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Who is the 2014 Kentucky Derby favorite? California Chrome leads a field of 19

California Chrome recently won the Santa Anita Derby, an important race leading up to Churchill Downs. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) California Chrome recently won the Santa Anita Derby. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

On Saturday, 19 horses and jockeys will compete in the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. When the horses burst out of the gate and officially kick off the first race of the Triple Crown, it might seem like anybody's race. But leading up to the race, there are clear favorites and underdogs.

SI's Tim Layden, in his preview of the Kentucky Derby, pegs California Chrome as the horse to beat at Churchill Downs. Just a few weeks ago, California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby, which is one of the most significant pre-Kentucky Derby races.

LAYDEN: Kentucky Derby picks

Despite some concerns from experts over Chrome as the race approaches and scrutiny increases, Layden feels the chestnut colt will take first place at the Derby:

I'm not picking him because two weeks ago I spent four days in Southern California and wrote in Sports Illustrated about his unlikely path to his status as the Derby favorite, which he is, at 5-2. (But for sure, it's a hell of a story, as the purchase of a pretty, slow-footed filly turned into a colt worth millions ... today.) I'm picking him because his last two races -- the Santa Anita Derby and, before that, a 7 ¼-length win in the San Felipe Stakes -- are by a wide margin the two most impressive races by any three-year-old colt in America.

I'm picking him because I believe that he can repeat those performances on Saturday evening in the Derby, against horses that are simply athletically inferior. I'm betting on talent. The track? Chrome has been getting better with each day and he'll be plenty comfortable with the Churchill dirt by Saturday, when it's traditionally lightning fast.

The field was supposed to be 20 as recently as Thursday, but the owners of Pablo Del Monte decided to pull the horse out of the race. Pablo Del Monte had replaced Hoppertunity, who dropped out due to a foot injury.

More SI.com Kentucky Derby coverage

PHOTOS: Horse-by-horse Kentucky Derby preview

LAYDEN: California Chrome: The Accidental Favorite

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