Saturday night proved to be an occasion where favorites across many sporting scenes came up big on grand stages, with the highlight being one California Chrome at the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
While he didn't abuse an opponent like Floyd Mayweather or craft highlights like a high-flying Blake Griffin, California Chrome raced into the history books by obliterating the field at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, as he now looks to chase a coveted Triple Crown.
A winner of four in a row entering the race, California Chrome exploded late and easily won first place on the leaderboard.
|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 Rocco 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|
|20||11||Hoppertunity||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert||SCR|
Those who missed out or want another glimpse of dominance need to look no further:
For the bettors out there, California Chrome's dominance didn't pay all that well, but for those who took a risk on Commanding Curve, things were a bit more rewarding. Here's a look at the official payouts, per Covers.com:
Here is the payout table for the 140th Kentucky Derby pic.twitter.com/5ocFqBqqu7— Covers.com (@Covers) May 3, 2014
It's a feel-good story for California Chrome and those who took the safe betting avenue, but even more so for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman, who was a large part of the reason for the horse being the favorite in the first place.
Sherman entered Churchill Downs with experience there dating back to the 1950s but says California Chrome's victory on Saturday marks a career highlight:
Art Sherman on California Chrome: “He gave me the biggest thrill I ever had in my life.” #KyDerby— Kentucky Derby (@KentuckyDerby) May 3, 2014
Like most participants in the race, Commanding Curve was content to hang around for the first minute or so and jockey for ideal position before actually kicking on the afterburners to better his position.
Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was superb in this regard as he kept a mostly clean slate and avoided the mess after coming out of the No. 17 post. His performance was subject to rave reviews such as this one, via Ellis Starr of Equibase:
Shaun Bridgmohan rode Commanding Curve brilliantly, avoided the bumping & grinding early. Wonder how other closers might've done w/same trip— Ellis Starr (@Ubercapper) May 4, 2014
Sometimes the jockey can make all the difference. Saturday was certainly one of those cases, although Commanding Curve's excellent closing speed did much to make things easier, as Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form observes:
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
Danza entered a favorite based on past performances and the like, but many were wise to be hesitant after he was hit with the No. 4 post. All things considered, those who remained faithful to the pre-post draw odds were rewarded by Danza and jockey Joe Bravo with a late surge to land in third.
It was also interesting to see underdogs like Uncle Sigh jump out to early leads, but as hinted, contenders seemed to simply be biding their time before striking. He finished 14th, while other notables such as Intense Holiday and Vicar's In Trouble (despite being jockeyed by Rosie Napravnik) came in 12th and 19th, respectively.
The majority of the attention—and rightfully so—will remain fixated on California Chrome, who now has a legitimate shot at winning the Triple Crown. It's a feat that has not been accomplished since Affirmed pulled it off in 1978, although Big Brown came close in 2008.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
California Chrome, unlike many of the competitors in the field, hails from humble beginnings and didn't have a ton of financial backing as lucrative as other horses. But he's now on a warpath with the 2014 Preakness Stakes in his sights, and given his recent momentum, it's not hard to imagine the sport's most dominant competitor continuing his tear.
Fans may have witnessed the beginning of something special at Churchill Downs on Saturday via California Chrome's lengthy victory after he eased off the gas near the finish line.
Just don't expect him to do the same now that a Triple Crown is closer to becoming a reality.