If you look through the odds assigned to every participant in the 2014 Kentucky Derby, one of the horses jumps out at you as the overwhelming favorite with 2-1 odds—California Chrome. Based on his recent showings, the California colt has dominated his last four races, and all the pieces are in his place for him to become the second straight favorite to win the roses.
He certainly has the recent success after stringing together dominant victories. Kevin Martin of CBS breaks down just how impressive California Chrome has looked over the last six months:
No other colt in the Derby field has paired together two strong performances like California Chrome in winning the Grade 2 San Felipe and the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He dominated fields that included graded stakes winners by a combined twelve lengths. He has won six races from ten career starts and has not lost since last November. Prior to his two graded wins, he won two stakes races for California-breds also by big margins.
How big were his margins of victory? He hasn’t been close to losing in his last four races, which California Chrome won by a combined 24 lengths, including this breathtaking victory in the Santa Anita Derby where he had enough cushion to throw out a Usain Bolt-like slowdown and celebrate.
He wasn’t beating chumps, either. Hoppertunity came in second in that Santa Anita Derby—the same Hoppertunity that had the second-best odds to win at Churchill Downs before he was scratched from the race due to injury.
Should California Chrome be the overwhelming favorite?
While he clearly has the talent, every champion needs his share of luck. Fortunately for California Chrome, the Derby draw didn’t hurt his chances significantly, as he was assigned post No. 5. Ideally, he would have drawn a post closer to the middle, but he still has the speed to get out of the gate early and get to the rail near the front of the pack.
Furthermore, he has a jockey who is very comfortable with the fifth post. Victor Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby on the back of War Emblem in 2002 coming out of that fifth spot in the lineup. The duo have worked well together in the past, and nothing indicates a change in their performance, according to trainer Art Sherman, via Bob Ehalt of ESPN:
Victor told me he couldn't believe how easy the horse went. He just said he felt so good. Victor wrapped up on him and didn't let him do too much. He knows this horse so well. It couldn't be any better.
Additionally, Sherman talked to WLKY News about how his horse seemed on the morning of the race, and it all looks promising:
A horse in form, an experienced jockey who has tasted success at the venue and a veteran trainer who has made his rounds in the sport. All the signs point to California Chrome having a good two minutes with all eyes in the sports world on him. Crazy things happen at the Derby, but California Chrome is definitely the horse to beat.