The hype for the handsome California Chrome is reaching a fever pitch, bordering on the preposterous, to go along with all the out-of-this-world hoopla & pageantry that is the hallmark of the Kentucky Derby.
The 140 th running of the Derby goes Saturday with a field of 20, 3 year olds, in the toughest test ever, of their young careers, going 1 1/4 miles before probably 160,000 fans. I’ve seen the favourite, California Chrome, run a number of times and while the horse is a rockstar, and I do like him a lot, after devastating, convincing wins in races like the Santa Anita Derby, I don’t see him winning this thing.
Yes he’s got affable owners and an 80-something old lifetime trainer with a heart of gold. He’s got a great team of hard-working likeable staff surrounding him. Legions of fans, including me, who adore him. Yes, I loved how he stalked the speed then took over in the Santa Anita Derby and won without being pressured.
But, the circumstances do not support his odds being 5/2 , while just about every other horse is rated higher than 10-1. most are 20-1 or higher. Silly! He is not the only triple digit beyer ( a “beyer” is a speed figure used to compare horses ) horse in it. And certainly not the only improving horse, and certainly not the only horse with tactical speed. There are several others there who will be either on or near the early lead.
‘Chrome is a skittish type, not acquainted with Churchill Downs and no one knows how he will handle the Churchill surface, known to be deeper than California’s relative hardpan. “Chrome has not been seriously tested with adversity like say Hoppertunity has. Since ‘Chrome arrived at Churchill, he’s not impressed clockers and other watchers. But another way of interpreting his behaviour and “choppy” stride first time around the oval is that he’s acclimating to the place. Just give him a chance, right?
But if you’re a shrewd bettor, keenly aware of what it takes to break even or turn a tidy profit play the horses, you have to be double cautious. There are those who think it just doesn’t make sense to go gung-ho on ‘Chrome. I do see him getting the lead at the top of the stretch, but baby, it’s a very long way from the stretch turn to the finish line. And I think it’ll be a thrilling stretch run, as it always is in the Derby.
Since 1996 hardly any favourites have won the Kentucky Derby, & I have the distinct impression this trend will continue on Saturday. California Chrome may well be this year’s cream of the crop, or turn out to be, and he may win this Derby, but at short odds it makes sense to at least rethink everything, and be extra careful.
We know there are several other horses who, if they win this race, would not surprise many pundits or observers. That alone should be cause for pause, folks. I already have 3 other horses I will be playing, probably betting each to win, place and show, and using all 3 as key horses in exacta and tri wheels.
‘Chrome might win, yes, but at this stage of the handicapping process, and seeing the tremendous value considering the odds on some of his rivals, it won’t be with my money. I think. I knew he’d win the Santa Anita Derby, but this just feels far different now.
But , it’s going to be awesome, regardless.