Purse: $2 million Guaranteed
|2||Vicar's in Trouble||30-1||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker|
|3||Harry's Holiday||50-1||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker|
|4||Uncle Sigh||30-1||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa|
|5||Danza||8-1||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher|
|6||California Chrome||5-2||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman|
|7||Samraat||15-1||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.|
|8||We Miss Artie||50-1||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher|
|9||General a Rod||15-1||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker|
|10||Vinceremos||30-1||Joe Rocco Jr.||Todd Pletcher|
|11||Wildcat Red||15-1||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo|
|--||Hoppertunity - Scratched||--||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
|12||Dance With Fate||20-1||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton|
|13||Chitu||20-1||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert|
|14||Medal Count||20-1||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans|
|15||Tapiture||15-1||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen|
|16||Intense Holiday||8-1||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
|17||Commanding Curve||50-1||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart|
|18||Candy Boy||20-1||Gary Stevens||John Sadler|
|19||Ride On Curlin||15-1||Calvin Borel||William Gowan|
|20||Wicked Strong||6-1||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens|
|Colts & Geldings Carry 126 Pounds|
Expect a blistering pace in this year’s 140th Kentucky Derby, and California Chrome will be wearing the bull’s-eye as the deserving favorite after winning his past four races by a total of 25 lengths. On paper, he’s heads above the rest of the field and a potential superstar in the sport, but he needs to overcome the not-so favorable inside post position and all the obstacles that lie ahead for him in this large field. There are more than enough off-the-pace runners who are major threats and will benefit from the expected quick fractions up front that occur when 20 horses stampede out of the gate. Here are my main contenders in this year’s field, where anything can happen once the gates are opened, and if you don’t like the favorite, there is a plethora of prices.
DANCE WITH FATE: I always look for runners who are improving each race, and Dance With Fate has done just that in his past four attempts, including an impressive off-the-pace victory in the Blue Grass Stakes. The knock on DWF is that his stakes victory was on Polytrack. I used to toss these runners off my ticket myself, but successful Polytrack runners have adjusted well to the Churchill dirt track in recent years. DWF will benefit from the contested fractions, and I expect him to be near the front coming down the stretch with the opportunity to light up the board at a 20-1 morning line. Veteran jockey Cory Nakatani will know exactly where to position his ride and know when to push the go button.
CALIFORNIA CHROME: The favorite is talented enough to sit off the pace or take the lead, and my guess is he’ll sit right behind the pace-setters. Keys for him are breaking well, which has been a slight issue, and getting into position near the front around the first turn without getting squeezed or bumped around. His wins are more impressive to watch than they are to read in past performances. Jockey Victor Espinoza looked like a statue in the saddle, without no urging or whip needed, in the most impressive prep race of horses in today’s field. If California Chrome wins the Derby, he will be the legitimate Triple Crown threat that we haven’t seen in years.
MEDAL COUNT: Another Polytrack/turf-to-dirt transfer who finished second to Dance With Fate in the Blue Grass Stakes, finishing strong. Most likely will sit midpack and get first shot on the speedsters up front. Trainer Dale Romans is extremely high on his colt, which has been showing encouraging workouts this week in training. Slight cause for concern is that this will be his third start in 30 days.
RIDE ON CURLIN: Ride on Curlin has been improving and is coming off a place finish in the Arkansas Derby after a bumpy start. The colt has never finished worse than fourth in nine starts and should handle the Derby distance with a great view of the pace-setters, sitting right behind, ready to pounce. Calvin Borel gets the mount; he won the Derby in 2009 and 2010.
INTENSE HOLIDAY and WICKED STRONG: The outside positions have been the money posts in the Derby the past few years because runners are able to avoid the bumping and body slamming that goes on after the gates are opened. Intense Holiday and Wicked Strong are both strong closers who will appreciate the quick early pace, and both seem to be on the upswing.
Love’s wagers: $2 exacta 12, 14 with all —$76; 50 cent trifecta box with 5, 12, 14, 19, 20 — $30. Total — $106.
JOHNNY LOVE @StribLove