Wicked Strong is the early 6-1 second choice. The colt is named for the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings and is trained by Jimmy Jerkens, who has his first Derby horse.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has four horses in the Derby — Danza and Intense Holiday are both 8-1 while his other two are longer shots, 30-1 Vinceremos and 50-1 We Miss Artie. Danza is named for “Taxi” actor Tony Danza, who planned to attend the Derby.
Maker will saddle three horses, all long shots. Besides Vicar’s In Trouble, he has 15-1 General a Rod and 50-1 Harry’s Holiday.
“When those gates open, anything can happen,” Maker said.
Three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert is down to 20-1 shot Chitu after being forced to scratch early second favorite Hoppertunity because of a minor foot problem.
“California Chrome has proven he’s a really good horse,” Baffert said, adding, “There’s a lot of parity in this field. Everybody might have a chance.”
Getting the ideal trip in the 1 ¼-mile Derby is important, especially with the traffic from 19 horses making a chaotic charge into the first turn. Jockeys want to avoid anything that would prevent their horse from getting into rhythm, like being bumped, cut off or blocked.
Sherman believes the key is the first 70 yards.
“You want to get out and get yourself some position,” he said.
Trainer Steve Asmussen takes a shot with Tapiture, who started three times at Churchill Downs as a 2-year-old. Asmussen is under investigation by Kentucky and New York racing officials after an animal rights group alleged he and his former assistant mistreated horses in their care.
The forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 73 degrees, with a crowd of at least 140,000 expected.
Keep an eye on jockey Calvin Borel. He and 15-1 shot Ride On Curlin will break from the No. 18 spot in the starting gate. Borel will try to hustle the colt over to his favorite path on the track — the rail. The rider nicknamed “Bo-rail” for his fence-skimming rides has three Derby wins in the last seven years.