Favorite will start from No. 5 post in Kentucky Derby

  • Article by: BETH HARRIS
  • Updated: May 1, 2014 - 1:12 AM

Jockey Victor Espinoza has won from there before, and trainer Art Sherman calls it the ‘‘perfect spot.’’

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Exercise rider Willie Delgado works out expected Kentucky Derby favorite California Chrome in Los Alamitos, Calif., April 23, 2014. The 77-year-old Art Sherman, a trainer of multiple graded stakes winners, has never had a Derby entrant until California Chrome. (Stuart Palley/The New York Times)

Photo: STUART PALLEY, NYT - NYT

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– The only time Victor Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby was aboard War Emblem in 2002. They broke from the No. 5 post, the same position from which he’ll start the 140th edition of the race with early 5-2 favorite California Chrome.

“Hopefully, that’s my lucky number,” Espinoza said Wednesday.

Eight horses have won from there, most recently Funny Cide in 2003.

“I think it’s a perfect spot,” trainer Art Sherman said. “I think we break clean, he’ll get out of a lot of trouble. He’s got a little gas leaving there.”

At 77, Sherman could become the oldest trainer to win the Derby, surpassing Charlie Whittingham’s record of 76 when Sunday Silence won in 1989.

California Chrome comes into the Derby having won his past four starts by a combined 24 lengths.

“Just an amazing horse to ride,” Espinoza said. “I let him do his own thing, and I think he likes that.”

Hopportunity was made the 6-1 second choice in the full field of 20 horses.

Hopportunity, who lost to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, drew the No. 11 post for the race Saturday at Churchill Downs. He’s trained by Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner with two starters.

“Other than California Chrome, who’s proven he’s a really good horse, there’s a lot of horses in there that are pretty close,” Baffert said. “There’s a lot of parity in this field.”

His other horse, Chitu, is a 20-1 long shot that drew the No. 13 post.

Wicked Strong, named for the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, is the 8-1 third choice and will break from the 20th post on the far outside. He and the No. 10 horse, Wildcat Red, will be last ones loaded into the starting gate, so they won’t be in there very long.

Some trainers don’t like the No. 20 post because their horse is on the far outside and has to quickly make its way over toward the rail to save ground.

Calvin Borel will break from the No. 19 post aboard Ride On Curlin. The jockey nicknamed “Bo-rail” for his love of riding along the rail has won three Derbies since 2007, and he’ll have to hustle his horse over quickly to snag his favorite position.

California Chrome, Hopportunity and Wicked Strong were the only horses listed at single digits by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.

Danza is the 10-1 fourth choice and drew the No. 4 post. He’s one of four horses trained by Todd Pletcher. The others are: Intense Holiday, 12-1; Vinceremos, 30-1; and We Miss Artie, 50-1.

“We made out well,” Pletcher said. “It doesn’t matter where you draw, you’re just looking for a clean trip.”

Mike Maker will saddle a trio of horses: General a Rod, 15-1; Harry’s Holiday, 50-1; and Vicar’s In Trouble, a 30-1 shot that drew the dreaded No. 1 post.

Rosie Napravnik will be aboard Vicar’s In Trouble trying to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. She was fifth last year with Mylute, the highest finish by a woman in history. Napravnik watched the draw from the jockey’s room at the track.

“I was just kind of shocked, being the first one drawn,” she said. “Vicar’s real sharp out of the gate, and I think he’ll be able to get in good position. There’s been plenty of winners out of the one-hole, so Vicar’s not in trouble yet.”

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