California Chrome stormed into the center of the public eye with an impressive win in the 2014 Kentucky Derby, but can he repeat the feat at the Preakness?
That's the question that will certainly be on everyone's mind when the Art Herman-trained horse makes his way to Baltimore on May 17.
The Derby winner certainly appeared to be the superior horse in Louisville. Thanks to a nearly perfect trip, California Chrome won the race by a convincing 1 3/4 lengths and established himself as a legitimate threat not only to win at Pimlico but to also become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
But there's a reason that a Triple Crown has eluded so many quality horses before California Chrome. Each race brings a new challenge, and a look at the results and highlights of the race reveals a few bona fide challengers to California Chrome's hopes of making history.
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||2:03.66|
|2||17||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||1 3/4|
|3||4||Danza||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||3|
|4||20||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||5 3/4|
|5||6||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette Jr.||5 3/4|
|6||12||Dance With Fate||Corey Nakatani||Peter Eurton||6 1/4|
|7||19||Ride On Curlin||Calvin Borel||Billy Gowan||6 3/4|
|8||14||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||Dale Romans||7 1/2|
|9||13||Chitu||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||8|
|10||7||We Miss Artie||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||8 1/4|
|11||8||General A Rod||Joel Rosario||Mike Maker||8 1/4|
|12||16||Intense Holiday||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||9|
|13||18||Candy Boy||Gary Stevens||John Sadler||11 3/4|
|14||3||Uncle Sigh||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Gary Contessa||15|
|15||15||Tapiture||Ricardo Santana Jr.||Steve Asmussen||16 1/4|
|16||2||Harry's Holiday||Corey Lanerie||Mike Maker||22 1/2|
|17||9||Vinceremos||Joe Rococo Jr.||Todd Pletcher||28|
|18||10||Wildcat Red||Luis Saez||Jose Garoffalo||28 1/4|
|19||1||Vicar's In Trouble||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||38 1/4|
Looking at the standings, the contender that immediately jumps off the page is Commanding Curve. Coming in as big an underdog as 50-1, the horse was a long shot to even factor into the finish. However, he turned out to be the only real threat to California Chrome in the final stretch.
As Ellis Starr points out, much of his performance came from an excellent bit of jockeying from Shaun Bridgmohan:
Shaun Bridgmohan rode Commanding Curve brilliantly, avoided the bumping & grinding early. Wonder how other closers might've done w/same trip— Ellis Starr (@Ubercapper) May 4, 2014
While that's impressive, it does feel like Bridgmohan was able to get the most out of Commanding Curve as possible. That means that the horse will likely be a factor at the Preakness if he enters, but Bridgmohan on an even better horse might really have the savvy to take California Chrome to the wire.
A closer look at the highlights of the race itself reveals two more contenders for the crown:
California Chrome—as gifted a horse as he is—benefited from a very rough race. Two horses that were not so lucky were Medal Count and Danza.
As noted by Andy Serling, Danza was severely bumped at the beginning of the race by his own stablemate:
Vonceremos did a number on Danza early. Tough when a trainer's entrant fouls another one of his horses.— Andy Serling (@andyserling) May 4, 2014
In a field as crowded as the one that runs at Churchill Downs, an early bump can be a death knell for any horse's chances. However, Danza showed inspiring resiliency by storming back into the race and finishing in third place.
Of course, Danza didn't just get there with his impressive speed. The Arkansas Derby winner was guilty of bumping a fellow contender out of contention when he took out Medal Count early on in the race:
I'm trying to figure out why there was no inquiry against Danza. He eliminated Medal Count in the stretch and interfered with Wicked Strong.— Andy Serling (@andyserling) May 4, 2014
If jockey Joe Bravo can manage to keep his horse from getting involved in any dust-ups in the smaller field at Pimlico, there's a strong chance that he'll be able to keep up with California Chrome on the shorter track.
Predicted Preakness Winner: California Chrome
Circumstantial evidence may point to California Chrome having some contenders at the more frantic Preakness, but that doesn't change the fact that he was the superior horse at Churchill Downs and will once again be the superior horse.
The 9.5-furlong track will provide an added element of uncertainty to the race, but it's always the safest bet to go with the best horse in the field.
That's California Chrome, and he should have the opportunity to claim the Triple Crown heading into the Belmont on June 7.