The Evolution of Chrome (05/12/14)

Dan Zucker, Co-founder and horse owner
As California Chrome prepares for the second leg of the Triple Crown, we take a look at his journey from 300-to-1 Kentucky Derby long shot to Preakness favorite.

A classic saying in horse racing - "If you didn't go to the Wedding, don't go to the Funeral" - A stand against California Chrome - couldn't be more apropos as California Chrome heads to the Preakness looking to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. The table below shows how California Chrome's odds to win the Derby moved over the last nine months.

Date Pool Odds
~8/1/2013 Wynn Future Book Derby Odds (open) 300-1
11/30/13 Derby Future Pool 1 (mutuel field) 4-5
1/3/14 Wynn Future Book Derby Odds 275-1
2/8/14 Derby Future Pool 2 30-1
3/1/14 Derby Future Pool 3 32-1
3/29/14 Derby Future Pool 4 9-1
5/4/14 Kentucky Derby 5-2

When John Avello, Race and Sportsbook director of the Wynn Las Vegas opened the Derby Future Book on Labor Day weekend 2013, California Chrome was coming off a win in a two-year old stake (non-graded) at Del Mar on the polytrack at 5.5 furlongs. California Chrome was the first colt out of a dam (mother) who won only one race on the track, an $8,000 maiden win. California Chrome is by a modest sire, Lucky Pulpit, who ranked No. 16 (by money earned) in California in 2013. Lucky Pulpit's best offspring was Rousing Sermon, a hard-knocking California router (distance runner) who earned over $700,000 lifetime. Overall, California Chrome's pedigree was considered okay, but by no means, on paper, comparable to a number of the future pool favorites. So, it was no surprise that “Johnny A” opened California Chrome's Derby future book odds at 300:1.

Come November 2013 when pari-mutuel Derby Future pool #1 opened, Chrome was lumped into the “field” as only twenty four individual entries are allowed. It was not until California Chrome's stakes win (non-graded) at Hollywood Park in late December when Chrome ripped off a 76.4/74.3 (final/4f Pace Figure) which was also a Reversal Form Cycle Pattern (REV - first time his final Pace Figure was greater than his 4f Pace Figure), that he took action. At that point, the Wynn Las Vegas dropped Chrome's Derby Future book odds to 275:1 and the Derby Future Pool #2 separated from the “mutuel field” and waited to see what his Cal Cup effort would be like four weeks later before establishing a line in Derby Future Pool #3.

Following a decisive Cal Cup victory by 6 lengths running a 73.9/67.7 (final/4f Pace Figure), which was a Soft Form Cycle Pattern (SOFT – considered an easy win, well within himself), Chrome got bet down to 32:1 in Derby Future Pool #3 (note - the pari-mutuel Derby Future Pool closed an hour prior to his San Felipe performance). Another dazzling performance followed the pool closing as Chrome ran lights out, 77.6/80.7 (final/4f Pace Figure), which was another Form Cycle Pattern, this time a New Pace Top (NPT – fastest 4f Pace Figure with a final Pace Figure that was within his “norm”).

By the time the final Derby Future Pool #4 (pari-mutuel) closed the weekend prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Chrome had been bet down to 9:1, a co-favorite with Cairo Prince (at this point the "field" was 5:1). After posting a 78.2/72.2 (final/4f Pace Figure) on his way to a five length win in the Santa Anita Derby, Chrome secured his Derby start as the logical 3:1 morning line favorite.

And while overall, Chrome did not get the respect in the Derby future pools, he went off as the post time favorite in his two graded stakes wins – San Felipe and Santa Anita Derby as an odds on favorite in both. For the players that backed Chrome in the Derby, a 5:2 return was solid (helped by a $1,000,000 win wager from Las Vegas on Candy Boy, just prior to post which moved Chrome back up from 2:1 to 5:2).

There have been plenty of betting occasions in 2014 where a player could have gotten on Chrome at underlay odds of at least 3:2, all the way up to 275:1, and congratulations to those who did back him. Heading into the Preakness, California Chrome will stand tall in the gate as a monster sub even money favorite. For those who have backed Chrome prior, this is another chance to parlay on the “one who got you there." For those who haven't backed Chrome, you weren't invited to the wedding so don't go the funeral.

This table shows California Chrome's Pace Figures as compared to the Kentucky Derby Odds in the pool prior to each of his most recent eight starts.

Race 05/03/2014 04/05/2014 03/08/2014 01/25/2014 12/22/2013 11/01/2013 09/04/2013 07/31/2013
F w79.1 w78.8 w77.6 w73.9 w76.4 69.1 71.2 w72.3
4f 73.8 72.2 80.7 67.7 74.3 71 72.8 73.6
L 10 9 81/2 81/2 7 8 7 51/2
Race Odds 5-2 3-5 7-5 5-2 2-1 3-1 5-1 6-1
Derby Odds 5-2 9-1 32-1 275-1 - - 300-1 -


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2017 Derby Prep Race Preview

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  • Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita)

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