The run for the coveted Triple Crown is officially underway after California Chrome's sparkling performance in the 2014 Kentucky Derby.
With Uncle Sigh and Chitu setting the pace early, the Run for the Roses didn't exactly feature a blistering pace. But that didn't matter to jockey Victor Espinoza. After a nice break, Espinoza quickly tightened the reins and shadowed the leaders up to the far turn.
At the top of the stretch, California Chrome made his move, swinging to the outside of Chitu and bursting to the front of the pack with ease. He continued his blazing pace, stretching his lead to five lengths entering the final furlong.
Commanding Curve came on strong at the end; however, California Chrome's lead was insurmountable, and he earned a decisive victory by 1 3/4 lengths.
Here's a look at the race in its entirety:
When all was said and done, the race chart was revealed:
|2||17||Commanding Curve||1 3/4|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||5 3/4|
|6||12||Dance With Fate||6 1/4|
|7||19||Ride On Curlin||6 3/4|
|8||14||Medal Count||7 1/2|
|10||7||We Miss Artie||8 1/4|
|11||8||General A Rod||8 1/4|
|13||18||Candy Boy||11 3/4|
|16||2||Harry's Holiday||22 1/2|
|18||10||Wildcat Red||28 1/4|
|19||1||Vicar's In Trouble||38 1/4|
While the full field of contenders for the Preakness and Belmont Stakes has yet to be released, it's easy to expect California Chrome to maintain his position as the favorite.
Covers.com released early odds for California Chrome's impending race at the Preakness via Twitter:
California Chrome opens as a 6/5 favorite to win the Preakness. http://t.co/Z4BrQ5T3Rl— Covers.com (@Covers) May 3, 2014
Clearly, the horse's impressive display at Churchill Downs hasn't gone unnoticed by oddsmakers.
California Chrome won't be without strong competition in Baltimore, though. Commanding Curve's strong finish in the Kentucky Derby bodes well for the horse going forward. He appeared to be the only horse capable of gaining ground on California Chrome down the final stretch.
#Preakness probables: California Chrome-Commanding Curve-Ride On Curlin, Pablo Del Monte-Kid Cruz-Dynamic Impact-Bayern-Social Inclusion.— KY Derby Contenders (@DerbyContenders) May 4, 2014
Danza and Wicked Strong also figure to provide stiff competition should they enter the Preakness. Both fared well in the Kentucky Derby, and both are closers as well.
Meanwhile, Hoppertunity remains a wild card—for the Belmont Stakes. After being scratched from the Kentucky Derby due to a left foot issue, the horse continues to struggle with recovery. It was announced Sunday that he would not run in the Preakness, according to a tweet from Claire Novak of BloodHorse.com:
MD Jockey Club folks confirm Hoppertunity won't run in Preakness— Claire Novak (@BH_CNovak) May 4, 2014
Despite some great competition, it's just too difficult to bet against California Chrome at the moment. Not only did this horse dominate the Kentucky Derby, but he also dominated his previous four races beforehand. Such a hot streak absolutely warrants his favorable odds to win the Preakness and enter the Belmont Stakes with an eye on the Triple Crown.
Owner Steve Coburn already believes his horse will take the coveted title, according to a tweet from Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal:
California Chrome's cowboy hat-wearing owner, Steve Coburn, goes big and predicts his horse will win the Triple Crown.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) May 3, 2014
That's a bold prediction indeed.
No horse has claimed Triple Crown honors since Affirmed in 1978. If any horse has a shot, though, California Chrome is absolutely on the right track this year.
Could we see the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years? Time will tell.