Kentucky Derby Results 2014: Triple Crown Talk Is Premature Before Preakness

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 03:  California Chrome #5, ridden by Victor Espinoza, comes out of the fourth turn enroute to winning the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Let's not put the cart before the horse, shall we?

I know that California Chrome just owned the Kentucky Derby.

I know that he's now won five straight races and has been absolutely dominant in the process.

I know how wonderful his story is, how the field doesn't quite match up to his ability and how desperately we want him to be the horse that finally ends the Triple Crown drought.

But we do this every year, folks. We start talking Triple Crown seconds after the Derby has concluded, before the horses have slowed to a trot or the Preakness has even been run.

This year let's allow California Chrome to win a second race before we go nuts, okay?

Of course, the Preakness feels like it is tailor-made for California Chrome—especially this year. Not only will the shorter track play well for a speedy horse like CC, but two of the top threats to defeat him won't be in the running. 

For starters, Hoppertunity—pulled out of the Kentucky Derby where he was thought to be one of the top contenders—will also miss the Preakness, as trainer Bob Baffert told Claire Novak of Blood-Horse.

"It was a combination; his foot had a bruise but when they X-rayed him they saw he had a spur in the fetlock," Baffert said. "It was small but as long as we were going to stop on him, they went ahead and took it out."

He added, "I won't send him back to California for a month. We'll just rehab him there (at Rood & Riddle). They cleaned it up, but we're going to miss all the good action (this spring)."

And Untapable—the filly that dominated the Kentucky Oaks—also won't be making the trip to Pimlico, according to Bill Marshall of The Augusta Chronicle:

Trainer Steve Asmussen, noting that Untapable is not robustly built, has stated the belief that his filly needs more than 15 days between starts. So a major road block has now been removed from the path to the Triple Crown for California Chrome, charted by tradition and being followed by trainer Art Sherman.

It's a shame that California Chrome and Untapable can't square off. It would have been one heck of a matchup.

On the other hand, it now makes it all the more likely that CC will win the Preakness and cause the Triple Crown buzz to really begin heating up.

However, a Preakness win is still far from a guarantee that California Chrome will end the drought.

Since 1978, when Affirmed pulled off the milestone, 12 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to lose or be scratched (I'll Have Another had this fate in 2012) at the Belmont.

Just four of those 12 horses finished second in the Belmont Stakes—a race that has turned out to be quite the dream-killer since 1978.

Associated Press

Traditionally, the Triple Crown has been won in waves.

Three horses (Secretariat in 1973, Seattle Slew in '77 and of course Affirmed) won in the 70s. But remember, Secretariat broke a 25-year drought for the Triple Crown.

Quite frankly, the feat was accomplished far more often in the old days—between 1919 and 1948 eight horses managed to tame the Triple Crown.

In the past 65 years, it has been done only three times.

I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, folks. I only suggest we temper our expectations until California Chrome is off at the Preakness. This horse has a very, very real chance to win the Triple Crown this year—there's no doubt about that.

As history shows, however, he's far from unique in that regard.