Churchill Downs isn't a place typically fond of huge favorites, but that changed on the first Saturday in May at the 2014 Kentucky Derby as California Chrome took home the victory.
With 5-2 odds heading into the race, the thoroughbred was the overwhelming pick among bettors after coming in with a whopping four-race win streak—all of which came in runaway fashion.
California Chrome validated that ridiculous hype with a masterful race. Jockey Victor Espinoza kept the racehorse near the rail, taking advantage of a No. 5 post position and staying within a few lengths of the leader throughout.
When things entered the final stretch, it was California Chrome who mustered up enough to pull away from the pack. Stride for stride, he made it no doubt that the favorite would make it five straight convincing victories and begin the talk of a Triple Crown.
Check out the entire replay here:
And the official results from Churchill Downs:
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||2:03.66|
|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||SCR||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR|
Per NBC Broadcast
Here's a look at the payout table for the top three finishers, per Covers.com:
Here is the payout table for the 140th Kentucky Derby pic.twitter.com/5ocFqBqqu7— Covers.com (@Covers) May 3, 2014
It wasn't just the champion generating buzz. Commanding Curve finished in second after a thrilling run that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Only two horses in the field had worse chances of reaching the winner's circle, per KentuckyDerby.com, than Commanding Curve, who saw 37-1 odds of winning. And despite starting on the 17th post, this underdog made for the big secondary storyline of the afternoon.
Along with him was Danza, who finished third. One of four Todd Pletcher-trained horses in the field, Danza proved his big 8-1 odds weren't undeserved with a strong run. But the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner fell just short of testing California Chrome down the final stretch.
Let's see what all of the top finishers earned:
|1||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn & Perry and Denise Martin||$1,417,800|
|2||Commanding Curve||West Point Thoroughbreds||$400,000|
|3||Danza||Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners||$200,000|
|4||Wicked Strong||Centennial Farms||$100,000|
|5||Samraat||My Meadowview Farm||$60,000|
Of course, the champion, California Chrome—and possibly a few of the top finishers from Saturday—won't have much time to soak in the result before getting ready for the Preakness.
With just two weeks separating the races, trainer Art Sherman plans to keep his winner in Churchill Downs for the week before making the trek to Maryland and Pimlico Race Course, per Daily Racing Form:
Sherman says California Chrome will likely remain at Churchill about a week before vanning to Pimlico for #Preakness— DRF Derby (@DRFDerby) May 3, 2014
When he gets there, California Chrome figures to be one of the biggest favorites in a major horse race in quite some time. He was already slotted with eye-popping 6-5 odds minutes after the Derby concluded, per BetVega.com's Trev Rogers.
How well California Chrome has been dealt with over the past few months will be key in his performance at the Preakness. Nearly a month was separated between his Santa Anita Derby win and Saturday—close to the same time span that lies between all three Triple Crown legs.
At the Preakness, there will be a much-shortened field—it's typically 10 to 12 horses instead of Churchill Downs' 20—and the race track is of a slightly shorter distance, at about a 1/16-mile less than the Kentucky Derby. That will open things up for whoever has the freshest legs and whoever has the best getaway ability.
Will California Chrome win the Preakness?
As for the latter, California Chrome doesn't look to have much competition. His most dangerous threats—horses like Danza and Samraat—looked to be a few levels below the California-bred thoroughbred on Saturday. Hoppertunity could bounce back for Pimlico but missed Saturday's race after being scratched due to injury.
Horse racing is as unpredictable as they come, even when there are big favorites. But California Chrome has been easy money throughout this racing season, and there aren't a whole lot of serious contenders looking like threats to end his budding Triple Crown bid.