- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) - California Chrome gets a chance to solidify his status as the West’s leading Kentucky Derby candidate when he runs as the 6-5 early favorite in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby.

The colt drew the No. 5 post Wednesday in the field of eight for Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race. He’s won his last three races by a combined 19 lengths.

Trained by Art Sherman, California Chrome is coming off a 7 ¼-length victory in the San Felipe Stakes on March 8. He led all the way in running 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.59, second-fastest in the race’s 77-year history, under Victor Espinoza.

“All systems are go,” said Sherman, who has been in horse racing for more than 50 years but hasn’t had a horse as good as this one. “He’s doing everything right.”


Sherman said California Chrome’s owners turned down a $6 million offer to buy the horse. The colt has five wins from nine career starts and earnings of $534,850.

Rebel Stakes winner Hoppertunity was listed at 3-1 odds and drew the No. 3 post for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who is seeking a record seventh victory in the race. Hoppertunity has two wins in four starts and earnings of $410,720.

Another strong contender is Robert Lewis Stakes winner Candy Boy, who was listed at 9-5 and drew the No. 6 post. He’ll be ridden by Gary Stevens, who has won the Santa Anita Derby nine times. Candy Boy has two wins in six starts and earnings of $305,600.

The winning horse earns 100 points under the system used by Churchill Downs to decide the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Second place is worth 40 points, third is worth 20 and fourth is worth 10.

Candy Boy needs the points as the colt currently stands 28th on the leaderboard to get into the Kentucky Derby. Hoppertunity (eighth) and California Chrome (12th) have secured their spots among the top 20.

The other five Santa Anita Derby starters are all listed at double-digit odds. They are: Rprettyboyfloyd, 20-1; Friendswith K Mill, 20-1; Big Tire, 20-1; Schoolofhardrocks, 10-1; and Dublin Up, 30-1. All horses will carry 122 pounds.

Trainer Doug O’Neill is going for a three-peat, having won the race last year with Goldencents and in 2012 with I’ll Have Another, who went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. O’Neill trains Friendswith K Mill, who won his first career race on the turf on Feb. 7.

Schoolofhardrocks finished fourth in the San Felipe, beaten 15 lengths by California Chrome. The colt is 42nd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

The field for the Santa Anita Derby, with jockeys in post position order: Rprettyboyfloyd, Rafael Bejarano; Friendswith K Mill, Tyler Baze; Hoppertunity, Mike Smith; Big Tire, Edwin Maldonado; California Chrome, Espinoza; Candy Boy, Stevens; Schoolofhardrocks, Joe Talamo; and Dublin Up, Kent Desormeaux.