Update: California Chrome won! Read all the details here.
Ladies and gentlemen, ready your exactas and adjust your hats, because the two most exciting minutes in sports arrives this weekend.
The Kentucky Derby gets underway Saturday afternoon and this year there's already a favorite in place. His name is California Chrome and he hails from Yuba City in Northern California. He enters his first Kentucky Derby entry after winning four straight stakes — including the Santa Anita Derby.
To get to know Chrome, who has since shot to stardom, we dialed up one his closest human friends, his 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman. He usually trains Chrome in Los Alamitos, but joins us on the phone from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
How did California Chrome become the favorite?
"Well, I think it's over his last performances. He's won four straight by a margin of over 25 lengths, and his race in the Santa Anita Derby was very impressive. It was the second-fastest running of the Santa Anita Derby ever, so that was impressive."
What's he like to train?
"Oh, super horse. I wish all of them were like him to train. He's very laid back, easy to do anything with, got a very good demeanor and he's all race horse. Very nice to train.
How's he handling all the attention?
"He loves it. He loves the attention. He loves people. He's kind of like a people's horse. Nothing bothers him, there's 100 people around him today giving him a bath, he just looks at them and just all the cameras and all the flashes and he never bobbles or turns his head any which way or get nervous. He just seems to enjoy it very much."
How did California Chrome get his name?
"Well, they said that they picked it out of a hat. They put three names in and they let some waitress, said here, 'Pull this one piece of slip of paper out of the hat,' and that was one with California Chrome. Because he has a lot of Chrome on him. You know, he's got four white stocking feet, a big blaze down his front of his head, it's kind of a striking-looking horse. One thing about it, I can pick him up anytime I want to out in the track because there's not too many that look like him."
What it makes me think of, particularly here in Southern California, is the cars full of chrome. He's as fast as a car, right?
"Oh, you better believe it. He's something else. You have to enjoy the horse, he's got such a personality and don't forget he is a stud horse. He likes to bite once in a while, but not the kind that wants to savage you, you know? He's just a little playful, that's about it."
You drew post positions earlier this week and you'll be in fifth in a 20-horse field. Any thoughts about what that does for your chances of ending up in the winners' circle?
"Well, you know, I was looking back at all the records. There's been a lot of number fives winning the Kentucky Derby. The last Cal-bred to ever win the Kentucky Derby went out of the five hole, and my jock, the last derby he win he got number five, so maybe five is going to be a lucky number for us today. Don't forget, he was number five the Santa Anita Derby too."
What's the most important for your horse in the 24 hours leading up to the race?
"Well, I just want him to be healthy for one thing and just let him relax, go through the paddock, let him gallop and choose miles like he does and you know. I did all the serious working before I left California, so I'll be very satisfied if it comes out fast for Saturday."
Does he get any extra carrots?
"He gets everything a little extra. He's the big horse."