The first Saturday in May has finally rolled around, which means the 2014 Kentucky Derby is set to begin.
The 140th edition of the Run for the Roses has one favorite emerging far from the rest of the pack. California Chrome has incredible 21-10 odds of winning Saturday's race, according to Oddsshark.com.
However, in many of horse racing's biggest events, being an overwhelming favorite can almost guarantee defeat at times. Just as well, Churchill Downs has seen some unpredictable winners and amazing finishes that could be replicated Saturday with an unforeseen champion.
Let's break down everything you need to know for the opening leg of this year's Triple Crown.
Date: Saturday, May 3
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
Where: Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||25-1|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||50-1|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||35-1|
|4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||21-10|
|6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||16-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||33-1|
|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||18-1|
|11||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||14-1|
|12||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||22-1|
|13||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||22-1|
|14||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||20-1|
|15||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|16||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||33-1|
|17||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||18-1|
|18||Ride on Curlin||Calvin Borel||William G. Gowan||18-1|
|19||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||James A. Jerkens||8-1|
|SCRATCHED||Pablo Del Monte|
Info. courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com and Oddsshark.com
Note: Updated odds as of May 2, courtesy of Oddsshark.com
Prize Money Predictions
Given his impressive victory at the Grade I Arkansas Derby back in April, Danza is the real deal and he will prove it yet again as an underdog.
He enters Saturday with the second-best odds of winning, at 8-1—far better than the 40-1 odds he saw in the Arkansas Derby.
But with how vast of a favorite California Chrome is shaping up to be, anything other than him winning would be a surprise.
Cue the surprise. Starting in the No. 4 spot, Danza should be able to hold off California Chrome early on and hold that valuable position. Then, experienced jockey Joe Bravo should be able to ride Danza to victory if they can save enough gas for the final stretch.
USA Today's Jeff Greer noted Danza could end up stealing the spotlight, and offered the take of Aron Wellman, president of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, which owns Danza:
"There are two schools of thought: One that says the Arkansas Derby had to be a fluke," Wellman said. "The second is people delving deeper into his form and saying he hadn't done anything wrong and that maybe it wasn't a fluke.
"This could be the horse that's in the right place at the right time."
Todd Pletcher, once again, is entering a plethora of horses into the Derby. This time, he has three. But none are on the same level of contention or are nearly as talented as Danza, and that should show on Saturday.
Pletcher seems to be putting Danza's best hoof forward as told by his win at the Arkansas Derby, and with a few weeks of rest, he should be geared up to make history Saturday afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Place: California Chrome
California Chrome deserves every bit of admiration that he has received in these weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby, but the thoroughbred will get just outshined down the stretch.
That won't keep him from finishing up in No. 2, however.
After winning his last four races by a combined 24 lengths, this California-bred horse is threatening to be the first winner of a Triple Crown leg from California since 1962. Trained by Art Sherman, California Chrome's pedigree and peak training should shine through as he battles Danza for the front of the pack.
Heading down the stretch, it should be a neck-and-neck affair between these two favorites, but Danza's ability to stay inside throughout the race will give him an added advantage of distance to hold off the overwhelming favorite.
The bitter taste of defeat for California Chrome will be somewhat quelled by the allure of finishing in second at the Kentucky Derby.
Show: Ride on Curlin
Coming in as one of many underdogs, Ride on Curlin looks to have what it takes to finish near the top of Saturday's race.
Ride on Curlin was actually picking up some steam from bettors entering Friday night, meaning the local Louisville horse could be the first one in more than a century to win the event, per WHAS TV's Doug Proffitt:
Love those new odds for Ride on Curlin (12-1) owned by Louisville couple. First Louisville horse to win KY Derby in 100 years?— Doug Proffitt (@WHAS11Doug) May 2, 2014
Ride on Curlin has an impressive recent outing to boast. He finished just behind Danza in the Arkansas Derby three weeks ago.
But there will be one key difference between that race and the Kentucky Derby: Calvin Borel will be the jockey.
The 47-year-old has won the Kentucky Derby three times, and each of those victories has come since 2007. With a Preakness win in 2009 to add to that, his experience is undeniable.
The challenge for Borel will be whether he's able to navigate Ride on Curlin near the interior and toward the rail. If he's able to do that, he will have a great shot at nabbing the race from Danza or California Chrome altogether.
I don't expect Ride on Curlin to be able to get that far, but Borel will find his way near the front of the pack by the end of the race and finish strong.