2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders with Predictions and Handicapping
by Robert Ferringo - 5/2/2014
Well, it certainly appears that the Racing Gods are setting things up for California Chrome. The California colt is a massive favorite to win this year's Kentucky Derby and has caught several breaks in the lead-up to the race that are helping to clear his path in the Run For The Roses.
Of course, it also helps that it is by far the most talented horse in the field.
The 140th running of the Kentucky Derby will take place at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday at Churchill Downs. The post draw occurred on Wednesday, and a full 20-horse field will find the gates this weekend.
The first stroke of good fortune that California Chrome experienced was taking the No. 5 post in Wednesday's draw. The No. 5 slot has produced the most winners of any gate over the past 113 years and is one of the most coveted launching pads for any mount.
The second stroke of good fortune was that three prime contenders - Vicar's In Trouble, Ride On Curlin and Wicked Strong - drew the three worst post positions and saw their odds drop significantly.
Then a third stroke of good fortune occurred on Thursday when the horse with the second-shortest odds, Hoppertunity, was scratched due to an issue with his left front foot. Hoppertunity was looking forward to a Santa Anita Derby rematch with California Chrome after finishing second in that race.
California Chrome has won four straight races, including Santa Anita, by a combined 24 lengths. California Chrome is the current favorite at 5-to-2 odds. But he isn't the only horse with a chance at winning the Fastest Two Minutes In Sports.
Here is a look at some of the top Kentucky Derby contenders in this year's field, with odds courtesy of Bovada:
No. 4 Danza (10-to-1) - This Pletcher horse has the third-shortest odds to win the Kentucky Derby and will be leaving right next to California Chrome. This horse dominated the Arkansas Derby on put up some serious speed numbers on that track. In fact, Danza's breakout times have some worried that this horse is due for a letdown at Churchill Downs. Maybe. Or maybe this horse is ready to explode after a long layoff between prep races this year.
No. 6 Samraat (15-to-1) - Right now this is definitely a buzz horse in racing circles. I have read more than one trusted analyst talk about Samraat's "heart" and "grit". This horse has not run a bad race this year, winning the Withers in February, the Gotham in March, and showing at the Wood Memorial. However, only one New York horse - Funny Cide (who, incidentally, is owned by my cousin and his friends) - has ever won the Derby. And Samraat really had a perfect path in the Wood but was blown away down the stretch.
No. 10 Wildcat Red (15-to-1) - Here is another horse that simply has not run a poor race this year. Wildcat Red has hit the board in all four of its races this season, including a win at the Fountain of Youth and a loss by a neck at the Florida Derby. But be wary: this is a front-running speed horse, and those rarely take the roses. This horse is quality. But it is not running wire-to-wire against this speedy field.
No. 16 Intense Holiday (12-to-1) - Famed jockey Mike Smith has to be kicking himself for opting for Hoppertunity than this Pletcher horse. Intense Holiday hasn't gotten a lot of pre-race buzz, but these odds show that he means business. Intense Holiday raced brilliantly while winning the Risen Star back in February and showed well in a second-place finish at the Louisiana Derby. But a deeper look shows some inconsistent pacing for this horse, and it didn't show any type of finishing kick in Louisiana.
No. 19 Ride On Curlin (15-to-1) - This horse may be a bit of an underlay on race day based on who its jockey is. Calvin Borel owns Churchill Downs and has ridden a mount to victory in the 2007, 2009 and 2010 Kentucky Derbies. Danza is coming off a win at the Arkansas Derby and has looked very sharp in training in the lead-up to the Derby. However, only four horses in the 139-year history of the Derby have won the race starting wider than Post 16. Borel will have to work quickly to get his horse on the rail, and by then Ride On Curlin will have a lot of ground to make up.
No. 20 Wicked Strong (8-to-1) - Wicked Strong has the same obstacle to overcome as Ride On Curlin: he's starting too wide. Even though Hoppertunity's scratch from the No. 11 post could mean that Wicked Strong can slide in a slot. But Wicked Strong will still be fighting a full field of speedsters and over a century's worth of history. That said, this mount looked great in its Wood Memorial victory, and its breeding suggests that it will have little problem with the distance this weekend.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper. He has correctly predicted at least one Triple Crown winner in four of six years, and in 2010 and 2011 he picked the winner in an amazing five of six Triple Crown races. Purchase his Kentucky Derby picks HERE.
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