OLDSMAR — Tampa Bay Downs fans know the story well. A man in his 70s takes his 3-year-old colt to the sport's iconic race.
Five years after 75-year-old Thomas McCarthy and Sam F. Davis Stakes winner General Quarters became media darlings in Louisville, Ky., Art Sherman and California Chrome have similar sentiment today in the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
McCarthy's journey ended with General Quarters finishing 10th behind 50-1 shot Mine That Bird. Sherman, 77, has the favorite with California Chrome. A victory in the 1¼-mile race would make Sherman the oldest trainer to win the Run for the Roses.
The Kentucky Derby simulcast (Race 11, 6:32 p.m.) tops the final weekend of racing at the Oldsmar oval. After fan appreciation day on Sunday, live action stops until the June 30-July 1 Summer Festival of Racing. Kentucky Derby wagering also is available at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and Tampa Greyhound Track.
For the second time in the past 11 years, the Tampa Bay Derby winner will not be in the Kentucky Derby. Ring Weekend is out with an infection. Two Downs graduates will start: Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos (30-1 on the morning line) and Pasco Stakes fifth-place finisher Harry's Holiday (50-1).
Since 2001, Big Brown is the only Kentucky Derby favorite to win at odds less than 4-1. The others — Friesan Fire (2009), Bellamy Road (2005), Empire Maker (2003) and Point Given (2001) — lost to horses with double-digit odds, including two at 50-1 (Giacomo, 2005, and Mine That Bird). California Chrome is the 5-2 choice.
Harry's Holiday joins General a Rod and Vicar's in Trouble as Kentucky Derby starters for trainer Mike Maker. "(At Tampa), I felt (Harry's Holiday) left it at the gate, and we just threw a line through that race," Maker said. "We put blinkers on him after that. With the stakes win (96ROCK Stakes at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.), and to just get beat (a nose) in the Spiral (Stakes at Turfway), he's progressively better."
California Chrome will attempt to become the first California-bred to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962. Jamie Ness, the Downs leading trainer for the eighth consecutive year, believes that will happen.
"I think California Chrome is the most talented horse and the one to beat," Ness said. "(But) he's got to come east out of his California realm."
Oldsmar conditioner Tom Proctor, who is at Churchill Downs, has been close to California Chrome and his connections all week. Proctor shared a connecting flight from Phoenix to Louisville with Sherman and his wife, Faye, and Proctor's horses are in Barn 20 with California Chrome. … In Tampa Bay Downs news, Antonio Gallardo has virtually wrapped up his first riding title at the track.
DOGS: Gold Trophy Juvenile Stakes qualifying begins tonight at Derby Lane.