Kentucky Derby Odds 2014: Last-Minute Updates and Picks

Michael DempseyFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2014

Kentucky Derby Odds 2014: Last-Minute Updates and Picks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With over 120,000 fans and horseplayers converging under the historic Twin Spires at Churchill Downs and millions more tuning in to NBC, many with a few wagers at stake, all eyes will be focused on the starting gate for the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

    A field of 19 three-year-olds will head for their journey looking to win the Run for the Roses and become the only horse with a shot at Triple Crown glory.

    Whether you are a just fan of the sport or a horseplayer with a serious outlay of cash on the line, there is no sporting event that creates so much excitement in such a short period of time.

    With hours to go before the gate opens, let’s take a look at a few last-minute updates and a few predictions on the outcome.

Second Choice Hoppertunity Scratched

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The colt was taking plenty of betting action and was installed as the second choice on the official morning line by Churchill Downs linesmaker Mike Battaglia. However, a foot bruise will leave him on the sidelines. 

    On Thursday, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert announced that Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up Hoppertunity will miss the Run for the Roses with a bruise on his left front foot.

    "We're pretty sure it's the foot but we just want to make sure that it's nothing else, so we can continue on with him for the Preakness," Baffert said, per bloodhorse.com's Frank Angst.

    Along with the scratch of also-eligible Pablo Del Monte, there will be a field of 19 in the starting gate Saturday afternoon.

Racing Gods Tell Mother Nature to Chill

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It has been a tough winter for just about the entire U.S., and spring did not exactly get off to a good start either. This writer just survived an 18-inch deluge of rain that flooded Florida and headed up the East Coast. 

    Last year’s Kentucky Derby was a mess, with Orb splashing through a sea of slop in the stretch for the victory.

    Apparently the racing gods put their feet down. The weather Saturday is going to be picture-perfect. According to Weather.com, the forecast calls for some clouds in the morning giving way to mainly sunny skies for the afternoon.

    At post time for the race, the forecast is calling for sunny skies with a high of 72 degrees.

    Before getting too giddy, keep in mind that if most weathermen had to wager on their forecast like we horseplayers do, they would be broke and living out of a cardboard box.

Early Betting Action Points to California Chrome

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    There was $202,807 wagered to win on-track at Churchill Downs on Friday for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, and as expected California Chrome took the most action, with $33,808, which equated to betting odds of 3-1. 

    Wicked Strong took $8 more to win than Danza and is the slight second choice, both horses landing at betting odds of 8-1. Ride On Curlin took a bit more action than expectedhis morning-line odds of 15-1 down to 12-1 after $16,903 was pushed through the betting windows on the colt.

    In the Oaks-Derby Double, the big favorite is California Chrome. The betting favorite, Untapable, easily won the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Friday, and if the Derby favorite gets the job done, those holding tickets on Untapable-California Chrome in the Double will be rewarded with a paltry $11.40 for a $2 wager.

Pletcher Has Shot to Improve Record

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Trainer Todd Pletcher is a six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer who seems to have an endless supply of top racehorses. The trainer won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver, with Calvin Borel aboard. 

    Pletcher will be the busiest guy in the paddock Saturday, saddling four runners: Danza, Intense Holiday, We Miss Artie and Vinceremos.

    Sounds like he will be a real danger, but we have seen this before. Last year, Pletcher started five runners with the best finish coming from Revolutionary, who checked in third. In 2012, the winner, I’ll Have Another, beat up on two Pletcher trainees, who finished 13th and 16th.

    Pletcher has racked up a record of 1-of-36 in America’s biggest race. He could win, and barring a dead heat between two of his horses, the best he could come out of Saturday would be a 2-of-40 record, but he would take it.

Sleepers with a Shot at Roses

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    USA TODAY Sports

    With California Chrome getting bet down in price in early action, currently listed at 21-10 at OddsShark.com, there will be plenty of runners that are going to offer more bang for the buck. 

    Candy Boy was no match for California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, but is going to be a much bigger price and may garner a look.

    Wildcat Red is as game as they come, but his pedigree to be able to handle 1 1/4 miles is in question. The colt is going to be part of what should be a lively early pace, and if he survives it, he may stick around for a share.

    Ride On Curlin is flying under the radar in Louisville, and while he lacks a stakes win, he ran well in his three Derby preps at Oaklawn Park. He is currently listed at 18-1 in early Derby odds at OddsShark.com.

    Perhaps you are looking for more sleepers that may win the fastest two minutes in sports, which you can find by clicking here.

Look for New $12 Million Video Board to Light Up

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Churchill Downs forked out $12 million for a fancy new video board, and it is the largest 4K video board in the world (171 feet wide, 90 feet tall). 

    Big board means big prices, right?

    Even if the betting favorite California Chrome wins, in a 19-horse field the payoffs can still be big. Last year, Orb won the race as the betting favorite, returning $12.80 for a $2 win wager.

    However, long-shot Golden Soul rallied from the back of the pack to land second, the $2 exacta paying a generous $981.60. Revolutionary checked in third at 6-1, with the $2 trifecta returning $6,925.60. Normandy Invasion was fourth, completing a $2 superfecta that paid $57,084.00.

    In 2012, I’ll Have Another pulled off the upset, paying $32.60 to win. The betting favorite, Bodemeister, completed a $2 exacta that paid $306.60.

    Whether we see a 50-1 bomb like Mine That Bird or California Chrome winning as the favorite, we are going to see that video board light up with some big, exotic payoffs.

    So, on to the predictions for the top three...

Prediction for Show

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    Lou Hodges/Associated Press

    Intense Holiday is one of four sent out by the Todd Pletcher barn that sports just a 1-of-36 mark in the Kentucky Derby. The colt's best effort was his game win in the Risen Star (G2) two back at Fair Grounds where he nailed pacesetter Albano late. 

    Last out, the colt rated back behind a slow pace while Vicar's in Trouble and jockey Rosie Napravnik were able to steal it in gate-to-wire fashion. The runner-up finish should serve as a good prep, and he did not have the best of trips.

    It is just a matter of time before Pletcher starts improving on his mediocre record in the Derby, and this is his best chance in 2014.

Prediction for Place

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    Chelsea Durand/Associated Press

    Wicked Strong showed some promise last year with a third in the Remsen (G2) behind Honor Code and Cairo Prince, who were both leading early Derby contenders at that time. 

    The colt put it all together in his final Derby prep by coming with a good late rally to win the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct, earning a career top-speed figure (subscription required). Only the betting favorite in here earned a higher last-out Beyer speed figure.

    The colt does need to overcome the Wood curse. Once a major Derby prep, recent history has not been kind to the winners of the race. Recent winners I Want Revenge (2009), Eskendereya (2010) and Toby's Corner (2011) did not even make it to Louisville, all derailed by injuries.

Prediction for Win

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Why not Candy Boy? 

    Sure, he has to make up over eight lengths on California Chrome to turn the tables, but when he checked in third in the Santa Anita Derby behind the chalk, he was making his first start off a two-month break. The colt did not look fully cranked, and he just may be ready to go Saturday, and at a price.

    He has a stronger pedigree than the chalk, and he certainly is going to offer much more betting value. He is by Grade 1 winner Candy Ride, who won the Pacific Classic (G1) at 1 1/4 miles and is out of an In Excess mare that won going long.

    His jockey, Gary Stevens, is a three-time-winning Kentucky Derby rider. Stevens came back from a seven-year retirement last year, and he looks as if he has not missed a beat. OddsShark.com has the colt listed at 18-1, and a $38.00 payoff sure sounds better than settling for the favorite.