A full field of 20 horses will break from the gate Saturday in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby. Whether betting or just watching, here’s what you need to know:
WHAT’S THE BIG STORY LINE THIS YEAR?
Race favorite California Chrome is trained by Art Sherman, 77. Sherman, who is about to be a great-grandfather, has never trained a Kentucky Derby horse before, but was aboard one. In 1955, at age 18, Sherman was the exercise rider for the Swaps, who won the Derby that year. He even slept in the same boxcar with Swaps from California to Kentucky. Now Sherman’s back, nearly 60 years later.
Adding to California Chrome’s appeal are his modest bloodlines and blue collar owners who turned down lucrative offers to sell the colt and kept him under Sherman’s watch.
SO WILL CALIFORNIA CHROME WIN?
Why he will: He’s the best horse on paper, with his last four victories by a combined 24 lengths. He already beat several in this field.
Why he won’t: The best horse doesn’t always win the Derby. A fast early pace could compromise his chances. No California-bred has won the Derby since 1962. And his pedigree doesn’t scream the Derby’s demanding distance (1¼ miles).
WHAT ABOUT THE HIGH-PROFILE TRAINERS THIS YEAR?
They’re well-represented. Todd Pletcher, who has saddled 36 Derby starters and won once (Super Saver, 2010), has four in the field: Intense Holiday, Danza, Vinceremos, and We Miss Artie. Bob Baffert, who has won the Roses three times, has one entrant in Chitu, after his other horse, Hoppertunity, was scratched on Thursday due to injury.
WHO WILL BE THE SECOND BETTING CHOICE?
Probably Wicked Strong, who won the Wood Memorial in New York and has the best breeding in the field to handle the Derby distance. But his previous two races before the Wood at Gulfstream Park at Florida were disappointments: a well-beaten ninth and non-threatening fourth.
WHO ARE THE MOST INTERESTING LONG SHOTS?
Candy Boy (15-1) hasn’t done a lot wrong and was third behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby. If the favorite doesn’t fire Saturday, Candy Boy (right) could be in the mix. Medal Count (20-1) is a late developing colt coming off a second-place finish and a win. But this is his third race in less than a month.
ANY FLORIDA-BREDS IN THE RACE?
Two. Dance with Fate (top left) won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland last month, and Wildcat Red (bottom left) was second in the Florida Derby. Both were bred in Ocala and purchased at an Ocala breeding sale. Dance with Fate cost $120,000; Wildcat Red was bought for $30,000.
WHAT ARE THE BEST NAMES THIS YEAR?
Long shot Uncle Sigh (owned in part by Fort Myers resident Chip McEwen) is named after the Duck Dynasty TV personality “Uncle” Si Robertson. Arkansas Derby winner Danza is named after actor Tony Danza, who starred in the sitcom “Who’s the Boss?” from 1984-92. Danza’s sire, the stallion Street Boss, provided the inspiration. Wicked Strong is named for the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings.
THE DERBY IS FOR 3-YEAR-OLD COLTS. WHAT ABOUT THE FILLIES?
The Kentucky Oaks, for 3-year-old fillies, is Friday at Churchill Downs. Untapable is the favorite in the 13-horse field. While the $2 million Derby gets far more fanfare, the $1 million Oaks annually draws a Friday crowd of more than 100,000 to Churchill Downs.
Chet Fussman The Times-Union