California Chrome proved on Saturday afternoon that sometimes, it's safe to go chalk in high-stakes horse racing.
Where many odds-on favorites have failed to live up to expectations, the California-bred horse did everything he could to live up to his pre-race favorite status. In doing so, he broke a long dry spell for horses who enter the gates as the favorite:
California Chrome is only the 2nd Derby favorite 5-2 or shorter since 1980 to win. Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 was other (H/T @chrisfallica)— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) May 3, 2014
However, California Chrome wasn't the only one racing on Saturday. There was plenty of intrigue throughout the field, and it's possible that the horse that will wind up breaking up his Triple Crown bid will come from the 140th Run for the Roses. Here's a look at the final standings and prize money distribution:
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||2:03.66||$1,442,800|
|2||17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||1 3/4||$400,000|
|3||4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||3||$200,00|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||5 3/4||$100,000|
|5||6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||5 3/4||$60,000|
|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|
via NBC Broadcast
The obvious storyline emerging from the Derby will be California Chrome's run at the Triple Crown. However, a contender to watch as the horses make their way to Baltimore will be Danza.
The Arkansas Derby winner came into the race as one of the favorites to give California Chrome a run for his money, and he didn't disappoint. He claimed a third-place finish in the race despite being one of many horses who had a less-than-ideal trip on race day:
Some horses had rough trips. Candy Boy around the first turn, Vinceremos clobbering stablemate Danza 1st time through lane...— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 4, 2014
If Danza can avoid being bumped early in the Preakness or Belmont, his closing speed will be something that gives California Chrome trouble.
Looking back at horses who did have a good trip, Commanding Curve emerged as an interesting contender going through. With Shaun Bridgmohan aboard, he gave long-shot bettors a horse to root for as he placed second as a 50-1 underdog.
Those odds are sure to be a lot lower if and when the horse competes in the smaller field in Baltimore.
Rounding out the top four was Wicked Smart. He figures to be one of the few horses that can push California Chrome over the last two legs of the Triple Crown. He came into the race with strong 6-1 odds, and his backers should take solace in the horse's fourth-place finish from all the way on the outside at the No. 20 post.
However, for now, California Chrome stands out as the top horse in racing. His strong finish led to joyful words from first-time Derby-winning trainer Art Sherman and should do wonders in drawing interest at the Preakness:
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
With the field coming up short against the odds-on favorite, the Derby served as a tantalizing appetizer to a potential Triple Crown bid. After breaking the trend of favorites struggling to claim victory in Louisville, he just might have what it takes to etch his name into horse racing lore for decades to come.