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Kentucky Derby 2014: Horses with Best Shot at Preakness Stakes

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 03:  Jockey Victor Espinoza cools down California Chrome #5 on the way to the winners circle after winning the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2014

Now that the Kentucky Derby is over, it's time to shift focus to the Preakness Stakes, where California Chrome will look to continue his run of success in the second of three Triple Crown races on May 17.

Some of the Kentucky Derby's top contenders are not expected to take part in the Preakness. Trainer Trainer Jimmy Jerkens told The Daily Racing Form's David Grening that Wicked Strong is unlikely to compete after finishing fourth at Churchill Downs.

“It doesn’t seem like the right thing to do," Jerkens said. "Who knows? He might do something when we get back home to make me change my mind.”

Grening also reported that Rick Violette said he "would lean toward not running" Samraat, who came in fifth on Saturday.

There will still be plenty of horses galloping to the finish line in two weeks, so let's take a look at the Preakness' early top contenders.

 

California Chrome

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 03:  Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates atop of California Chrome #5 after crossing the finish line to win the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/G
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

How can California Chrome not be considered the favorite to capture the Preakness?

Entering the Derby as the heavy favorite, Art Sherman's horse lived up the hype, earning a decisive victory by 1 3/4 lengths.

While the colt should get a chance to extend his winning streak to six races, Sherman expressed his concerns about racing him twice in such a short time span to the New York Daily News' Jerry Bossert.

I’m always concerned because I never run a horse back in two weeks even when I’m running cheap claimers. I just wish there was a little more time. I always thought, ‘My God, how to these guys do it on the Triple Crown’ and then they’re sitting in the wings with fresh horses waiting for me. It’s going to be another different group of horses.

Before racing in Louisville, California Chrome last ran on April 5 in the Santa Anita Derby, another Grade I field he dominated. That was the previous quickest turnaround of his racing career.

But his dominance is too much to ignore, and all the other Derby holdovers face the same circumstances. California Chrome will once again enter the Triple Crown event as the horse to beat.

 

Danza

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01:  Danza runs on the track during the morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

While Danza did not win the Kentucky Derby, he had a strong showing that eased any fears of him being over-hyped before the race.

Danza was a relatively undistinguished commodity before pulling off a surprising victory in April's Arkansas Derby. That win put him on the map as a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender.

He didn't win at Churchill Downs, but he earned third place with jockey Joe Bravo leading the way.

Now that Danza has a little more experience after another successive showing, he should be viewed as a top threat to California Chrome's Triple Crown bid.

 

Social Inclusion

Social Inclusion missed the Kentucky Derby as he failed to acquire the necessary points.

With the fear of fatigue kicking in for horses racing twice in two weeks, fresher competitors who sat out the Derby are intriguing options. Their absence also allows them to fall under the radar, creating a win-win for bettors.

The Kentucky-bred horse skipped the Sir Bear Stakes Saturday at Gulfstream Park due to a strained right hoof. Nevertheless, he's in line for Pimlico, where he's a dangerous sleeper.

A third-place finish at the Wood Memorial Stakes is more impressive when realizing that Wicked Strong and Samraat finished first and second, respectively. Social Inclusion dominated the only other two races of his career, so don't count out the newcomer at the Preakness.

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