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Kentucky Derby Contenders
Jockey Victor Espinoza and California Chrome parade for the fans after winning the Kentucky Derby
The 140th running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Yum! Brands was contested on a perfect Saturday afternoon at historic Churchill Downs in Louisville, with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's for the 164,906 paying spectators in attendance, the second largest in history, with a dry, fast main track.
After Hoppertunity scratched on Thursday and also-eligible Pablo Del Monte on Friday, just 19 went to post in this 1 1/4 mile classic beneath the famous Twin Spires. California Chrome, winner of his last 4 starts including the San Felipe (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1) for trainer Art Sherman, was sent off as the 5-2 favorite. In to challenge him included 6-1 second choice Wicked Strong, winner of the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct for trainer James Jerkens, and 8-1 third choice Danza, winner of the Arkansas Derby (G1) and one of four entered by trainer Todd Pletcher. 9-1 fourth choice Candy Boy, third in the Santa Anita Derby after winning the Robert B. Lewis (G2) for trainer John Sadler, was the only other horse sent off at single digit odds.
California Chrome leads down the stretch while chased by Danza (left).
California Chrome wins the Kentucky Derby
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 5 California Chrome Espinoza 7.00 5.60 4.20 17 Commanding Curve Bridgmohan 31.80 15.40 4 Danza Bravo 6.00 Winning Time: 2:03.66 $2 Exacta 5-17 340.00 $2 Trifecta 5-17-4 3,424.60 $2 Superfecta 5-17-4-4 15,383.80 $1 Super Hi-5 5-15-4-20-6 149,764.70 $2 Oaks/Derby Double 13-5 11.40
Left: California Chrome heads into the Kentucky Derby winner's circle as only the fourth California-bred Derby winner since Decidedly in 1962. Winning co-owner and breeder Steve Coburn, also celebrating his 61st birthday, said, "This is probably the best (birthday gift) so far. This horse just loves to run. To see this horse win the Kentucky Derby, I have no words right now, except we've got another California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. To see all this happen, to see this dream come true, put up so much your savings, your retirement and see him win the Kentucky Derby, I have no words."
Right: California Chrome heads back to the barn with his new winner's blanket. Trainer Art Sherman, now the oldest Derby winning trainer at age 77, said, "Just awesome. I'm breathless. This is so cool. I think I rode the horse with Victor the last 70 yards. It was a picture-perfect ride. He was right where he should have been all the way around. Coming down the stretch I was thinking: 'Keep rollin' big boy! Keep rollin'!' This has to be the sweetest moment of my life. To be my age and have something like this happen, what can you say? For all my friends in California, this is for you. We did it!"
Left: California Chrome and Victor Espinoza on the turf course approaching the winner's circle. Espinoza said, "At the 3/8 pole I thought it was over. The others seemed to be struggling just a little bit. When we hit the head of the lane and I asked him, he put his head down and went on."
Right: California Chrome heads back to the barn. Trainer Art Sherman, who was last here as the exercise rider for California-bred winner Swaps in 1955, and was also a jockey before switching to training, said, "It's a different ball game now. He was coming back in a month from the Santa Anita Derby. The Triple Crown is the toughest series of races. Two weeks to the Preakness, 1 1/2 miles in the Belmont. I wanted him to be fresh. This horse ran his eyeballs out. When he spurted clear I said, 'OK, let me take over for the last 70 yards.'" Sherman had visited Swaps' grave, which is located at the Kentucky Derby Museum and said a prayer. It came true. I was hoping he was another Swaps.
Left: The trophy presentation. Coburn and Martin were offered $6 million for a 51% share in the horse, but declined. Coburn said, We knew in our souls what kind of horse we had. This has been an incredible, incredible journey. Coburn said that before the colt was born, he dreamed it would be a chestnut with four white feet and a big blaze, and that he would win the Derby.
Right: Victor Espinoza celebrates after the race. He said, "Awesome. I never dreamed I'd win a second Kentucky Derby, but here it is. This was a typical race for him. He ran like he always does. Art just said: 'You know him, ride him.' I had the trip I wanted. I don't mess with him too much. I just stretch his legs and little bit and then let him do his thing. Pressure will be back on for the Preakness, but that's OK."
Soon after the start of the 140th Kentucky Derby. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard pacesetter Uncle Sigh (yellow and purple silks at right) said, "He got to the lead and was going good, but he got tired." Trainer Gary Contessa added, "He got the lead and the pace wasn't fast. But he just got beat."
Left: Second place finisher Commanding Curve in the post parade. Trainer Dallas Stewart said, "I would never get frustrated over (training the runner-up 2 years in a row). There's a lot of things to be frustrated about. Getting beat in a horse race isn't one of them. He's a big, strong horse. You can see he handled the paddock real good. He handles a lot of things good. So, I doubt the race would knock him out. I was just hoping California Chrome would kind of give in a little bit, but he didn't." Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan added, "All I had to do was just ride him hard and he gave me everything. I was starting to get him geared up when he turned for home and I had half the field beat at that point. I just was looking somewhere for him to go. Once I got him down the lane, he lengthened his stride and really dug in for me."
Right: Third place finisher Danza being unsaddled after the race. Jockey Joe Bravo said, "Really nice the first turn, I had everything good, but turning for home I had to wheel out and go around horses, but he kept kicking, Todd knows how to get them to the big game." Trainer Todd Pletcher added, "I thought he ran well. Coming by the wire first time, he got bumped by Vinceremos. But he got back in position and started to respond. Joe had to move him a little earlier than he wanted to. Considering that this was only the fifth race of his life, you've got to say it was a very good effort."
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