LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Dallas Stewart has become the exacta players' best friend.
For the second straight year, one of his horses ran second at long odds behind a Derby favorite. The exacta is a popular bet that requires the selection of a race's first two finishers in precise order. Commanding Curve rallied for the place spot behind California Chrome at 37-1, inflating the exacta payoff to $340 for a $2 wager.
Last year, Stewart's 34-1 shot Golden Soul ran second to Orb, producing a $981.60 return.
Commanding Curve had won only one of his previous six races and was third in his last pre-Derby effort, the Louisiana Derby. He dropped back to 18th in the Derby before kicking home strongly in the lane under Shaun Bridgmohan. "All I had to do was ride him hard, and he gave me everything," the jockey said. "Once I got him down the lane, man, he lengthened his stride and really dug in for me."
TODD SQUAD: Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out four horses, dropping his Derby record to 1-for-40. Danza got third, the best finish among the "Todd Squad." We Miss Artie was 10th, Intense Holiday 12th and Vinceremos, a Tampa Bay Downs graduate, 17th. Pletcher's lone Derby winner was Super Saver in 2010.
FIRST TO LAST: Jockey Rosie Napravnik was the toast of racing Friday, winning the Kentucky Oaks for fillies with Untapable. In the Derby, she was toast aboard Vicar's in Trouble. The Louisiana Derby winner ran last in the 19-horse field. "We actually got into a really good position," Napravnik said. "I was tracking behind California Chrome and really didn't have enough horse."
of local interest: Tampa Bay Downs graduate Harry's Holiday finished 16th, 221/2 lengths behind California Chrome and 51/2 lengths in front of Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos. … Tampa Bay Downs trainer Tom Proctor won the Grade II $294,500 American Turf Stakes on the undercard with Global View ($14), ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens.
derby trivia: California Chrome is the first California-bred winner since Decidedly in 1962. … At 77, Art Sherman is the oldest winning trainer, besting Charlie Whittingham, 76 when he won in 1989 with Sunday Silence. Sherman was training his first Derby horse. … This is only the second time since 1980 a morning-line favorite at 5-2 or shorter won (2002, Fusaichi Pegasus). … Victor Espinoza is 2-0 riding the favorite in a Triple Crown race. He won with War Emblem in the 2002 Preakness.
blame the rain: Attendance at Tampa Bay Downs was 9,134, down 11.4 percent from last year. All-source handle on the Oldsmar product was $3,192,699, down 47.6 percent. At Derby Lane in St. Petersburg, attendance was off 9.2 percent at 6,297; all-source handle increased 12.4 percent to $499,218.
Times correspondent Don Jensen contributed to this report.