04/30/2014 6:02PM

Kentucky Derby: California Chrome solid favorite from post 5

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Barbara D. Livingston
California Chrome should be able to gain good early position from post 5.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – California Chrome has won four straight races, and when he goes for five on Saturday in the 140th Kentucky Derby, he’ll be wearing number 5, the post he drew when a full field was entered on Wednesday at Churchill Downs.

Victor Espinoza, the rider of California Chrome, was satisfied with the post, believing it to be a good omen, since he scored his only Derby victory in 2002 on War Emblem, who was number 5 in that race.

California Chrome is favored on the lines of both Mike Battaglia of Churchill Downs and Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form’s national handicapper. Battaglia, who was making his 40th consecutive Derby line here, made California Chrome the 5-2 choice, while Watchmaker has him favored at 3-1.

Battaglia originally had Wicked Strong as his second choice, but when that colt drew the far outside, post 20, he switched, and made Hoppertunity, who drew post 11, the second choice. Hoppertunity is 6-1 on Battaglia’s line, with Wicked Strong 8-1.

Watchmaker has Wicked Strong as his second choice, at 8-1, with Hoppertunity the third choice at 10-1.

:: KENTUCKY DERBY: Posts, odds, and comments

Wicked Strong’s outside draw was the most significant of the major contenders, but several others had bad luck during the draw. Mike Maker, who trains three runners, saw two of them – Vicar’s in Trouble and Harry’s Holiday – land the two inside posts, in that order. Vicar’s in Trouble is a front-runner, so the start will be crucial for him if he hopes to avoid getting trapped behind runners in the early going.

Maker’s third runner, General a Rod, drew post 8.

Candy Boy landed post 18. His jockey, Gary Stevens, said he already had sized up the trip he envisions, vis-à-vis the horses he fears most, and was plotting strategy as each runner’s post was assigned.

“There’s four or five I have my eye on, and I’m outside all of them,” he said.

Tapiture got a post his connections desired. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, was hoping Tapiture would be towards the outside of the field, allowing him to get into the flow of the race instead of being hustled from down inside. He landed post 15, which is the first stall in the six-horse auxiliary gate.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

Medal Count drew post 14, the outside post in the main gate. Both posts 14 and 15 are considered good posts, because there is a space between the main gate and the auxiliary gate, affording a horse the opportunity to overcome a bit of a tardy start.

There were 21 horses entered in the Derby, but a maximum of 20 can run.

A points system, devised by Churchill Downs and in its second year, determines the field. In cases of ties, preference is given to the horse with the most earnings in non-restricted stakes races.

The lone horse who did not make the cut – Pablo Del Monte - was placed on an also-eligible list. He can only draw in if there is a defection by scratch time, which is Friday at 9 a.m.

The Derby will be shown live during a three-hour telecast on NBC beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern on Saturday. The day’s coverage begins at noon on NBCSN, and continues on NBCSN following the Derby with a post-race show from 7-7:30 p.m.

If the maximum field of 20 starts, the total purse of the Derby would be $2,202,800, with $1,442,800 going to the winner.