As the odds and pre-race hype suggested, California Chrome was the clear class of the Kentucky Derby field.
The Art Sherman trainee won the 140th Run for the Roses by turning on the jets early on the homestretch and then cruising to victory. Although the win for the runaway favorite was no surprise, Commanding Curve's closing burst to place was.
Leaving the gate at 50-1, Commanding Curve was not expected to be among the top finishers, but he proved how undervalued he was with a huge closing kick.
Behind Commanding Curve were a couple of pre-race favorites with Danza coming in third and Wicked Strong closing to fourth. Have a look at all the results.
At 77, Sherman became the oldest trainer to ever win the Kentucky Derby, and this is just one fact about California Chrome's story that makes him such a charming and surprising winner. His recent performances are not one of those facts.
California Chrome has now won five straight races, and he's been completely dominant in that stretch. On Saturday, he won by less than two lengths, but that does not tell the whole story. In case you missed it, here is the race.
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||$1,442,800|
|2||17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||$400,000|
|3||4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||$200,000|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||$100,000|
|5||6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||$60,000|
|6||12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton|
|7||19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan|
|8||14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans|
|9||13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert|
|10||7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|11||8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker|
|12||16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|13||18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler|
|14||3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa|
|15||15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|16||2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker|
|17||9||Vinceremos||Joe Rococo Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|18||10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo|
|19||1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker|
|Scr.||11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
Chrome had a bit of a stumble coming out of the gate but recovered quickly. Besides, the start was not all that important. There was a slow, early pace to the race. This allowed the top contenders to comfortably get in position to make a charge down the stretch.
Chrome was in third for much of the race behind early pace-setters Uncle Sigh and Chitu. He had no problem leaving those two in the dust as he made his charge. In fact, a few strides into his closing burst, it quickly became apparent he was going to leave every horse in his wake.
Although Chrome's race rightfully will grab all of the headlines, don't sleep on Commanding Curve. Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh helped highlight this:
26.16-second final quarter-mile. 51.84 final half. Gotta say - Commanding Curve was really the only one that finished. #KyDerby— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 3, 2014
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Before anyone starts using that to predict Commanding Curve derailing California Chrome's attempt at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, remember that jockey Victor Espinoza let up on the last few gallops to begin his well-earned celebration.
Chrome deserves to go off at the Preakness as a big favorite, and the Triple Crown is a real possibility. Although it is hard to project the final leg, the Belmont, given that we have no idea what the field will look like, Chrome has the speed, stamina, finishing kick and competitiveness to pull off the task.