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May 02, 2014

Up the Backstretch: California Chrome has bull's-eye for Derby

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - According to the morning line odds for Saturday's 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the race is California Chrome's to lose.

Track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has made the chestnut colt, trained by 77-year- old Art Sherman, a solid 5-2 favorite for the 20-horse field going 1 1/4 miles.

"I'm happy and I feel no pressure," Sherman said after his colt received post 5 in the starting gate.

California Chrome was rightly made the favorite after scorching the competition by 5 1/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Derby and averaging wins of six lengths during his current four-race win streak.

However, California Chrome is a speed horse and there's plenty of other speed in the race to prevent the colt from running loose on the front end and control the pace.

Breaking from the dreaded rail will be Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's in Trouble, who won at Fair Grounds on the front end.

"Hopefully, we get a good break out of Vicar like we usually do, and we get a good position pretty early," noted trainer Mike Maker, whose Harry's Holiday is right next to his stablemate in the gate. "Maybe our riders will be friendly and give each other enough space."

Favorites, other than California Chrome, have not exactly been dominating the major prep races leading to the Kentucky Derby. Danza won the Arkansas Derby at 41-1, Wicked Strong claimed the Wood Memorial at 9-1 and Dance With Fate was 6-1 in winning the Blue Grass Stakes.

Looking to find a horse for a price? Don't look any further than 12-1 Intense Holiday, one of four in the race trained by Todd Pletcher.

Intense Holiday will have the benefit of Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez riding. He won the Derby three years ago aboard Animal Kingdom and had the chance to ride Orb last year, but went with Verazzano instead.

"Orb drew the 16 last year and he got it done," Pletcher said after Intense Holiday drew post 16. "The outside gate is hot and it will allow Johnny (Velazquez) an opportunity to get clear and pick a spot."

Intense Holiday was the 19-10 favorite in the Louisiana Derby but finished second 3 1/2 lengths behind Vicar's in Trouble. Pletcher's colt likes to come from off the pace, which should work perfectly on Saturday.

He made up ground in the Louisiana Derby and came from farther back to win the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Intense Holiday began the year with a late- running third-place finish to Cairo Prince in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, coming from 10th in an 11-horse field.

Early Thursday, it was announced that 6-1 second pick Hoppertunity was scratched from the race. All the horses beginning with post 12 will be moved inside one to allow the also-eligible horse Pablo Del Monte to start from the far outside hole.

Whether breaking from No. 16 or 15, Intense Holiday will have the speed horses to his inside, which will allow Velazquez to see those runners and place his mount in an advantageous position.



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