California Chrome favored for Kentucky Derby

Thu May 1, 2014 6:58pm EDT
 
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(Reuters) - The 140th Kentucky Derby takes place at Churchill Downs on Saturday and the early favorite has American race fans giddy with excitement.

California Chrome has been installed as the short-priced favorite to win the annual Run for the Roses after demolishing his opposition back in the Golden State.

The three-year-old has romped to victory in each of his past four starts, including the Santa Anita Derby, by a combined margin of more than 24 lengths.

His performances have raised hope this year's race will produce another champion to emulate the likes of Secretariat and Seattle Slew by winning the Triple Crown.

California Chrome's jockey, Victor Espinoza, has already won the Derby before, with War Emblem in 2002, while his 77-year-old conditioner Art Sherman is bidding to become the oldest winning trainer.

"He's feeling good and he's doing good," a confident Sherman said, "He's coming up to this race right."

It has been 36 years since Affirmed, in 1978, became the last horse to complete the Triple Crown so the odds are still heavily stacked against California Chrome.

But bookmakers have been impressed by what they have seen so far from the chestnut, initially listing him at odds of 5-2 after he drew perfectly in barrier five for the 20-horse race.

But he could start even shorter on race day after the second favorite, Hoppertunity, was scratched on Thursday because he had a sore foot and replaced by the first alternate, Pablo Del Monte.   Continued...

 
Apr 29, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; Kentucky Derby hopeful California Chrome steals a hat from assistant trainer Alan Sherman following a morning workout out at Churchill Downs. Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports