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May 1, 2014

California Chrome made 5-2 Derby favorite

LOUISVILLE — 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 24¼ lengths.

“Just an amazing horse to ride,” Espinoza said. “I let him do his own thing and I think he likes that.”

Hopportunity was made the 6-1 second choice in the full field of 20 horses.

Hopportunity, 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 very long.

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