California Chrome Shines as the New Top Kentucky Derby Contender

After important races in both Florida and Louisiana this past weekend, with official Kentucky Derby prep races held in both of those venues, the future is looking bright for three-year-old California Chrome. Probably showing as the favorite to win the upcoming Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, the polished speedster has taken the lead as far as the weekly National Thoroughbred Association 3-year-old poll is concerned. For the week ending Sunday, March 30, previous leader Cairo Prince plummeted from the top spot as the Kentucky Derby favorite all the way down to ninth on the poll, after an unimpressive fourth in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. California Chrome received 25 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for a first-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes, and shows 439 poll points overall.

As of late, three-year-old colt Candy Boy has shown some promise and now sits in second place in the poll with 382 points. That horse is also probably going to be running in the Santa Anita Derby. In the third spot this week is the winner of this past weekend's Florida Derby winner, Todd Pletcher's cold Constitution. That three-year-old received two first-place votes in the weekly poll, and also holds 329 poll points. After the important Florida Derby win, coming just five weeks before The Run for the Roses kicks off another possible Triple Crown champion, Pletcher heaped praise on Constitution. He noted that the horse ran strong, moving quickly from a maiden race, to an allowance, and then to a Grade 1, changing his running style as needed to pull off the victory "against much more seasoned horses."

A consistent name found in most Kentucky Derby contenders lists for the past few months is Samraat, who finds himself in fourth place with three number one votes and 262 National Thoroughbred Association 3-year-old poll points. That colt has been trained by Richard Violette, and will be next appearing in the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on Saturday. Wildcat Red appeared out of nowhere a couple of weeks ago to make several Kentucky Derby hopefuls lists, and surged in this most recent poll from eighth to fifth. That was due to a strong run this past Saturday, which earned a second place to the aforementioned Constitution by a neck in the Florida Derby. That horse is trained by Jose Garoffalo, and picked up one first-place vote, with 226 points accumulated in this week's poll.

Garoffalo stated that he was not upset with the second-place finish at all, considering Constitution gave such an impressive performance. Wildcat Red's trainer went on to state that, "I think we're thinking seriously to go to Kentucky if the horse comes back in good shape." Tapiture is another horse that has frequently been mentioned as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender, and after a runner-up finish in the Rebel Stakes and 209 points this week, that colt finds himself in sixth place, one spot ahead of Bob Baffert's Hoppertunity, who bested Tapiture to win the Rebel Stakes race this past Saturday.

Both of those colts will probably run against each other in Oaklawn Park's Arkansas Derby on April 12. The Louisiana Derby was taken by Vicar's in Trouble, who had no trouble garnering one first-place vote and 187 points, debuting in the important weekly Kentucky Derby contender poll in eighth place. The previously mentioned and former top spot holder Cairo Price holds ninth, followed by the winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks, Untapable. Palace Malice, Will Take Charge, Game On Dude, Lea, Wise Dan, Mucho Macho Man and Sahara Sky also received votes, and can be considered serious contenders to win The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports at the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby in Churchill Downs on May 3.

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