California Chrome took home the 2014 Kentucky Derby on a thrilling final turn as he held off Commanding Curve and Danza for the 140th Run for the Roses crown.
Entering the race with massive 5-2 odds and coming off a streak of four consecutive wins, California Chrome lived up to the giant hype Saturday at Churchill Downs. He stuck around the front of the pack from the start, with jockey Victor Espinoza maintaining his spot by the rail.
When it came time for the final turn, California Chrome saved his best for last and turned it on to separate from the field. Down the stretch, he pulled away and looked guaranteed for a runaway finish. Commanding Curve and Danza closed the gap before it ended, but it was to no avail.
In the end, it was California Chrome topping the leaderboard:
|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||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR||11|
Per NBC Broadcast
Here's a look at the final payout:
|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|
No neck-and-neck finish was in store this time around. No unheralded underdog surfaced to steal the spotlight. But given how quickly and easily California Chrome pulled away down the stretch, the 1 1/4-mile spectacle wasn't short on excitement.
There was no doubt after Saturday's race that California Chrome was the top horse at Churchill Downs. But it still didn't match up well with recent results, per Eric Crawford of WDRB Louisville:
California Chrome’s winning time of 2:03.66 was the slowest on a fast track in the Derby since Cannonade in 1974.— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) May 3, 2014
Regardless, California Chrome's Derby victory proved to be career-defining for many, including trainer Art Sherman.
The 77-year-old became the oldest trainer to win the Derby, per Louisville Courier Journal's Jonathan Lintner:
At 77, Art Sherman is the oldest trainer to saddle a #KyDerby winner, per Churchill Downs.— Jonathan Lintner (@JonathanLintner) May 3, 2014
Of course, the work of Sherman and California Chrome is now just beginning as they look to embark on the nightmarish month of pursuing the Triple Crown. That begins with the Preakness Stakes on May 17.
No Kentucky Derby winner has gone on to win the final two legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978. It's been one of the more elusive droughts in sports—12 horses have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but none of them completed the trifecta at the Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome opened as a 6-5 favorite for the Preakness per BetVega.com's Trev Rogers, which is the best odds at the Preakness as any Derby winner in recent history. That isn't surprising given his stock prior to Churchill Downs and the convincing win that followed.
There figures to be a number of familiar contenders in the field that could give the champion fits in the Preakness. Danza has the speed to go the distance, as does Samraat. Just as well, Hoppertunity was scratched last minute from the Kentucky Derby and could rebound in time to give California Chrome trouble at Pimlico Race Course.
But California Chrome has been on the money in each of his last five races now and extending the win streak to six would put the thoroughbred one race away from the Triple Crown.