Were California Chrome to win Saturday's 2014 Kentucky Derby, he'd be the first favorite at under 3-1 odds since Big Brown won as a 2-1 favorite in 2008. When the post positions were drawn Tuesday, trainer Art Sherman should be encouraged that California Chrome drew the No. 5 position instead of being stuck either on the rail or on the outside.
Wicked Strong was not as lucky. He was stuck in the No. 20 position and his odds were docked accordingly, after he was initially set at 8-1 odds.
California Chrome is 6-1-0 in 10 career starts, but his four most recent races might be the most significant when considering Saturday's race. He won those four races by a combined 24 lengths, and those are his only four races to date with jockey Victor Espinoza, who will ride him Saturday at Churchill Downs.
His last race was the 1-1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, which he won in a romp over Hoppertunity, the Bob Baffert-trained third choice in the Run for the Roses. California Chrome's margin over Hoppertunity on April 5 was 5 1/4 lengths.
The Kentucky Derby will be California Chrome's first start outside California. The last California-bred horse to win the Run for the Roses was Decidedly, the 1962 champion.
Wicked Strong was dealt a blow with the No. 20 gate assignment; only once has a horse won the Derby that far outside, and it took a powerhouse in Big Brown to do it. Wicked Strong, trained by first-time Derby trainer Jimmy Jerkens, is owned by a Boston-based partnership that has pledged to donate any money won in this year's Triple Crown to a fund set up for Boston Marathon bombing victims, according to the Associated Press.
In his last race, Wicked Strong won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct over Samraat, starting in the No. 6 post next to California Chrome at 15-1. The loss in the Wood Memorial was Samraat's only loss in six career starts, making him 5-1-0. Samraat's most recent two wins were both in Grade 3 races over Uncle Sigh, a 30-1 entrant in the Derby who will run out of the No. 2 gate.
Another horse to keep an eye on is Ride On Curlin. Though Ride On Curlin is racing out of the 19th position at 15-1 odds, he has pedigree and Derby lore on his side. Ride On Curlin is a son of Curlin, the horse that finished third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby despite never racing as a two-year-old. Curlin later won the Preakness Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic in 2007, and he was named Horse of the Year in both 2007 and 2008.
Ride On Curlin's jockey is Calvin Borel, who was the first jockey ever to win three Runs for the Roses in four years when he did so in 2007, 2009 and 2010.