2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders: California Chrome

Harry How

Our horse-by-horse looks at the contenders for the 2014 Kentucky Derby begins with the favorite: California Chrome.

California Chrome


Trainer: Art Sherman
Jockey: Victor Espinoza
Sire: Lucky Pulpit
Dam: Love the Chase (Not for Love)
Lifetime Record: 10-6-1-0
Lifetime Earnings: $1,134,850

Future Wager Odds: Pool 1 - 4/5 (Field); Pool 2 - 30/1; Pool 3 - 32/1; Pool 4 - 9/1

Notable Races: G1-Santa Anita Derby (1st); G2-San Felipe (1st); Cal Cup Derby (1st); King Glorious Stakes (1st); Golden State Juvenile (6th); Graduation Stakes (1st) ; G1-Del Mar Futurity (6th); Proctor Memorial (5th)

The Good

Where to begin?

Take a cursory glance at California Chrome's past performances and your eyes are instantly drawn to the four race win streak and the fact that none of his rivals have even remotely challenged him in the stretch. He's also beat up on some pretty decent colts in his Santa Anita Derby triumph in the form of Hoppertunity and Candy Boy.

If you like the Bris pace figures there's even more goodness to California Chrome: not only is California Chrome the only horse in this year's Derby field to run a pace line at the Derby par or better, he's done it in each of his last two races. Typically we see a colt that's run to par or better with the early pace figures but tail off on the late pace figure, or perhaps it's the opposite. But California Chrome gets the check mark next to each number in his last two efforts, both of which were blow out victories.

Long story short: California Chrome probably doesn't need to improve in order to win the Derby - if he duplicates his last two efforts it will take a special effort from one of his challengers to beat him.

The Bad

When a horse has won four races in a row, and all by a minimum of 5 ¼ lengths, it's hard to find something to label as "bad". But, of course, as gamblers we love to look for weaknesses in the favorite in the hopes of finding a big payout somewhere else in the field. So, off we go.

Perhaps the only "bad" if you like California Chrome (and don't already have him at those generous 30/1 odds from Pool 2 & 3 of the Derby Future Wager) is the likelihood of low odds at post time. This colt isn't going to get away at 4/1 or 5/1 on Derby Day. Hell, I'm wondering if he'll be above 5/2 or 2/1, as I can seriously see odds of 9/5 or 8/5 as the field loads into the gate. Is California Chrome playable at those odds in a 20-horse field? That all depends on what you think are fair odds.

Final Thoughts

California Chrome utilized a pace pressing running style in his last two victories but has also displayed a willingness to sit a few lengths back from the lead on occasion. Perhaps most importantly, California Chrome is rarely rank in the early stages and is simply content to let his high natural cruising speed keep him in touch with the early leaders. The Derby pace will be fast, as is almost always the case, but I don't think it will be a problem for California Chrome to sit four or five lengths back of the lead, if necessary. As long as Victor Espinoza can keep him clear of trouble, this colt should have an excellent shot at giving trainer Art Sherman his first Kentucky Derby winner.

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