California Chrome's Kentucky Derby Express continued to gain steam when the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit was listed as the 5-1 morning-line favorite in Churchill Downs' fourth and final Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW) pool that opened at 9 a.m. Thursday and runs until 3 p.m. (PDT) on Saturday.
"I don't know how they figure that out," trainer Art Sherman said of the odds, a precipitous plunge from California Chrome's opening number. "There are a lot of races still to go before the Derby. I had to laugh; he opened up at 300-1, now he's 5-1.
"I said, 'Well, Jiminey Cricket, that's a big difference.' I hope they're right. But the horse is doing well. He'll have his final half-mile work Saturday and come to Santa Anita Tuesday."
That would be for the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles nine days hence, on Saturday, April 5, just shy of a month before the 140th Run for the Roses on May 3.
California Chrome would be the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby in more than half a century, since Decidedly captured the 1 1/4-mile classic in 1962.
Sherman, 77, meanwhile, is doing his best to enjoy the ride as he sits in the eye of a media hurricane, tending to the needs of the horse and those of an increasingly frenzied horde of ink-stained wretches who have requests for interviews on the colt's underdog storylines.
"I'm doing HRTV at 12:30 on Friday and Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times wants to do a story on him," Sherman said. "Mike Willman wants me on his (radio) show Sunday. It's been a wild time."
And bound to get wilder.
In other Santa Anita Derby news
Victor Espinoza, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 and is the regular rider of California Chrome, was scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Thursday night's Freeway Series game between the Dodgers and the Angels at Dodger Stadium.
"I never played baseball," said the 41-year-old veteran, who hopes to reach the catcher 60 feet, six inches away without a bounce.
Not to worry, Victor. No baseball player has ever ridden a Kentucky Derby winner.
Bob Baffert named Bayern, Rebel victor Hoppertunity and The Admiral as possible for the race, adding that Bayern also is being considered for the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 12.
Trainer John Sadler has Robert B. Lewis winner Candy Boy scheduled for his final pre-Santa Anita Derby work on Saturday, but had no plans for San Vicente scorer Kobe's Back, who worked four furlongs at Santa Anita Tuesday in a bullet :47 following his disappointing and well-beaten seventh-place showing in the Risen Star on March 15.
Nearly $2 million in stakes purses will be offered on Santa Anita Derby Day. In addition, Santa Anita will have a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4, present free Derby Day T-shirts with paid admission at Santa Anita, while supplies last, and have more than 30 premium local food trucks throughout the infield.
But wait, there's more! The annual Santa Anita Derby Day 5K run will take place, and the track's spacious infield will be rocking with popular local breweries and epic cover tunes from Super Diamond, in addition to live world-class horse racing.
Special packages are available at santaanita.com/events. Use promo code DERBY for 50 percent discounts.