The final preparations have been made, which means it's almost time for the 2014 Kentucky Derby to start. A deep, crowded field has convened at Churchill Downs to determine which young thoroughbred will make history.
It's almost a shame that the event goes almost as fast as it comes, because this year it feels like there's a lot more to discuss pre-race than normal. There's the anticipation of what could be a dominant force in California Chrome, several upset-minded runners like Danza and Wicked Strong and sleepers like Wildcat Red and Medal Count.
Drama always unfolds at the Kentucky Derby, so it's not like we will be longing for things to talk about. Instead let's focus directly ahead on everything that matters, like the weather, odds and predictions.
We have you covered for the final hours leading up to the Run for the Roses, with all the information that can help you figure out whom to root for.
|5 p.m.||72, Partly Cloudy||W at 18 mph|
|6 p.m.||71, Mostly Sunny||W at 14 mph|
|7 p.m.||69, Sunny||WNW at 12 mph|
|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||2-1|
|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 Pletecher||50-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||18-1|
|11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR|
|12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||14-1|
|13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||22-1|
|14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||22-1|
|15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||20-1|
|16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||33-1|
|18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||18-1|
|19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||William G. Gowan||18-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||James A. Jerkens||8-1|
|21||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley Ward||SCR|
Odds current as of 3 p.m. ET on May 3
Winner: Wicked Strong
The risk of taking Wicked Strong to win is not as great as it seems. There used to be a stigma against horses starting from the outside because they had to exert energy just trying to get around the field and to the inside.
All of that has changed in recent years, with the last three Kentucky Derby winners coming from gate 16 or higher (Animal Kingdom, I'll Have Another, Orb).
On top of that, as Pat Cummings of DubaiRaceNight.com noted, Wicked Strong's jockey is on quite the roll lately.
Anyone hotter than Jimmy Jerkens right now, horses at Aqueduct 5 for last 9. Saddles Wicked Strong in Kentucky Derby (1 of 5 winners).— Pat Cummings (@DubaiRaceNight) April 26, 2014
There are so many things working in Wicked Strong's favor that it would be an upset if he didn't at least finish in the top three. Considering how strongly he came on at the Wood Memorial, it seems as though he's been building to this moment for the last four weeks.
Place: California Chrome
As odds keep rolling in for California Chrome, you can't help but wonder if someone knows we are in line to see something special. He started out the week at 5-2 odds and is down to 2-1 before post time.
It's no secret why California Chrome is getting all this love. He's won four consecutive races by a combined 24.25 lengths. His crowning achievement so far was a dominant win at the Santa Anita Derby by 5.25 lengths.
But there's something about an athlete getting such strong odds that makes you think it can't be real. Either the jockey will get too aggressive, or the horse will stumble out of the gate, just something that will push him out of the top spot.
Also, as ESPN's John Buccigross noted, being a favorite of this magnitude isn't indicative of success.
California Chrome 5-2 morning line favorite at Kentucky Derby. Of previous 23 ML favs at 5-2 or shorter, only Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 won.— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 3, 2014
If California Chrome won, no one would be surprised. There's certainly nothing scientific about why I don't have him getting draped in roses at the end of the race, but Wicked Strong just strikes me as a better bet.
Show: Wildcat Red
After the top two horses, there's some separation for the No. 3 spot. Wildcat Red immediately jumped out because of what has historically been a favorable draw. Nine horses have won from the No. 10 post, the most since 1930, according to KentuckyDerby.com.
Handicapper Danonymous Racing tweeted that Wildcat Red's spot gives him a favorable path to the front of the pack.
Just had the realization that Wildcat Red is perfectly positioned to go to the lead and face minimal pressure. Why shouldn't he hold?— Danonymous Racing (@DanonymousMan) May 3, 2014
Another factor to consider is Wildcat Red's history, which John Sutton of The Star-Ledger noted is virtually spotless.
This front-running Florida Derby runner-up has never been worse than second in his seven-race career, and should sit close to or on the lead tomorrow...
He’s only been beaten by three-quarters of a length in seven career starts. This colt clearly has a penchant for getting near the lead and staying there.
The Kentucky Derby is a longer race than Wildcat Red usually runs at 10 furlongs. He's not likely to pace himself well enough to stay in the lead, if he's able to get there, but there's enough raw speed in those legs to at least hang in the top three until the end.
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