The Kentucky Derby is a major, must-see event, even for non-regular horse racing fans, which I suspect many of you might be… Last year we hit a nice winner in our Derby column, and while overconfidence is the enemy of many a wagerer, we will try to replicate the success and see if we can wear the roses once again in 2014.
The 140th Kentucky Derby Preview:
California Chrome: 5/2
It’s being hailed by some as a wide-open field, but that hasn’t prevented a prohibitive favorite from emerging. California Chrome is at 5/2 right now, which makes him a strong candidate to be the first horse to go off at the Derby as a better than 3/1 favorite since Big Brown. He is the favorite for good reason; he enters on a four-race winning streak and none of them have been even CLOSE. His closest win was by 5 ½ lengths at the Cal Cup Derby.
He is also the only horse in the field to run at a Derby pace in his last two races without tailing off. What that means is he is well-equipped to handle the mile and a quarter track today at Churchill Downs. Some are speculating that this horse could drop to 2/1 by post time…and STILL not be a bad bet. He’s the most imposing favorite in a long time for a reason. I’m not sure I want to “outguess” the experts today…
Aside from some great “Who’s the Boss now!” taunts if you back this horse and win, there’s some things to like about this horse today. Danza won the Arkansas Derby as a 44/1 longshot, and has taken an odd path to the Derby. He didn’t race the entire second half of last year before reemerging this March. It’s a fun horse name, and he’s run a good race, but I don’t see much value in backing a horse with really ONE great race under its saddle.
Wicked Strong: 8/1
I like this horse as a slight sleeper. It ran well winning the Wood Memorial and is jockeyed by a racer with a great pedigree. Rajiv Maragh’s father nearly won the 2007 Derby (just edged out by Street Sense) and his grandfather won the 1999 Derby coming from a similar outside position. With Hopportunity scratched from the lineup, a dangerous Bob Baffert-bred horse, I like Wicked Strong as the best opportunity to surprise California Chrome.
Medal Count: 17/1
He’s only 1/3 on dirt, which isn’t great. Its also his third start in the last month. This horse has some speed and a decent draw, but I’m a little more concerned about the first two factors than some others who have tabbed this horse as a good sleeper value.
General A Rod: 27/1
I really like this sleeper. This horse hasn’t been dominant, but always seems to finish in the money, a perfect five for five in returning some money at the window. He is mounted by 2013 Derby Winner, Joel Rosario (Orb). He is a sleeper for a reason; he hasn’t displayed front-running Derby speed. But between this horse and jockey, they seem to find a way to at least show in every race. That makes them a nice value today.
My 2014 Derby Picks:
It may be vanilla, but I’m taking the favorite, California Chrome to WIN. To place, I’ll go with Wicked Strong and General a Rod to sneak in to show and make us a little money.
WIN: California Chrome
PLACE: Wicked Strong
SHOW: General a Rod