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OPINION - Kentucky Derby day

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) All around Central Wisconsin horse racing fans are anxiously awaiting my Kentucky Derby picks. Not exactly. Alright, here we go... let's lose money together.

This year's Derby has a clear favorite, and he's not going to win. California Chrome has won four straight races, has a best speed figure of any horse in the race, and is the only 6-time winner of the 20 runners. His last win in the Santa Anita Derby was visually impressive. And I admire that trainer Art Sherman doesnt feel obligated to bring a horse to Louisville each year; he's here to take a solid, confident shot at winning the biggest horse race of the year.

But California Chrome is the kind of favorite who usually loses in the Kentucky Derby. He's never raced outside of California, and Cal-breds have a dismal record in the Run For The Roses. He's also a speed horse, and they tend to get caught up in a fast pace and then fade in the stretch. He'll take lots of money but none of mine.

Here are four horses that have a chance to beat California Chrome:

Danza (8/1) doesn't have the racing experience that we'd usually look for in a Kentucky Derby winner, but he's the "now" horse. In only his 4 th lifetime start he won the $1-million Arkansas Derby, and his bloodlines suggest he'll handle the 1 -mile distance.

Tapiture (12/1) finished 4 th behind Danza in the Arkansas Derby. So how does he make up 7-lengths on Saturday? Perhaps because he's familiar with Churchill Downs, and most of the other horses aren't. Danza won the Kentucky Jockey Club last year; it's Churchill Downs' biggest race in the fall for two year olds. He also raced against top-level competition at Saratoga last summer. There are many two-year-olds who start out going gangbusters, only to be surpassed by other horses as they mature. That might be what's happened with Tapiture, who's trained by Steve Asmussen, the embattled big-money trainer whos had a hot hand in the last month.

Wicked Strong (6/1) wasn't considered a Kentucky Derby contender until he won the Wood Memorial last month at Aqueduct. That race fits the profile of a Derby winner, where the horse sits mid pack, makes a powerful move on the final turn, and keeps going to the wire. A repeat of that effort could put him in the winner's circle. His grandparents are Danzig and Charismatic, so he's bred for long-distance races.

Vicars In Trouble (20/1) is a below-the-radar horse who spent the winter racing at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans. He won three of his four races there (although not against top competition). He'd be four-for-four if he wasnt caught wide on both turns in the only race he lost. Fairgrounds is a deep, tiring track ideal for building a horses fitness and foundation. Rosie Napravnik, the only female in the race, spends the winters in the Big Easy where she's been beating the more-accomplished male riders. Vicars In Trouble is a Louisiana-bred... not exactly a blue-blood, but leading owners Ken and Sara Ramsey thought enough to buy him as a yearling.

Good luck with your selections. Remember, pick correctly and you have bragging rights at any racetrack in the country for the rest of the year.

Chris Conley

Image: The Kentucky Derby, courtesy kentuckytourism.com, via WikiCommons.com