California Chrome Leads Kentucky Derby Morning Line

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8:10 am EDT

California Chrome, winner of four consecutive races by a combined 24 1/4 lengths, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. As is the norm now, there is a full gate of 20 entries.

Those entries include four grade I winners, including the Cal-bred favorite. Only two Calfornia-breds have won the Kentucky Derby.

California Chrome, trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, solidified his status as the favorite for Derby 140 with a 5 1/4-length victory in the Santa Anita Derby and a 7 1/4-length romp in the San Felipe Stakes. He will be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Sherman, who was with Derby winner Swaps as an exercise rider in 1955.

Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard the obscurely-bred colt in his past four starts, has the mount Saturday. Espinoza won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War Emblem from post 5, the same one drawn by California Chrome.

The 6-1 second choice is Hoppertunity, one of two colts trained by Bob Baffert.

Runner-up to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby in his most recent start, Hoppertunity won the Rebel Stakes and will be ridden by Mike Smith, exiting post 11. Smith is also seeking a second Derby victory to go with his triumph aboard Giacomo in 2005.

Baffert, a three-time Derby winner with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), also is sending out Chitu. Winner of the Sunland Derby and three of four starts overall, Chitu will break from post 13 under Martin Garcia.

Third choice on the morning line at 8-1 is Wicked Strong, trained by Jimmy Jerkens. He drew the far outside post 20.

Winner of the Wood Memorial in his most recent start, Wicked Strong will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh.

Danza, the 4 3/4-length winner of the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start, is the fourth choice at 10-1. Joe Bravo will be aboard and break from post 4.

Danza is one of four runners in the gate for trainer Todd Pletcher, who saddled Super Saver to win the 2010 Kentucky Derby.

Pletcher also will send out Intense Holiday, We Miss Artie and Vinceremos.

In addition to Espinoza and Smith, four other riders will be trying to build on their Kentucky Derby win totals, including Joel Rosario, who won last year’s renewal on Orb.

Rosario has the call on General a Rod, one of three horses trained by Mike Maker. General a Rod, 15-1 on the line, will break from post 8.

Maker also trains Vicar’s in Trouble and Harry’s Holiday.

Rosie Napravnik, who rode Vicar’s in Trouble to victories in the Louisiana Derby and LeComte Stakes, is seeking to become the first female rider to win the Kentucky Derby. Vicar’s in Trouble drew the dreaded post 1.

Calvin Borel, who will ride Ride On Curlin, is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner. Borel won on Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010). Ride On Curlin will break from post 19.

Gary Stevens, who will ride Candy Boy, also is a three-time winner with triumphs on Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Silver Charm (1997). Candy Boy will exit post 18.

John Velazquez, who won the 2011 Derby on Animal Kingdom, has the mount on Intense Holiday and will break from post 16.

The purse for the Kentucky Derby will be $2,202,800 with $1,442,800 going to the winner. The Kentucky Derby will be carried by NBC Sports with a three-hour telecast from 4-7:00 ET.

The Kentucky Derby will go as the 11th race on Saturday’s 13-race program with a 6:32 p.m. post time. First post time Saturday is 10:30 a.m.

As of Thursday morning, the weather forecast for Saturday calls for temperatures in the low 70s and no chance of rain.

Edited release with additional content by Dick Downey