California Chrome Draws Post 5 in Derby
California Chrome, the morning line favorite for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) drew post 5 for the 1 1/4-mile classic. The California-bred colt will be ridden by Victor Espinoza and face 19 fellow 3-year-olds in the $2 million Run for the Roses.
Art Sherman trains California Chrome for breeder/owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin. The son of Lucky Pulpit —Love the Chase, by Not For Love , has won all three of his starts at 3 by a combined 18 lengths. He was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite.
Sherman, at 77, would become the oldest trainer to win the Derby, surpassing the legendary Charlie Whittingham who won his second Derby with Sunday Silence in 1989 at age 76.
California Chrome has won six of 10 starts, all in Southern California, and has earned $1,134,850. He will be attempting to become the first Cal-bred winner of the Derby since Decidedly in 1962. Sherman was an exercise rider for the Mesh Tenney-trained Swaps when that colt won the Derby in 1955. Morvich (1922) is the only other Cal-bred among the 139 winners of the Derby.
"I like that he has some speed horses to his inside," Sherman said. "That way he can just sort of sit in there and then float into that first turn.
Espinoza won the 2002 Kentucky Derby aboard War Emblem after breaking from post 5.
"I think it's great. No. 5 seems like a lucky number for me," Espinoza said. "I was just hoping that we didn't get the one or the two. There's nothing wrong with the one or the two, I just think it's a little safer to be out some.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Vicar's in Trouble drew post 1 with the very first pill pulled in the draw, eliminating any drama from who would land in the what is regarded as the most troublesome spot in the huge field. The Louisiana-bred son of Into Mischief won the March 29 Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
"I was kind of shocked, being the first one drawn," jockey Rosie Napravnik told Donna Brothers of NBC Sports. "But he's sharp to get out of the gate, so I think we'll get good position. He's versatile. Don't worry, Vicar's not in trouble, yet."
"We didn't have much choice but at least I don't have too far to walk to saddle the horses," Maker said with a laugh of two of horses in posts 1 and 2. "Maybe our riders will be friendly and give each other some space.
"Hopefully we get a good break out of Vicar's in Trouble like we usually do and get a good position," he said. "His running style should help. He's good out of the gate. All the closers are to the outside, so hopefully everybody breaks clean and we'll be in good shape."
Maker said he couldn't be happier with General a Rod's post.
General a Rod comes out of Florida where he topped Wildcat Red (post 10) by a head in the Jan. 1 Gulfstream Park Derby, then dropped a head decision to him in the Besilu Stables' Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). General a Rod was most recently third behind Constitution and Wildcat Red in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).
"The good thing is that we have two of the tough horses inside of us," trainer Jose Garoffalo said of Wildcat Red's post. "We have General a Rod inside of us and California Chrome inside of us. That's a good thing."
TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Wicked Strong drew the far outside 20 post. The draw made oddsmaker Mike Battaglia move him from second choice to the third pick on the morning line at 8-1.
Wicked Strong (Hard Spun —Moyne Abbey, by Charismatic) is owned by Centennial Farms. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, the bay colt will be ridden by Ravij Maragh. He won the Wood by 3 1/2 lengths over Samraat, who drew post 6.
"It's better than the '1' but not a whole lot," Jerkens said. "He's just going to have to work his way down a little bit. No horse runs good when they get fanned out wide, especially him. He seems to get competitive when he's close to the fence early on. In Florida, he was wide on both turns (in the Holy Bull) and he kind of spit out the bit down the backside.
Since 1900, posts 1 and 5 have been the most productive with 12 winners, but no one has won from the rail since Ferdinand in 1986. Posts 4, 8, and 10 have produced 10 winners each. Big Brown won from post 20 in 2008; I'll Have Another won the Roses in 2012 from post 19.
The second choice on the morning line at 6-1 is Hoppertunity, who ran second behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Bob Baffert trains the son of Any Given Saturday—Refugee, by Unaccounted For, for Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. Winner of the Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park before the Santa Anita Derby, Hoppertunity was fourth in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in his stakes debut.
Hoppertunity drew in the middle of the field in post 11. Baffert's other runner, Sunland Derby (gr. III) winner Chitu, drew post 13.
"There's no problem with either one," said Baffert after the draw. "My wife, Jill, called it with Hoppertunity. She said this morning 'You're going to get the 11.' I'm happy with anything except the 1."
The fourth choice is 10-1 chance Danza, winner of the Arkansas Derby (gr. I). The Todd Pletcher-trained colt will break just inside of California Chrome in post 4 under Joe Bravo. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, the son of Street Boss —Champagne Royale, by French Deputy, won at Oaklawn while making just his fourth career start.
"Good spot for him," Pletcher said of Danza. "He won the Arkansas Derby out of the number 1 hole. He's fine with being on the inside."
"To me, on paper, it looks like you get to the first turn and try to establish a position, and it seems that's where a lot of the traffic problems occur," Pletcher added. "There could be four or five horses looking for a similar spot going into the first turn. Hopefully, the race spreads out a bit."
Starlight Racing's Intense Holiday may only have a 2-1-1 mark from eight starts but has run in six graded races. This year he was third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park, won the Risen Star, then was second in the Louisiana Derby. He is by Harlan's Holiday out of the Unbridled's Song mare Intensity.
We Miss Artie is one of two for the Ramseys. He comes to the Derby off a victory in the March 22 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes (gr. III) on Polytrack at Turfway Park.
"It (post 1 with Vicar's in Trouble) could be the coveted post position if we get a good break and don't get pinched off," said Ramsey. "We're optimistic Rose (Napravnik) will give him a good trip.
The draw, which took place between 5-6 p.m. EDT, was held in the Secretariat Room at Churchill Downs and shown live on the NBC Sports Network. Twenty-one horses passed the entry box earlier in the day with Pablo Del Monte on the also-eligible list. The draw was conducted by Churchill Downs' racing secretary Ben Huffman and assistant racing secretary Dan Bork.
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