Horse racing has been waiting 36 years to see a Triple Crown winner. Affirmed was the last thoroughbred to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year, but the long wait appears to be over.
California Chrome is on a roll the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time, at least since Big Brown won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2008.
The California-bred horse coasted to an easy win at Churchill Downs. It was officially announced that California Chrome's margin of victory was 1.75 lengths, but that doesn't take into account that jockey Victor Espinoza pulled up close to the finish line because the horse was so far ahead.
You could feel the awe from the crowd in attendance and rival trainers as California Chrome decimated the field. Medal Count jockey Dale Romans completely changed his tune about the Derby winner after the race in an interview with Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun.
"I was very, very wrong," Romans said. "We might have just seen a super horse and a super trainer. You don't fake your way to the winner's circle at the Kentucky Derby."
Who is California Chrome's biggest threat to a Triple Crown?
Making the win even more impressive is the competition around California Chrome. Despite being a heavy favorite at 5-2, Espinoza's horse had to contend with challengers like Danza and Wicked Strong, both finished in the top four.
Yet neither one was any match for Calfornia Chrome. Spinning that impressive victory ahead, what horse is going to challenge him in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes?
The answer to the Preakness, which takes place one week from Saturday, based on the current field is easy: Nobody.
According to Jay Privman of DailyRacingForm.com, there might only be as many as three horses from the Kentucky Derby challenging California Chrome with the rest of the field being new to the Triple Crown field.
In addition to California Chrome, the only others coming out of the Derby still under consideration to run back in the Preakness were Danza (who was third) and Ride On Curlin (seventh), with only Ride On Curlin a certainty.
Terry Finley of West Point Thoroughbreds said runner-up Commanding Curve would await the Belmont.
One of the leading contenders to win the Preakness would have been Untapable, a filly who won the Kentucky Oaks race 24 hours before California Chrome's march into the record books, also won't run due to the short turnaround time.
There was some hope that Hoppertunity, the Bob Baffert-trained horse who had the second-best odds at the Kentucky Derby before pulling out with a foot problem, could run in the final two Triple Crown races, but ankle surgery reported by the Daily Racing Form ended that dream.
So who is going to challenge California Chrome?
Wicked Strong had a bad draw from the No. 20 post at Churchill Downs, but he only had one win in three races prior to the Kentucky Derby finishing fourth and ninth in the other two.
The Preakness Stakes has the potential to be an even bigger margin of victory for California Chrome because it's one furlong shorter than the Kentucky Derby, allowing Espinoza to push the horse harder right out of the gate without fear of wearing him down.
Looking further ahead to the Belmont Stakes, which is the longest Triple Crown race at 12 furlongs, California Chrome will have to be held back a little before unleashing his speed, but we've seen how he responds when getting off to a slow start.
At the Santa Anita Derby, which was his coming out party, California Chrome actually got off to a slow start by stumbling slightly out of the gate before recovering and winning by 5.25 lengths.
If all things are equal, California Chrome is going to romp his way to a Triple Crown. The field around him is dropping like flies, with Hoppertunity's absence leaving a huge void, and no one has stepped up enough to prove they can even hang with him, let alone beat him.
It gets talked every year, but for the first time there is actual teeth to the argument that this will be the year the Triple Crown drought ends.
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