By Darren Rogers
Steven Coburn and Perry Martin's favored California Chrome, ridden by Victor Espinoza, took command at the head of the stretch en route to a 1 3/4-length victory over Commanding Curve to win the 140th running of the $2,202,800 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I).
A sun-splashed crowd of 164,906, the second-largest attendance in Kentucky Derby history, watchedCalifornia Chrome give jockey Victor Espinoza a second Derby victory to go with his triumph on War Emblem in 2002.
The largest Derby crowd was 165,307 in 2012.
Art Sherman, 77, conditions California Chrome and became the oldest trainer to win a Kentucky Derby winner. Charlie Whittingham was 76 when Sunday Silence won the 1989 Kentucky Derby.
Uncle Sigh led the field of 19 through fractions of :23.04 and :47.37 with Chitu and Samraat in closest pursuit. California Chrome led the second pack and began to close in after six furlongs in 1:11.80.
By the time the field hit the top of the stretch, California Chrome was showing his heels to all of his pursuers, opening up at midstretch and coasting under the wire well clearing ofCommanding Curve.
The victory was worth $1,442,800 and increased California Chrome's earnings to $2,577,650 with a record of 11-7-1-0.
California Chrome is the first California bred to win the Run for the Roses since Decidedly in 1962. He is a son of Lucky Pulpit out of the Not For Love mare Love the Chase.
California Chrome covered the 1 ¼ miles on a fast main track in 2:03.66.
California Chrome paid $7, $5.60 and $4.20. Commanding Curve, ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, paid $31.80 and $15.40 with Danza, ridden by Joe Bravo, finishing 1 ¼ lengths behind Commanding Curve in third and returning $6 to show.
It was another 2 ¾ lengths back to Wicked Strong, who was followed in order by Samraat,Dance With Fate, Ride On Curlin, Medal Count, Chitu, We Miss Artie, General a Rod,Intense Holiday, Candy Boy, Uncle Sigh, Tapiture, Harry's Holiday, Vinceremos,Wildcat Red and Vicar's in Trouble.
Victor Espinoza, jockey of California Chrome, first -- "Awesome. I never dreamed I'd win a second Kentucky Derby, but here it is. This was a typical race for him. He ran like he always does. Art (Sherman) just said: 'You know him, ride him.' I had the trip I wanted. I don't mess with him too much. I just stretch his legs and little bit and then let him do his thing. Pressure will be back on for the Preakness, but that's OK."
Shaun Bridgmohan, jockey of Commanding Curve, second – "All I had to do was just ride him hard and he gave me everything. I was starting to get him geared up when he turned for home and I had half the field beat at that point. I just was looking somewhere for him to go. Once I got him down the lane, man, he lengthened his stride and really dug in for me."
Joe Bravo, jockey of Danza, third – Really nice the first turn, I had everything good, but turning for home I had to wheel out and go around horses, but he kept kicking, Todd (Pletcher) knows how to get them to the big game."
Rajiv Maragh, jockey of Wicked Strong, fourth – "He ran well. The trip played out pretty good. Going into the last turn, I felt like I was in a position where if he picked it up from there like he did in the Wood Memorial he would be able to get a big piece of it. He came on at the end. He broke really sharp and was well behaved. He was just fourth best."
Jose Ortiz, jockey of Samraat, fifth – "He ran very well. He got a perfect trip and broke very well. As soon as I could get clear, I did. After that, I just chased the five horse (California Chrome). I had to move a little because I had to chase him but he's a nice horse. As soon as he was asked, he took off."
Corey Nakatani, jockey of Dance With Fate, sixth – "He might have come up a little empty after he put in such a big effort in the Blue Grass [Stakes]. The dirt didn't bother him too bad. I got him out about the 3 1/2 and he started making a nice, solid move from that point. Then when I swung him out he got a little bit flat. If he could have continued that run he would have been right there, guaranteed."
Calvin Borel, jockey of Ride On Curlin, seventh – "It was a little bit of a rough trip. They backed up into me around the turn and we had nowhere to go. He ran a good race, though."
Robby Albarado, jockey of Medal Count, eighth – "No trouble under the wire the first time. I was basically where I needed to be going to the backside. We made a little run turning for home but obviously not what I needed."
Martin Garcia, jockey of Chitu, ninth – "He ran his race. He ran fine."
Javier Castellano, jockey of We Miss Artie, 10th – "My horse broke well out of the gate and I tried to take him back since we thought there was a lot of speed in the race. I saved all the ground when I took him all the way inside to the rail, and I had a beautiful trip, I didn't have any trouble at all. Unfortunately, I just don't think the horse is the real deal on the dirt. I think he will fare better on the turf."
Joel Rosario, jockey of General a Rod, 11th – "Good trip. The pace was pretty good, we were pretty steady the whole way. I thought he put together a pretty good run later, but just too late."
John Velazquez, jockey of Intense Holiday, 12th – "I had a perfect trip. When it came time to go, though, I didn't have anything to fire with."
Gary Stevens, jockey of Candy Boy, 13th – "I had a horrible trip. On the first turn Rajiv Maragh came over on Wicked Strong and shut me off. Then he shut [Corey] Nakatani off, causing me to steady again. We're both lucky we didn't fall. We need to take care of the horse and rider."
Irad Ortiz Jr., jockey of Uncle Sigh, 14th – "He got to the lead and was going good, but he got tired."
Ricardo Santata Jr., jockey of Tapiture, 15th – "He was in a clear spot all through the race. He moved nice but he was a little tired at the end."
Corey Lanerie, jockey of Harry's Holiday, 16th – On riding in his first Derby: "It was awesome. What a great feeling. You know, I thought I would actually be more nervous. But to me, I guess I prepared myself to ride like it was just another race. I was actually a lot more aware of my surroundings than I was nervous. I had a great trip. He kind of got a little tired on me going into the final turn. I rode on him a little bit to see if I could get a little piece. The last eighth of a mile, I just took care of him.''
Joe Rocco Jr., jockey of Vinceremos, 17th – "We had a little trouble at the start. There was some banging around a bit. I felt like I saved some ground around the first turn and coming toward the stretch, I got excited because I thought I had a little bit of horse. But when we got to the top of the stretch, I didn't have any horse left."
Luis Saez, jockey of Wildcat Red, 18th – "He broke good and was in good position. He just didn't like getting hit with dirt."
Rosie Napravnik, jockey of Vicar's in Trouble, 19th – "We actually got into a really good position. You can't expect not to be close to each other. We got into a great position. I was tracking behind California Chrome, and we didn't really have enough horse.''
Art Sherman, trainer of California Chrome, first – "Just awesome. 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!"
Dallas Stewart, trainer of Commanding Curve, second – "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. Hopefully, we'll be back here next year. On training the second-place finisher two years in a row: "I would never get frustrated over that. There's a lot of things to be frustrated about. Getting beat in a horse race isn't one of them.'' On whether the Preakness is a possibility: "You know, who knows? Maybe. Yeah, probably. We'll see. He's a big, strong horse. You can see he handled the paddock real good. He handles a lot of things good. So, I doubt the race would knock him out. I was just hoping California Chrome would kind of give in a little bit, but he didn't. We were running at him. I mean, Shaun (Bridgmohan) said, 'He was running, Dallas.' So I'm very proud of him.''
Todd Pletcher, trainer of Danza, third, We Miss Artie, 10th, Intense Holiday, 12th and Vincremos, 17th, – On Danza: "I thought he ran well. Coming by the wire first time, he got bumped by Vinceremos. But he got back in position and started to respond. Joe (Bravo) had to move him a little earlier than he wanted to. Considering that this was only the fifth race of his life, you've got to say it was a very good effort." On Intense Holiday: "He was hung outside all the way around. He just never seemed to get with it." On Vinceremos (17th): "He got into trouble in two different spots. He was involved in two bumping incidents. It was just a tough race for him to run." On We Miss Artie (10th): "We took him back and tried to make a late run with him. He'll go in the Queen's Plate next."
Jimmy Jerkens, trainer of Wicked Strong, fourth – "I thought he ran decent. He didn't accelerate fast enough to go through the holes that were opening and those closed up on him quickly. He was making nice forward motion at the end though and that was encouraging."
Rick Violette, trainer of Samraat, fifth – "I thought he his ran eyeballs out. He laid it out on the line. The kid (Jose Ortiz) rode a terrific race. No second guessing, my horse ran a great race. The winner was just better. We looked him in the eye and he just pulled away. My horse came out of the race good. So far so good. I feel bad for a horse that ran so well and so hard and only got fifth place."
Peter Eurton, trainer of Dance With Fate, sixth – "After talking with [jockey Corey Nakatani], it sounds like he handled the dirt OK. He just didn't have that necessary kick to continue. If he continues his run he's right there. Unfortunately he didn't. Whether it was getting hold of the dirt or not, whether it was the mile and a quarter, or going a little further because he was a little wide--I don't know. He had a clean trip, though. No excuses."
Billy Gowan, trainer of Ride On Curlin, seventh – Not available for comment.
Dale Romans, trainer of Medal Count, eighth – "I felt good about where we were the whole race, even up the backside. About the half-mile pole I thought we were ranging up exactly where we needed to be and he could quicken from there. I wish there had been a lot more pace in the race. It looked on paper like there would be a lot more. We got shut off pretty badly down the lane but, I don't know, that's the Derby. 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 thatCalifornia Chrome had any chance going into this race and I was very, very wrong. Whether the crop's a good crop or not, that's a special horse. I was wrong. I was a very big skeptic; I threw him out of all my tickets in every spot. I didn't think he fit the profile to win the Derby. I'm very impressed the way he came into it, the way he looked, the way he was prepared and the way he ran. Now he has a new fan."
Bob Baffert, trainer of Chitu, ninth – "He ran well for a while. I was watching California Chrome stalking. You could tell he was comfortable the whole way. He's for real. It's going to be a great Triple Crown series."
Mike Maker, trainer of General a Rod, 11th, Harry's Holiday, 16th and Vicar's in Trouble19th, – On Vicar's in Trouble: "It looked like he got bounced off the rail early." On Harry's Holiday and General a Rod: "It just looked like they weren't good enough. That's about it.''
John Sadler, trainer of Candy Boy, 13th – "It was a nightmare trip. He was never in a good position at any point and almost went down in the first turn. He just didn't get any kind of trip. The track was speed favoring all day and that didn't help us. But he looks good back at the barn and as long as he came back in one piece we are happy."
Gary Contessa, trainer of Uncle Sigh, 14th – "He got the lead and the pace wasn't fast. But he just got beat."
Steve Asmussen, trainer of Tapiture, 15th – "He just flattened out. He put himself in a good spot, had every chance, made a little run around the turn and then just got tired."
Jose Garoffalo, trainer of Wildcat Red, 18th – "I'd have to say the track was a factor. He couldn't handle the track. I think I'll give him a break now and look for a race."