2014 Kentucky Derby Contenders

When it comes to Kentucky Derby betting, knowing the contenders and top picks by the experts is a great place to start coming up with your own betting strategy for the race. Knowing what horses others have picked to do well in 2014 makes it easier to come up with a personal list of 2014 Kentucky Derby contenders.

About Kentucky Derby Contenders

The Kentucky Derby will bring together the best three year old race horses in the world on the first Saturday in May, 2014.  The Kentucky Derby prep schedule has been completed and now the field will take shape quickly over the next couple of weeks.  It's now a function of which horses have enough points to qualify for the Derby and whether or not their connections want to point to that race or chart another course.  These horses are the top ranked contenders that appear likely to make the Kentucky Derby start.  Odds are from the Wynn Las Vegas updated 4/14/14.

The Current Top Contenders for Kentucky Derby 2014

The Wynn Las Vegas Kentucky Derby futures market still lists 65 three year old contenders, down from over 150 in mid March.  The Kentucky Derby prep trail has eliminated many three year olds and realistically only half of the horses on the Wynn board have a realistic shot at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, let alone winning.  Below are the current futures book favorites:

--California Chrome (7/2):  California Chrome shot up the Derby prospect charts with a resounding victory in the San Felipe and has become 'the horse to beat'  in the Kentucky Derby following his impressive showing in the Santa Anita Derby.  He turned in a time that has been beaten only three times in history (Lucky Debonair in 1965, Sham in 1973 and Indian Charlie in 1998).  Now just about everyone is convinced including Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia who says that California Chrome is all but certainly going to be the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.  In the latest Wynn Las Vegas future book odds he's down to 4/1—the only horse priced at single digit odds.

--Wicked Strong (9/1):  Wicked Strong hadn't attracted much interest as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender until his upset win in the Wood Memorial.  Wicked Strong won the race by 3 ½ lengths over a couple of higher profile three year olds, Samraat and race favorite Social Inclusion.  The winner of the Wood Memorial has historically performed well in the Kentucky Derby and that trend alone is likely responsible for Wicked Strong's support.

--Cairo Prince (10/1):  Trained by Kieran McLaughlan, Cairo Prince's victory in the Holy Bull Stakes was the most impressive Derby Prep showing before California Chrome's win in the Santa Anita Derby.  He was considered a possible Kentucky Derby favorite before a disappointing 4th place finish in the Florida Derby caused his stock to drop precipitously.

--Vicar's In Trouble (14/1):  An afterthought for much of the Derby prep season, Vicar's In Trouble shot up the contender rankings for the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Louisiana Derby.  Before that he had a win in his 3 year old debut, the G3 Lecomte and followed that up with a third place finish in the G2 Risen Star.  A small horse with a lot of heart is how his connections describe him.

--Hopportunity (14/1):  Hopportunity has been solid, though not spectacular, in his 3 year old races which include three stakes races.  He took two tries to break his maiden but he's shown steady improvement since then winning the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and finishing second behind California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.

--Danza (15/1):  This Todd Pletcher trained horse was the upset winner of the Arkansas Derby, shocking the field at 41/1.  Didn't have a spectacular resume heading in to the race but it wasn't that bad and he clearly got lost in the mix in a field full of higher profile horses.  Could be peaking at the right time.

--Samraat (16/1):  Undefeated in five career starts before a second place finish in the Wood Memorial.  Samraat is trained by Richard Violette, Jr.   Front running speed in a field with better front running speed doesn't bode particularly well.  Could be better at shorter distances.

--Tapiture (20/1):  Tapiture finished second in the Rebel Stakes but turned in an impressive showing in defeat.  Based on that performance he's become a trendy selection among horse racing experts.  Were it not for a bad route in the Rebel he could have won the race.  Will race again Saturday in the Arkansas Derby.

--Candy Boy (20/1):  Candy Boy was considered something of a 'project'  horse heading into the Santa Anita Derby and may have improved his standing as a Kentucky Derby contender despite finishing third.  He's definitely a fast horse and the decent showing at Santa Anita bodes well for his ability to step up in class.  Of course the big question—he didn't have anything for California Chrome at Santa Anita so what suggests that he will on the unfamiliar surface at Churchill Downs against a very strong field? 

--Intense Holiday (20/1):  Finished second behind Vicar's In Trouble in the Louisiana Derby, won the Grade 2 Risen Star before that.  Trained by Todd Pletcher the jury is still out at Intense Holiday's ability to compete against a higher quality field.  On the other hand, he's improved every time out and finished in the money in each of his three year old races. 

--Ride On Curlin (22/1):  Finished third in the Rebel Stakes and second in the Arkansas Derby.  Trainer Billy Gowan suggests that this horse hasn't peaked yet and just needs to get the right jockey to give him a perfect ride.  Enter Calvin Borel who has three Kentucky Derby victories and is arguably the best in the business on the Churchill Downs track.

--Wildcat Red (25/1):  Another enigmatic horse that could be looking for the right combination of rider, track and trip.  Never finished lower than second in his racing career and is coming off a second place run behind Constitution in the Florida Derby.   Won the Hutcheson and the Fountain of Youth earlier this year.  Trainer Jose Garofallo insists that the competition at Gulfstream Park is underrated and will be evident in his horse's Kentucky Derby performance.  Rafael Bejarano will ride Wildcat Red in the Derby—his fifth different jockey in five three year old races.

--We Miss Artie (35/1):  Won the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in late March and that gave him enough points to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.  If you buy in to the notion that a serious Kentucky Derby contender needs a fair amount of work as a two year old We Miss Artie Could be your horse—he's got 8 career starts. Trained by Todd Pletcher some handicappers suggest that We Miss Artie's off the pace style could be effective in a field full of front runners. 

--General A Rod (35/1):  This Michael J. Maker trained colt is a very divisive topic among horse racing fans.  Some think that he's a solid contender that has performed well in the mix with a number of top three year olds at Gulfstream Park in his three year old campaign.  Won the Gulfstream Park Derby, finished second in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Florida Derby.  His detractors suggest that the racing talent at Gulfstream Park is a cut below other tracks making General A Rod an average horse at best.  Objectively speaking, he doesn't look as good as Constitution or Wildcat Red.

--Chithu (50/1):  13th in qualification points for the Kentucky Derby but owner Susan Chu says a final decision on Chithu's participation in the race is up to trainer Bob Baffert.  Baffert hasn't made a final decision (or if he has he hasn't let anyone know) but based on his comments Chithu is 'probable' for a Kentucky Derby run.  Finished first or second in four career starts with a win the last time out in the Grade 3 Sunland Derby in New Mexico.  In many ways Chithu is a mystery—a lot of upsides in terms of speed, performance, pedigree and connections but not much racing experience.

A Big Crop of Three Year Olds

With the start of the 2014 racing season there will be somewhere between 350 and 400 three year olds that will 'declare' for the Kentucky Derby.  The nomination process is largely symbolic, with owners putting up $600 to gain eligibility for the three Triple Crown races.  With a maximum of 20 horses accepted into the Kentucky Derby field there will be a significant process of elimination among this group of three year olds.  This is done via a formal qualification procedure involving the major Derby 'prep races' in the early part of the 2014 racing season.

As you can see, the contenders for the 2014 Kentucky Derby are just starting to get listed around the Internet. Keeping up to date on the latest contenders as the 2014 race nears is important for those who are really serious about Kentucky Derby betting odds.