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May 02, 2014

California Chrome favored in 140th Kentucky Derby


Louisville, KY ( - Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome has been made the favorite for Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old colt will face 19 rivals in the 1 1/4-mile opening leg of racing's Triple Crown.

A total of 21 3-year-olds were entered Wednesday morning for the Run for the Roses. With the starting field determined by the Kentucky Derby points system Pablo Del Monte was the odd horse out and becomes the also eligible. He can become part of the starting field should a horse be scratched by Friday at 9 a.m. ET.

Owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the 140th Run for the Roses which will go off at 6:24 p.m. ET at historic Churchill Downs. Jockey Victor Espinoza will once again be in the saddle aboard the colt and the pair will start from post 5 for trainer Art Sherman.

"These last four races he has been a world beater in, you know, Grade 1 company since Victor Espinoza got on him," Sherman said in a recent conference call. "He just developed into a runner, and I'm kind of just sitting back and each time he goes out there it kind of takes my breath away, because how many lengths that he won, the last four races he's won by over 25 lengths, and I've never had a horse that did that before."

California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby on April 5 by 5 1/4 lengths after beginning 2014 with a 5 1/2-length victory in the California Cup Derby at Santa Anita on Jan. 25. The colt won the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita by 7 1/4 lengths on March 8 after he finished 2013 by winning the King Glorious Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths in Hollywood Park's final stakes on Nov. 22.

"It was a great moment for me because it was the last race at Hollywood Park," the 77-year-old Sherman noted. "It meant a lot to me to win the last stake at Hollywood Park."

The chestnut colt has won six of 10 career starts for $1,134,850 and $920,000 this year in his three victories.

Santa Anita Derby runner-up Hoppertunity is the 6-1 second choice as he takes on California Chrome for a second straight race. Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith from post 11.

Hoppertunity, owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, was more than five lengths behind the favorite in the Santa Anita Derby but won the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15.

"He looks good. He's going to run his race," Baffert commented.

Hoppertunity, who is joined in the field by Baffert's Chitu, has earned $610,720 in five starts without a race as a 2-year-old.

The 8-1 third pick is Wood Memorial champ Wicked Strong. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the colt will leave from the far outside post in the 20-horse field with Rajiv Maragh in the saddle.

"He's as good as I could hope," Jerkens said. "I still don't know how he is going to be on Derby Day, but I'm happy with how he is so far."

Wicked Strong, named to honor the people of Boston after last year's Boston Marathon bombing, recorded his first stakes win with the Wood and has banked $704,610 with two wins in six career starts.

The 3-year-old was fourth in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22. He began 2014 in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 25 by finishing ninth to Cairo Prince.

Here is the complete Derby field in post position order: Vicar's in Trouble, 30-1, Rosie Napravnik; Harry's Holiday, 50-1, Corey Lanerie; Uncle Sigh, 30-1, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Danza, 10-1, Joe Bravo; California Chrome, 5-2, Victor Espinoza; Samraat, 15-1, Jose Ortiz; We Miss Artie, 50-1, Javier Castellano; General a Rod, 15-1, Joel Rosario; Vinceremos, 30-1, Joe Rocco Jr.; Wildcat Red, 15-1, Luis Saez; Hoppertunity, 6-1, Mike Smith; Dance With Fate, 20-1, Corey Nakatani; Chitu, 20-1, Martin Garcia; Medal Count, 20-1, Robby Albarado; Tapiture, 15-1, Ricardo Santana Jr.; Intense Holiday, 12-1, John Velazquez; Commanding Curve, 50-1, Shaun Bridgmohan; Candy Boy, 20-1, Gary Stevens; Ride On Curlin, 15-1, Calvin Borel; Wicked Strong, 8-1, Rajiv Maragh and Pablo Del Monte, 50-1, Jeffrey Sanchez.

Saturday will be partly cloudy with a 10 percent chance of rain and a post time temperature of 73 degrees.

The Triple Crown will continue on May 17 with the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico and June 7 at Belmont Park with the Belmont Stakes. There has not been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

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