Dreams came true for the connections of California Chrome when the chestnut colt won the 140th running of the Grade 1 $2,202,800 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in impressive fashion over a fast-closing Commanding Curve. It was the first win for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman and owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin. Jockey Victor Espinoza picked up his second Kentucky Derby victory, having won in 2002 aboard War Emblem.
"I never felt in my dreams that I would win two Kentucky Derbies in my entire career," said Espinoza. "I was a young guy and I never knew I was going to be a jockey and look at me now. It is an awesome feeling."
A crowd of 164,906, the second largest since 165,307 gathered in 2012, cheered the colt on as he powered through the stretch taking victory by 1 3/4 lengths over local trainer Dallas Stewart's Commanding Curve. Todd Pletcher's Danza was another 1 1/4 lengths back with Samraat 2 3/4 lengths behind.
Sherman made history with the win, becoming the oldest trainer to ever win the hallowed race.
"Just awesome,"said Sherman. "I'm breathless. This is so cool. I think I rode the horse with Victor (Espinoza) 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!"
Sent off as the betting favorite at odds of 5-2, California Chrome bided his time behind the leaders, Uncle Sigh and Chitu, with Samraat and Intense Holiday falling in behind the winner. There was little change in the positions of the runners until California Chrome made his move around the final turn, emerging as the leader down the stretch. Danza moved up from mid-pack as Commanding Curve closed strongly from the back of the field. California Chrome held off the late charge of Commanding Curve and sealed victory by 1 3/4 lengths. Danza was another 1 1/4 lengths behind Commanding Curve in third and beat Wicked Strong by 2 3/4 lengths. Samraat lost the fourth position by a nostril to Wicked Strong.
This was the second year in a row that Louisville trainer Dallas Stewart finished second in the Kentucky Derby with a longshot. Commanding Curve left the gate at odds just under 38-1. Stewart's Golden Soul completed the exacta last year at odds of 34.5 - 1.
"I wish I was out there (in the infield winner's circle), but you know, hey, I thank God for everything, the way it is, and that's what keeps us going for next year," said Stewart. "Hopefully, we'll be back here next year."
The local connections of Ride On Curlin, owner Daniel J. Dougherty, trainer Bill Gowan, and rider Calvin Borel, finished seventh. As expected, Borel took the son of Curlin to the back of the field of 19 and settled him in on the rail. As he did in his 2007 and 2009 Kentucky Derby wins, Borel guided his horse through the field, but this time was caught in traffic and forced out 9-wide. Although the pair made up ground quickly, it was not enough to catch California Chrome.
"It was a little bit of a rough trip," said Borel. "They backed up into me around the turn and we had nowhere to go. He ran a good race, though."
Local trainer Dale Romans, who was confident Medal Count was going to fulfill his Kentucky Derby dreams, finished just behind Ride On Curlin.
"We got shut off pretty badly down the lane but, I don’t know, that’s the Derby", said Romans. "I think we could’ve moved up a couple positions but I don’t think it kept us from winning. I do want to say one thing on the record. I didn’t think that California Chrome had any chance going into this race and I was very, very wrong."
California Chrome returned $7.00, $5.60, and $4.20. Commanding Curve paid $31.80 and $15.40 and completed the $2 exacta for $340. Danza paid $6.00 and completed the $2 trifecta for $3,424.60. Samraat completed the $2 superfecta for $15,383.80. The final time for the 1 1/4 mile race over the fast dirt was 2:03.66.
Photo courtesy of Adam Creech