Todd Pletcher is going after the Kentucky Derby with numbers again.
The trainer who has won the America’s greatest race once could saddle four horses. Little-known Mike Maker could have three starters, while three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert has two contenders.
Art Sherman has just one. But it’s a really good one.
California Chrome is expected to be the favorite for the 140th Derby on Saturday. The colt brings a four-race winning streak into Churchill Downs, having won those by a combined 241/4 lengths.
“I’ve never had a horse that did that before,” said Sherman, who began training in 1980 after being a jockey for 21 years and later a racing official. “I just want my horse to have a fair shake at it and have good racing luck, and I’m sure hopeful for him. He’s a gutty little horse.”
Pletcher knows something about luck.
Four years ago, he ended a 0-for-24 skid when long shot Super Saver, one of four horses he entered, won under a rail-hugging ride by Calvin Borel. That was the year Pletcher had the favorite, Eskendereya, who was forced to drop out six days before the Derby with a leg injury. He also had the horse to beat in 2011, Uncle Mo, who was scratched with a stomach ailment on Derby eve.
This year, Pletcher’s quartet is made up of Arkansas Derby winner Danza, Risen Star winner Intense Holiday, Spiral Stakes winner We Miss Artie and Vinceremos, who finished 14th in the Blue Grass.
California Chrome will need some luck tangling with an expected full field of 20 horses for the 1 1/4-mile race at Churchill Downs. The final lineup won’t be known until Wednesday when post positions are assigned.