On paper, there is no denying that this year's Kentucky Derby goes through California Chrome. The California-bred has won four straight races by open lengths earning solid Pace and Final Time Ratings (click here to learn about Today's Racing Digest speed ratings). You might compare him to past winners Barbaro or Big Brown who also entered the Kentucky Derby with a string of victories.
I think the way to play California Chrome is to key him on top of the exotics or don't use him at all. In my opinion, he looks like an all or nothing type of horse as the biggest factor may fall on how he handles the expected pace pressure.
Candy Boy was a distant 3rd against California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby, but I think he rates a big chance to turn the tables. It did appear that Candy Boy was too close to the pace in that event and that may have been per trainer instructions since the track was favoring early speed that day. The colt finished 2nd to the 2-year-old champion Shared Belief last year and his Grade 2 RB Lewis win showed his grit in the stretch. I think he will sit 5-6 lengths off the leaders up the backstretch and if Stevens can find clear sailing he could grind out the win.
Samraat appeared to be going the wrong way per his Final Time Ratings leading up to the Wood Memorial. However, his Final Time Rating did jump back up when he was game for 2nd in a photo. While he was no match for Wicked Strong that day, he could be sitting on a top effort if he can settle off the expected hot pace. As for Wicked Strong, he was a top choice winner for the Digest, but his best races have been in New York.
A horse I just can't figure out and I keep coming back to is Tapiture. He was in sharp form prior to his 4th in the Arkansas Derby as the favorite and he has that Thunder Gulch type of look. His Grade 2 win over this track last year is easy to like and maybe he will rebound.
If you're looking for a wild longshot, I would give Commanding Curve a look. This guy won a Maiden race over this track last year and he made his first start as a winner (and this year) in the Grade 2 Risen Star. He finished 6th of 14 that day and returned to finish 3rd in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby. His connections seem to think he is this good and his deep closing style suggests he will be rallying strongly in the stretch if good enough.
1. Candy Boy
3. California Chrome
Longshot: Commanding Curve