[May 01, 2014](Reuters) — California Chrome was
installed as the early short-priced favorite for Saturday's 140th
Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs after getting a perfect starting gate
at Wednesday's post position draw.
Oddsmakers immediately installed the three-year-old colt as the
5-2 choice for the $2 million classic when he drew barrier five in
the 20-horse field.
Trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, California Chrome was already
looming as the likely top pick after romping to victory in each of
his three races this year.
And jockey Victor Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby on War
Emblem, said the post position was a good omen for his chances of
winning a second "Run for the Roses" on Saturday.
"The last time I won the Kentucky Derby I was number five so
hopefully that's my lucky number," he said.
"He's just an amazing horse to ride. I just let him do his own thing
and I think he likes that.
"I really don't go against him during the race and I think that's
why he's running so great."
Hoppertunity, which finished runner-up to California Chrome at the
Santa Anita Derby on April 5, was installed as the second choice on
the betting markets at odds of 6-1.
The colt drew nicely in post 11 and jockey Mike Smith, who won the
2005 Kentucky Derby on long-shot Giacomo, said he had improved a lot
since his last run.
"California Chrome was tough that day but we secured second," Smith
said. "He galloped out really well, he's doing great and he seems to
love the track, so it's all systems go."
Wicked Strong had been lurking as the likely second favorite on the
strength of his impressive win in the Wood Memorial in New York but
he drifted to the line of betting at odds of 8-1 after drawing gate
If there was any consolation for his connections it may be that he
managed to avoid the dreaded number one position, which hasn't
produced the race winner in over a quarter of a century.
Because of the unusual position of the starting gates for the 1-1/4
mile (2000 meters) journey, horses drawn in the inside are
invariably cut off as they approach the rails and shuffled back
through the pack.