Can the betting favorite win the Kentucky Derby for the third year in a row? That is a question horseplayers will be asking when a field of 20 go into the starting gate on the first Saturday of May.
The Kentucky Derby is one of most challenging races to handicap, with mostly inexperienced runners going a distance of ground they have never traveled, and the large field often leading to traffic troubles.
In 2014 California Chrome got a perfect trip under jockey Victor Espinoza, tracking the early pacesetters, got to the front with a quarter mile to go, shaking clear and holding off runner up Commanding Curve by 1 ¾ lengths, returning his backers $7.00 for a $2 wager.
Orb was the betting favorite in 2013, sent off at a lukewarm 5-1 choice of the public, and the strapping Shug McGaughey trainee overcame an awkward start and being in 17th place after three-quarters of a mile to rally for the victory, paying $12.80 for the win.
The previous betting favorite to win the Kentucky Derby was Big Brown in 2008, the then undefeated colt returning $6.80.
However, between Big Brown and Orb, the toteboard lit up each year, the winners paying $103.20, $18.00, $43.80 and $32.60.
Toss in longshots like Giacomo ($102.60) in 2005, Funny Cide ($27.80) in 2003 and War Emblem ($43.00) in 2002, and you can see why the Derby is such a great betting race.
It is important to watch the Road to the Derby points races, preps that can give a horseplayer clues on who will be ready to fire on the big day.
California Chrome came through California last year, winning the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) as preps for winning the Run for the Roses.
Orb went through Florida, winning the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Florida Derby (G1) as his tune-ups. I’ll Have Another won the San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby on his way to Derby glory in 2012.
In 2011, Animal Kingdom used an unconventional prep, winning the Spiral Stakes (G3) on polytrack as his final prep.
The last Kentucky Derby winner to come into the race off a loss was Super Saver in 2010. The Todd Pletcher trainee ran third in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and second in the Arkansas Derby (G1). The colt paid $18.00 on Derby Day.
So all of the recent Derby winners came into the race in sharp form, most of them off victories. Another thing they all have is common is a foundation as a juvenile. No horse has been able to win the Derby without racing as a two-year-old since Apollo in 1882.
The top contenders for this year’s Run for the Roses do fit the bill. American Pharoah, the early betting favorite for the race at [custom:bovada-link], started three times as a juvenile including winning a pair of Grade 1 races. He will be making his third start of the year on the first Saturday of May.
His stablemate Dortmund made three starts as a juvenile, winning all three including a Grade 1, and will have three starts under his belt in preparation for the Derby.
Carpe Diem, who is taking early betting action at [custom:bovada-link] for the Derby, got a late start, not making his three-year-old debut until winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March, 7, but had three races last year including winning the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and running second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).
Stay with OddsShark and our sister site Turf ‘n’ Sport for analysis of all the top contenders leading up to the first Saturday of May.
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Odds Shark Staff Fri, Jun 10, 8:35amHorse Racing