California Chrome raced to victory in the 2014 Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Commanding Curve and Danza finished second and third, respectively, to distinguish themselves as finishing in the money amid the field of 19 contenders.
The favorite California Chrome wins the 2014 Kentucky Derby! pic.twitter.com/LFddp21wXn— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 3, 2014
This horse racing showcase lived up to its moniker of The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports yet again, as jockey Victor Espinoza delivered a triumphant jaunt to the winner's circle over the course of 10 furlongs amid fast track conditions.
Here is a look at the results from the 140th annual Run for the Roses:
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||-|
|2||17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||1 3/4|
|3||4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||3|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||5 3/4|
|5||6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||5 3/4|
|6||12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||6 1/4|
|7||19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan||6 3/4|
|8||14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||7 1/2|
|9||13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||8|
|10||7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||8 1/4|
|11||8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||8 1/4|
|12||16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||9|
|13||18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||11 3/4|
|14||3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||15|
|15||15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||16 1/4|
|16||2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||22 1/2|
|17||9||Vinceremos||Joe Rococo Jr.||Todd Pletcher||28|
|18||10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||28 1/4|
|19||1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||38 1/4|
|11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR|
Source: NBC broadcast
Prohibitive pre-race favorite California Chrome (5-2 odds via KentuckyDerby.com) was up before the crack of dawn to prepare himself for the Kentucky Derby, attempting to live up to the hype after winning his previous four races, per SportsCenter's official Twitter account:
Giddyup! Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome was up at 5:45 am to stretch his legs in advance of today's race. pic.twitter.com/Qn0dT38oRs— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 3, 2014
California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, expressed supreme confidence before the race, per CNN.com's Matt Majendie:
I've put 60 years into this business and I thought my chance in the Kentucky Derby had gone. You never say never.
Now I've got another chance. It's a fairytale and I do believe in fate. He'll be the horse to beat. He's been awesome these last four races, we just hope he has five in him. But it's a different ball game when 150,000 people are screaming at you. But he's a rock star isn't he? That shouldn't be a problem.
He just loves to run, he'll run all day long. We just need some luck, that plays a big part in such a story. His story is just like that of Seabiscuit isn't it? It'd be a [heck] of a book or a movie if he pulls it off.
Sherman, 77, became the oldest trainer to have a Kentucky Derby winner. After the race, he discussed the victory, per America's Best Racing:
Trainer Art Sherman: "Words can't describe how I feel. It's like a dream come true." #KyDerby— Americas Best Racing (@ABRLive) May 3, 2014
Espinoza won his second career Kentucky Derby, adding to his triumph aboard War Emblem in 2002. The jockey went on to win the Preakness that year, which seems to bode well for California Chrome's future.
As is always the case in this breathtaking Louisville spectacle, plenty of celebrities were in attendance, with the typical lavish fashion on display. NESN's Gary Striewski noted how New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady showed up in a hot air balloon to the Barnstable Brown Kentucky Derby Gala on Friday evening:
Of course Tom Brady showed up to party via hot air balloon. Did you think he'd settle for an ugly air balloon with a good personality?— Gary Striewski (@garystriewski) May 3, 2014
American figure skater Johnny Weir helped out with NBC's Kentucky Derby coverage, and made headlines with the outrageous hat he wore, via BuzzFeed on Twitter:
Retired NBA star Julius Erving was an integral part of the pre-race traditions, per NBC Sports Network:
Perhaps most notable was Tony Danza, who was in attendance to see if the horse named for him, Danza (8-1), could continue the momentum from being a long-shot winner at the Arkansas Derby:
Nice weather and a fast track created near-record attendance at Churchill Downs, per the Daily Racing Form's Matt Hegarty:
Churchill is reporting attendance of 164,906 today, just behind record of 165,307 in 2012. Got ideal weather.— Matt Hegarty (@DRFHegarty) May 3, 2014
With so many strong contenders close to the rail—California Chrome and Danza started right next to each other, along with jockey Rosie Napravnik and Vicar's In Trouble—there was plenty of action to watch in the early going.
But to the far outside, both Calvin Borel and Gary Stevens were thought to be threats aboard Ride On Curlin and Candy Boy, since each jockey has won this race three times previously. It turned out to be a long shot in Commanding Curve who started at post 17 and wound up with a surprise runner-up finish at 37-1.
BloodHorse.com's Ron Mitchell alluded to how Commanding Curve trainer Dallas Stewart has fared well with long shots in the Kentucky Derby recently:
#KyDerby140. Two years in row Dallas Stewart second with longshot. Commanding Curve this year.— Ron Mitchell (@BH_RMitchell) May 3, 2014
Wicked Strong was the No. 2 favorite (6-1) before the race began, but settled for fourth place to finish just outside of the money. His start at the No. 20 post proved to create too much ground for jockey Rajiv Maragh to make up in the end.
Below is an overview of the payouts from the top three:
Source: NBC broadcast
*$2 Exacta (5-17) paid $340.00; $1 Trifecta (5-17-4) paid $1,712.30; $1 Superfecta (5-17-4-20) paid $7,691.90.
The Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Maryland on May 17 is next on tap in the Triple Crown schedule. Affirmed was the last horse to complete horse racing's ultimate achievement in winning all three Triple Crown races in a magical 1978 run.
Although the reigning Kentucky Derby champion should inevitably be the horse to beat in the Triple Crown's second leg, it's also worth noting that Pimlico is a slightly shorter track. That will favor horses with better speed than stamina, and several starters who didn't run at Churchill Downs figure to enter and be threats to claim victory and deny California Chrome of his Triple Crown bid.
But the Preakness field is also smaller, as only nine ran in last year's race, so there is less traffic trouble to navigate. While that can work to the favorite's advantage, it also frees up longer shots—such as 2013 champion Oxbow, who entered as a 15-1 horse compared to Orb at 3-5—to muster an upset special.
The remainder of this Triple Crown season promises to be exciting, and this juncture is especially compelling since hope is as high as ever for another dominant horse to make epic history.