California Chrome is a third of the way there. His job isn't done yet.
With a win in the 2014 Kentucky Derby, the colt put himself in position to win the Triple Crown. Affirmed is the last horse to accomplish the feat, winning all three races in 1978. Countless others have come close since, but they've always stumbled along the way.
After his Derby win, the early odds are paying plus-180 for California Chrome to go 3-of-3 across the Triple Crown races, per RJ Bell:
California Chrome now paying +180 to win Triple Crown (at Sportsbook.ag)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) May 3, 2014
The colt's Kentucky Derby win was certainly such that you could believe the seemingly impossible is within reach. Jockey Victor Espinoza ran a brilliant race. He positioned California Chrome right behind the leaders for the majority of proceedings, always keeping in mind to leave a hole open. Then, on the final turn, he made his move, and from there, nobody was catching him.
California Chrome was so far ahead of Commanding Curve down the final stretch that Espinoza was able to take a little bit off and savor the moment.
After the win, Espinoza said he felt that his horse was simply better than everyone else in the field.
"This horse has so much talent," he said, per the Associated Press, via ABC News. "By the three-eighths pole I knew that was it. I could see other horses struggling a little bit, and he was just smooth."
Even before the Derby, owner Steve Coburn made the comment that he believed California Chrome would enter rarefied air.
"I believe this horse will win the Triple Crown," Coburn said. "That's where we're going."
Let's not get too ahead of ourselves, though. The Triple Crown talk can't be substantive until after the Preakness Stakes. California Chrome must take this one race at a time. After all, you don't get any credit for a "Double Crown."
Although the Preakness is still two weeks away, he is opening up as the early favorite at Pimlico:
California Chrome EVEN MONEY to win Preakness. Entire rest of field -120 (via @WilliamHillUS)— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) May 4, 2014
Two things may be working against California Chrome at the Preakness.
The first is that Hoppertunity may be in the field. Trainer Bob Baffert revealed that while the colt was scratched from the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness isn't out of the question, per Gregory Hall of The Courier-Journal:
When Hoppertunity breaks well from the gates, he's a great horse. With Pimlico's relatively short track, he wouldn't have to keep the effort level up for quite as long as he would've at Churchill Downs.
And therein lies another problem for California Chrome. At 9.5 furlongs, the Preakness is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races. That can serve as a bit of a leveler for some of the horses who aren't as gifted as California Chrome. It's a lot easier to keep up with Usain Bolt when you don't have to run that far.
None of that should give you much pause when considering California Chrome as a favorite, but they're two of his biggest roadblocks at Pimlico.
If he does happen to win the Preakness, then the Triple Crown talk does become very real.