LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The only time Victor Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby was aboard War Emblem in 2002. They broke from the No. 5 post, the same position he’ll start the 140th edition of the race with early 5-2 favorite California Chrome.
“Hopefully, that’s my lucky number,” Espinoza said Wednesday.
Eight horses have won from there, most recently Funny Cide in 2003.
“I think it’s a perfect spot,” trainer Art Sherman said. “I think we break clean, he’ll get out of a lot of trouble. He’s got a little gas leaving there.”
At 77, Sherman could become the oldest trainer to win the Derby, surpassing Charlie Whittingham’s record of 76 when Sunday Silence won in 1989.
California Chrome comes into the Derby having won his last four starts by a combined 241/4 lengths.
“Just an amazing horse to ride,” Espinoza said. “I let him do his own thing and I think he likes that.”
Hoppertunity was made the 6-1 second choice in the full field of 20 horses.
Hoppertunity, who lost to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, drew the No. 11 post for the race Saturday at Churchill Downs. He’s trained by Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner with two starters.
“Other than California Chrome, who’s proven he’s a really good horse, there’s a lot of horses in there that are pretty close,” Baffert said. “There’s a lot of parity in this field.”
His other horse, Chitu, is a 20-1 long shot that drew the No. 13 post.
Wicked Strong, named for the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, is the 8-1 third choice and will break from the 20th post on the far outside. He and the No. 10 horse, Wildcat Red, will be last ones loaded into the starting gate, so they won’t be in there long.
Some trainers don’t like the No. 20 post because their horse is on the far outside and has to quickly make its way over toward the rail to save ground.
California Chrome, Hoppertunity and Wicked Strong were the only horses listed at single digits by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
Danza is the 10-1 fourth choice and drew the No. 4 post. He’s one of four horses trained by Todd Pletcher. The others are: Intense Holiday, 12-1; Vinceremos, 30-1; and We Miss Artie, 50-1.
“We made out well,” Pletcher said. “It doesn’t matter where you draw. You’re just looking for a clean trip.”
Mike Maker will saddle a trio of horses: General a Rod, 15-1; Harry’s Holiday, 50-1; and Vicar’s In Trouble, a 30-1 shot that drew the dreaded No. 1 post.
Rosie Napravnik will be aboard Vicar’s In Trouble trying to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. She was fifth last year with Mylute, the highest finish by a woman in history. Napravnik watched the draw from the jockey’s room at the track.
Eight horses have won from the first spot in the starting gate, but none since Ferdinand in 1986. Most trainers despise the No. 1 hole because their horse starts next to the rail and could get pinched going into the crowded first turn.
The No. 10 post has produced the most Derby winners with nine, most recently in 2005, when Smith won with 50-1 shot Giacomo. Wildcat Red, trained by Jose Garrafalo, landed in that spot this time.
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