Now that the dust has officially settled from the Kentucky Derby, the horse racing world can turn its full attention toward the next step in the Triple Crown: the Preakness Stakes.
California Chrome will be the odds-on favorite after his dominating win at Churchill Downs. He surged forward on the final turn and coasted to the finish line. Commanding Curve placed second and Danza came in at third.
You can view the full race standings below.
|1||5||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||-|
|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|
The 2014 Kentucky Derby and its immediate aftermath did present some major questions heading into the Preakness.
Can California Chrome Actually Do It?
Ever since Affirmed's Triple Crown win in 1978, the same question has always been asked of every Kentucky Derby winner: Can he follow up with a win at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes?
So far, the answer has been a resounding no. Twelve horses have managed to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before faltering at Belmont. The other 22 couldn't even be bothered to keep fans' believing past Churchill Downs.
Maybe California Chrome is different. Probably not, but maybe.
Sports on Earth's Chuck Culpepper calls this time "Delusion Season" because fans get their hopes up that the Triple Crown will happen, only to have their dreams crushed weeks later. They are too blinded by the excitement to see the real facts:
So Delusion Season is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. It persists improbably even after so much reality. The English-language sentence, "No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978," has gone through birth, the early years, the teen years, the college-age years, young adulthood and almost into middle age, still truer than ever at 36. That doesn't deter us. We're buoyant beings.
While it's fair enough to at least get the ball moving on a the Triple Crown talk, it would be foolish to begin any substantive discussion prior to the Preakness. California Chrome isn't even two-thirds of the way there.
If he pulls through at Pimlico, then maybe we can have serious talks about the colt's Crown credentials.
Will There Be Anybody Left for the Preakness?
Of course, California Chrome's chances at Pimlico are getting better by the day.
First came the news that Derby runner-up Commanding Curve won't be making the trip to Baltimore, per Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde:
Kentucky Derby runnerup Commanding Curve officially out of Preakness and eyeing Belmont. Not many Derby starters running back in Preakness.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 5, 2014
Although he had long odds heading into the Derby, the colt performed well, and if he was in the field for the Preakness, he likely would've been one of the top contenders.
Hoppertunity also looked poised to recover strong from his scratch at the Kentucky Derby. He had a runner-up finish at the Santa Anita Derby and won the Rebel Stakes earlier in the year. There's no doubt that if healthy, the colt could make noise at Pimlico.
The problem is staying healthy.
Bob Baffert, Hoppertunity's trainer, announced that the horse is out of the Triple Crown completely, per Claire Novak of BloodHorse.com:
Trainer Bob Baffert says Hoppertunity needs 30 days off, no more Triple Crown trail. Already knew no Preakness, but now no Belmont as well.— Claire Novak (@BH_CNovak) May 5, 2014
"His foot had a bruise but when they x-rayed him they saw the spur, so they went ahead and took it out," Baffert said. #Hoppertunity— Claire Novak (@BH_CNovak) May 5, 2014
Those are two talented horses eliminated altogether from the Preakness, thus making things a little easier for California Chrome.
He will, however, still have to deal with Social Inclusion. The colt missed out on the Kentucky Derby because of points. He finished third at the Wood Memorial, but it was too little too late in the race for Churchill Downs.
Social Inclusion was scheduled to be in the Sir Bear at Gulfstream Park, but owner Ron Sanchez decided to scratch him with a view toward Pimlico, per Jennie Rees of USA Today:
"We had to scratch because he bruised his hoof this morning," Sanchez told Gulfstream Park’s publicity department. "He's OK, he's going good and it's nothing serious, and this thing will heal in two days. But we didn't want to take a chance running today with the big race just two weeks away. We always have to do the right thing by the horse. Right now, we've arranged to go to the Preakness on (Wednesday), but I think now we'll probably just go (Thursday)."
The field will come more into focus as the race nears, but for the time being, it sure looks like California Chrome will go 2-for-2.