 horses, the field will stand at 19.
Note: Odds, courtesy of Odds Shark, as of 6:00 p.m. ET on Friday, May 2.
California Chrome (Win)
Other horses have fared well in the No. 6 post position. According to Horse Racing Nation's Bryan Brinkmeyer, eight have emerged victorious in the sixth slot since 1930, with another eight trailing not so far behind in second.
Moving down from No. 5 gives the favorite an added edge. As the Albany Times Union's Tim Wilin pointed out, the spot hasn't been so lucky over the years, failing to produce a victory in the past decade.
California Chrome drew No. 5 post position for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Last horse to win from that post was NY Bred Funny Cide in 2003.— Tim Wilkin (@tjwilkin) April 30, 2014
Art Sherman, who is training his first Derby horse at age 77, was satisfied with the draw either way, according to Fox Sports Ohio's Kevin Goheen.
"He likes a target to run at," Sherman said. "He's got natural speed. If he wants to use it, he can run at a horse. To me, a good horse is a good horse. For his ability, if he's good enough he'll win this race."
His horse sure looks good enough, having won his last four races, the last one of which was an uncontested victory of 5 1/4 lengths at the Santa Anita Derby. California Chrome holds more experience than his competitors, so endurance should not be any concern down the stretch.
Seeing the favorite win is boring, but the boring pick is often smarter than the reckless choice.
Poor Samraat suffers from the post change, shifting from the fruitful sixth spot to the less successful No. 7, which has hosted two winners. Racing alongside California Chrome isn't the most ideal circumstance either.
Yet the unheralded horse will make the best of an unenviable situation, making bettors pay for giving him the cold shoulder over the likes of Danza and Intense Holiday.
While his second-place finish in April's Wood Memorial represents the only non-victory in five races, it's also in many ways his most impressive showing. It came against the steepest competition, and a rough start forced Samraat to rally from behind.
Trainer Rick Violette offered words of encouragement to The Lowell Sun's Paul Daley.
In the Wood, with all the trouble he got in, I didn't think he'd be better than fourth at the end. But, he dug in again and finished second to Wicked Strong. It was a courageous effort. If we can be stalking the leaders on the backstretch and stay out of trouble, we'll give him a chance. The pace doesn't have to fall apart for him to be a major factor. We're very optimistic.
Still a tad unproven against the top contenders, Samraat proves his success is for real with a strong showing at the Derby.
Wicked Strong (Show)
Wicked Strong is a wicked smart bet to finish somewhere in the top three.
The 20th post position doesn't draw a long lineage of winners, but it's not a death sentence, which Big Brown proved in 2008. In fact, it could work out to Wicked Strong's favor.
Trainer Timmy Jerkins received some positive reinforcement from legendary jockey Edgar Prado, who has ridden Wicked Strong before. As Jenkins relayed to The Courier-Journal's Jonathan Lintner, Prado said the late post is actually advantageous for the eager horse.
Edgar is a Hall of Famer and has ridden a million races, big races, and he texted me right after (Wednesday’s draw) saying, ‘Perfect.’ I didn’t know if he was being sarcastic so I had to call him back.
He said, ‘I think it’s great, especially with a horse like him that gets impatient in the gate. I think it’s perfect.’ He said, ‘You’ve got a long run down the stretch, a very long run to the turn, you can size the race up inside of you. I think you will be fine.'
Don't expect the outside position to dampen Wicked Strong's chances. Expect a strong closing to secure a third-place finish, even if a lackluster start prevents him from winning it all.