2014 Kentucky Derby Recap
by Trevor Whenham - 5/6/2014
When we look back on the 2014 Kentucky Derby in the months and years to come, here are four things that are likely to stand out:
Perfect trip: I'm not taking anything away from California Chrome - he ran a very professional race in which he was clearly the best, and he really has the chance to do something special in his next two races. That being said, you can't talk about his victory without discussing how perfect his trip was.
He was able to break from the gate cleanly and settle into his preferred position just off the pace. That early pace, set by Chitu and Uncle Sigh, was very slow by Derby standards, so Chrome was able to relax and save himself. When he did look to take the lead he had an open path, and he was able to explode to the front and virtually end the race there. The final sixteenth of a mile was basically a victory lap as all he had to do was wait for the trip to end.
When the best horse in the field - and there was little doubt before the race that Chrome was that, even if he was badly overbet and lacking in value as a result - is given the best trip then he is going to win nearly every time.
Absence of speed: What is most vexing about this race is that things turned out as they did early on. Chitu and Uncle Sigh were both front-loving speed horses, and they weren't alone in that. It was a speed-heavy field. That is far from uncommon in the Derby, and it typically leads to suicidal early fractions that test the front-runners and set things up for the stalkers and closers.
For some reason, though, the connections of the speed horses this year decided not to push the pace - even though they knew that California Chrome had no choice but to contend whatever the pace was going to be. That led to very slow early fractions and a historically slow wire time.
If, as I did, you had bet mostly on closers and rally runners to win the race then you sadly knew by the first fraction that it wasn't going to be your day. Frustrating.
Brutal trips: While California Chrome had a walk in the park, things were not nearly as smooth for several other key contenders. Danza got hit very hard by stablemate Vinceremos early on. Wildcat Red was badly cut on his leg. Wicked Strong found ugly traffic wherever he went. Ride On Curlin, in no small part due to a horrible ride from Calvin Borel, ran way out of his comfort zone and covered too much ground. It goes on and on.
It was a particularly rough race, and that had a big impact on the outcome. California Chrome likely would have been good enough to win given the pace even if others had had better trips, but this certainly helped.
Bet on Dallas Stewart's horse to place: Last year trainer Golden Soul finished second with Golden Soul, a 35/1 longshot that no one was paying any attention to. This year he did it again, earning runner-up status with Commanding Curve - a 38/1 longshot who only barely earned a spot in the field. Betting Stewart horses to place is one of the most profitable Derby angles in decades.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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