Odds are going to fluctuate for the 2014 Kentucky Derby all the way up to Saturday's post time at Churchill Downs, but those who figure to contend most prominently won't see their respective stocks take drastic hits.
The maiden leg of the Triple Crown always brings about the topic of a horse possibly completing horse racing's elusive trifecta. In 1978, Affirmed pulled off the improbable feat of winning all three Triple Crown races, and the achievement hasn't been duplicated since.
California Chrome has been the most buzzed-about horse and enters as the big favorite, coming off of four consecutive victories. However, his morning-line odds of 5-2 may actually work against him, per ESPN's John Buccigross:
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
Other top contenders figure to be Wicked Strong, along with two premier entries for renowned trainer Todd Pletcher in Danza and Intense Holiday. Let's take a closer look at the rest of the field, then break down the possible Triple Crown storylines for some of the favorites in an 11th-hour race preview.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of Equibase.com.
|1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||20-1|
|2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||50-1|
|3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||30-1|
|4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||5-2|
|6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||15-1|
|7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||50-1|
|8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||15-1|
|9||Vinceremos||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||15-1|
|12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||20-1|
|13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||20-1|
|14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||20-1|
|15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||12-1|
|16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||50-1|
|18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||15-1|
|19||Ride on Curlin||Calvin Borel||William G. Gowan||15-1|
|20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||James A. Jerkens||6-1|
|SCRATCHED||Pablo Del Monte|
Source: KentuckyDerby.com and OddsShark.com
*Odds are current as of 4:30 p.m. ET on May 3.
Race Preview and Potential Triple Crown Storylines
For a California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby alone would be a remarkable achievement based on the history of winners in Louisville.
The Associated Press' Gary B. Graves reports that no horse from California has won the Run for the Roses in 52 years. But trainer Art Sherman was confident in the No. 5 position for California Chrome after jockey Victor Espinoza alluded to his past magic from that post.
"I like it fine," said Sherman, per Graves. "Victor says he likes it. Says he won the Kentucky Derby from the five (on War Emblem in 2002). I'm happy and I feel no pressure."
Espinoza knows he's aboard a special horse for Saturday's showcase, and he went on to win the Preakness Stakes with War Emblem in 2002. It would be quite a feat for him to pull off that double with two different horses more than a decade apart, and then have a chance for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes thereafter.
But the fifth post figures to be tough, because Danza—a 40-1 long shot winner in the Arkansas Derby—is at No. 4 and is among the top favorites. Danza would be among the most meteoric rises in recent memory if he's able to back up his breakout performance in Hot Springs with a win at Churchill Downs.
SiriusXM Radio personality Steve Byk felt that Danza benefited most from the post draw:
Danza biggest beneficiary of draw by wide margin; Wicked Strong not fatally injured by 20 given style and positive that he loads last..— Steve Byk (@Steve_Byk) April 30, 2014
Which potential Kentucky Derby victory storyline would you like most?
Byk alludes to the far outside post that Wicked Strong occupies, making the work for jockey Rajiv Maragh all the more difficult from straight out of the auxiliary gate. But while California Chrome appears the most likely Triple Crown candidate and Danza could experience an historic explosion into the limelight, Wicked Strong will have plenty of supporters.
Wicked Strong was initially named "Boston Strong" in honor of the victims of the tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon in 2013 (h/t KentuckyDerby.com). Although the original intended name was taken and couldn't ultimately be used, the message remains the same.
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockeys Calvin Borel and Gary Stevens will be in the irons for Ride On Curlin and Candy Boy respectively, and could even further bolster their prolific profiles by triumphing yet again. Both will seek to migrate inside as quickly as possible, which should help Wicked Strong make up ground out of the auxiliary gate and hang tough through the first turn and all the way to the finish.
An underdog story is always something to be appreciated, and perhaps the most notable longer shot is Vicar's In Trouble. Already in an adverse position in the No. 1 post, jockey Rosie Napravnik is as dangerous and in as good of form as any of her peers after winning the Kentucky Oaks on Friday mounting Untapable, per Kentucky.com's Alicia Wincze Hughes.
Napravnik can overcome being pinned against the rail and ride into the winner's circle, and would become the first-ever female to ride a Kentucky Derby victor. That storyline itself would be excellent for horse racing—regardless of how Vicar's In Trouble were to fare in the other two Triple Crown races.
So as the Triple Crown headliners go, there is a legitimate specimen in California Chrome who seems destined for further greatness. Then there's the sentimental story surrounding Wicked Strong, and Danza possibly getting hot at the absolute perfect time. And then Napravnik's prospective landmark win in one of the toughest posts to claim victory from in the modern era.
There is no shortage of drama for what Saturday's race could foster and the significance of victory for many of the top contenders. No one in this deep field of 19 should be counted out, though, and another accomplished horse could very well trump all these venerated entries and shock the world by seizing glory at Churchill Downs.