With massive buildup leading into Saturday's 2014 Kentucky Derby, the 140th Run for the Roses promises to live up to its billing as the most exciting two minutes in sports.
California Chrome, Wicked Strong and Danza enter the weekend as the favorites to capture the Triple Crown's first leg.
With conditions set to produce a fast track, per Churchill Downs' official Twitter account, there's no telling how the results will shake out:
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know to make sure you don't miss a second of the action.
The 140th Kentucky Derby
Date: Saturday, May 3
Post Time: 6:24 p.m. ET
Where: Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|12 p.m. - 4 p.m.||Derby Prep||NBC Sports Network|
|4 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Race Coverage||NBC|
|2||Vicar's In Trouble||Mike Maker||Rosie Napravnik||25-1|
|3||Harry's Holiday||Mike Maker||Corey Lanerie||50-1|
|4||Uncle Sigh||Gary Contessa||Irad Ortiz Jr.||35-1|
|5||Danza||Todd Pletcher||Joe Bravo||8-1|
|6||California Chrome||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza||21-10|
|7||Samraat||Rick Violette Jr.||Jose Ortiz||16-1|
|8||We Miss Artie||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||33-1|
|9||General A Rod||Mike Maker||Joel Rosario||18-1|
|10||Vinceremos||Todd Pletcher||Joe Rocco Jr.||50-1|
|11||Wildcat Red||Jose Garoffalo||Luis Saez||18-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||Peter Eurton||Corey Nakatani||14-1|
|13||Chitu||Bob Baffert||Martin Garcia||22-1|
|14||Medal Count||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||22-1|
|15||Tapiture||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr.||20-1|
|16||Intense Holiday||Todd Pletcher||John Velazquez||12-1|
|17||Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||Shaun Bridgmohan||33-1|
|18||Candy Boy||John Sadler||Gary Stevens||18-1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||William G. Gowan||Calvin Borel||18-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||James A. Jerkens||Rajiv Maragh||8-1|
|SCRATCHED||Pablo Del Monte||SCRATCHED|
Info via KentuckyDerby.com. Odds via Oddsshark.com
Contenders to Watch
California Chrome, 21-10
The odds-on favorite to win Saturday, California Chrome will run out of post No. 6 following Pablo Del Monte's withdrawal on Friday.
And while that post hasn't been nearly as successful as post No. 5 throughout Derby history, jockey Victor Espinoza will surely be content to start off the rail. After all, Espinoza rode War Emblem to a Derby win from a similar spot (post No. 5) back in 2002.
More important than California Chrome's starting slot is his impressive race history.
The Art Sherman-trained colt has won four straight races, including the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in March and April's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
On Thursday, Sherman expressed nothing but confidence in his horse, per Gary West in a special to ESPN.com:
"He looked good out there. He's feeling good, and he's doing good. He's coming up to this race right."
It appears that California Chrome can do no wrong. However, the Derby's 10 furlongs will provide the California-bred colt with by far its toughest test to date.
Wicked Strong, 8-1
Wicked Strong hasn't experienced the same level of consistency that California Chrome has, but must be considered a threat to win on Saturday nonetheless.
Jockeyed by Rajiv Maragh, Wicked Strong beat previously-unbeaten Samraat at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes on April 5 to earn his second career victory and emerge as a legitimate Derby contender.
Now the colt appears to be booming with confidence, as pointed out by The Courier-Journal's Jennie Rees:
Wicked Strong was full of himself coming off track, reared on hind legs. #KyDerby— Jennie Rees (@CJ_Jennie) May 3, 2014
However, Wicked Strong's poor post draw could potentially be a cause for concern.
While 2012 Derby winner I'll Have Another proved that a strong horse can win from anywhere, Maragh and Wicked Strong will run out of the dreaded 20th post on the far outside. Dating back to 1929, only a single horse has won from that post (Big Brown in 2008).
The determining factor for Wicked Strong will be whether he can quickly work his way through traffic and settle in for the first turn before losing too much ground. That's the danger of starting out wide in the final post.
Still, as recent Derby winners have proven, a dominant horse can win from anywhere.
The inexperienced Danza popped up as Derby contender less than a month ago after stunning everyone at the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. Danza came into that race with 40-1 odds but has since developed an impressive entourage:
Now, after drawing a favorable starting slot on Wednesday, Todd Pletcher's horse has become a popular pick around Churchill Downs.
Danza was set to run out of post No. 4, but will run out of the fifth post following the scratches of Hoppertunity and Pablo Del Monte.
But don't expect Pletcher or jockey Joe Bravo to complain. After all, the No. 5 post has historically been an incredibly successful starting spot, producing eight Derby winners since 1930.
After his remarkable performance in the Arkansas Derby, Bravo is optimistic that Danza will be the ninth. He echoed that sentiment to Bloodhorse's Jack Shinar, via ESPN.com:
It's really fun to have a special horse like that and have him run like that. I'm not a fortune teller, but hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can do that again. I'm crossing my fingers he's my Derby horse. This is what dreams are made of.
If Bravo and Danza execute a similar game plan this weekend, there's no reason they can't be successful.
The key for the favorite will be an alert start and a strong finish.
Danza closed in impressive fashion at Oaklawn Park and appears capable of turning on the jets late at Churchill Downs.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.