LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Trainer Dallas Stewart has become the exacta players’ best friend in the Kentucky Derby.
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.
While California Chrome won Saturday as the 5-2 favorite, Commanding Curve rallied for the place spot 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 was easy to overlook. He had won only one of his previous six races and was third in latest effort, the Louisiana Derby.
He dropped back to 18th in the Derby before kicking home strongly in the lane under Shaun Bridgmohan to finish 1¾ lengths behind California Chrome.
Stewart, from New Orleans, would love to win a Derby, but a pair of consecutive seconds was a decent consolation prize.
“I would never get frustrated over that,” he said. “There are lots of things to be frustrated about. Getting beat in a horse race isn’t one of them.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out four horses in the Derby, dropping his record to 1 for 40.
Danza got third, the best finish among the “Todd Squad.”
We Miss Artie was 10th, Intense Holiday finished 12th, and Vinceremos ended up 17th.
Pletcher’s lone Derby winner was Super Saver in 2010.
Danza, named for actor Tony Danza of “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss?”, salvaged something for the barn with the in-the-money finish.
First to last
Jockey Rosie Napravnik, the top rider at the Fair Grounds, was the toast of racing on 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.
Napravnik was trying to become the first female jockey to win the Derby. She already owns the highest finish by a woman, riding to fifth place last year with Mylute.
The Derby attracted the second-largest crowd in its 140-year history with 164,906. The biggest was 165,307 two years ago.
At 77, Art Sherman became the oldest trainer to win a Derby, surpassing Charlie Whittingham, who was 76 when Sunday Silence won in 1989.
The victory was worth $1,442,800 to California Chrome, increasing his career earnings to $2,577,650, with seven wins in 11 starts.
What’s on tap next?
Untapable was in fine form the morning after her impressive win in the Kentucky Oaks, according to trainer Steve Asmussen.
The filly just might be the best 3-year-old this season, having dominated in her three stakes wins. Her time of 1:48.68 for the 11?8 miles in Friday’s Oaks was only 0.04 seconds slower than Bird Town’s stakes record in 2003.
The latest victory raised the prospect that Untapable’s next start could be against the boys in the Preakness on May 17.
Asmussen has already won the middle jewel of the Triple Crown with a filly, Rachel Alexandra in 2009. He was reluctant to make a Preakness commitment, pending how Tapiture fared in the Derby.
Both horses are owned by Ron Winchell.
“I think it would be a very wise decision for us to keep them apart,” Asmussen said.