Nearly one year ago, a 2 year old colt named California Chrome made his career debut in a 4.5 furlong race for California bred maidens. Sent off at nearly 7-1 odds, California Chrome rallied nicely for second, beaten a length. It was not the type of race that one would typically find a Kentucky Derby runner, much less the Derby favorite. But after his fourth consecutive dominating win, there’s little doubt that California Chrome has emerged as the clear Kentucky Derby favorite for trainer Art Sherman.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Sound logic pointed towards California Chrome using the Santa Anita Derby as merely a prep race for the first Saturday in May, as he had already qualified on points and was making his 10th lifetime start, an entire career’s worth of races for most Derby horses. The “script” was for Candy Boy to win with a powerful late move, and prove that he was a legitimate Derby threat from off the pace.
But California Chrome defied logic once again.
It should be mentioned that Santa Anita Derby runner-up Hoppertunity ran very well to be second. He split horses and finished well with Mike Smith aboard. He has also shown the ability to ship and run well, as he was making his third start at three different racetracks. I like his chances to keep moving forward.
The maximum contest points available was 3,939, thanks to a 74-1 winner in Aqueduct’s Race 6 named This Hard Land. The 6 year old horse had stumbled and lost the rider in his last race, but showed a solid record of 10 in-the-money finishes from 16 races at a flat mile. He was an outsider but not impossible, and a few contest players will be rewarded for stabbing correctly. The other big point horse this week was the Wood winner Wicked Strong, who closed strongly down the middle of the track to overtake favored Social Inclusion and undefeated Samraat at odds of 9-1. Wicked Strong also earned his way into the Kentucky Derby field with this winning effort.
I expect the winning score this week to be between 2,100-2,200 points. It depends on how many people had the big longshot that was worth 1,178 points alone (capped at 600 win and 400 place). I finally broke 1,000 points for the first time in this contest, but certainly didn’t threaten 2,000 points. Congratulations if you had either This Hard Land or Wicked Strong this week!
Next week the contest is at Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby, with an additional bonus race at Keeneland, the Blue Grass Stakes. We will see Derby hopefuls Bayern, Tapiture, Bobby’s Kitten and others. Hope to see you here!