Preakness 2014: Top Contenders and Unheralded Horses in Field

Nate LoopFeatured ColumnistMay 13, 2014

In this image taken with a fisheye lens, jockey Victor Espinoza rides California Chrome to win the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 3, 2014, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

It is time to gear up for the 2014 Preakness Stakes—aka the second leg of the vaunted Triple Crown, horse racing's biggest series of competitions. The famous race will take place at the Pimlico Race Course on Saturday in Baltimore, Maryland.

The early lineup has a number of horses that look more than ready to take the $1.5 million purse back home to their respective owners. However, there are a couple of three-year-old thoroughbreds that don't get much press but have a chance to upset confident owners and bettors alike.

Every year, horse racing fans look to the Kentucky Derby winner for the potential Triple Crown hero, and this year it’s the feel-good story surrounding California Chrome that has everyone buzzing.

California Chrome, hidden away in relative anonymity at the Los Alamitos Race Course, has completely upended the horse racing world with five straight wins, including a comfortable victory at the 140th Kentucky Derby.

Garry Jones/Associated Press

California Chrome was the first California-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby since Decidedly in 1962.

California Chrome is an anomaly in the world of horse racing. Huge investments are made in breeding horses with impeccable pedigrees, and yet Chrome is a $10,000 colt that made his owners a fortune seemingly overnight.

Co-owner Steve Coburn deeply revered California Chrome’s win at the Kentucky Derby. Via a report from "You know, we're still in awe it happened," said Coburn. "And it happened to just normal, everyday people. And that in itself is amazing to me."

Chrome will work hard to exclude a robust colt by the name of Social Inclusion from Preakness glory.

Social Inclusion is a pace-setting horse that does well working from the front of the pack as early as possible. He is a bit of a newcomer, but with two victories in three career starts looks to be a legitimate challenger in this year’s field.

Social Inclusion is a surprise challenger because he hadn't accumulated enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby this year. Nevertheless, Social Inclusion easily defeated the well-known Honor Code by 10 lengths at Gulfstream Park on March 12. 

Since the field is bereft of horses making their way over from the Kentucky Derby, nobody should count out Dynamic Impact in this year’s competition. The colt is coming off a victory in the Illinois Derby and is poised to run roughshod over the field if he can reach his full potential on Saturday.

Dynamic Impact looked strong in training, according to Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee:

Assistant trainer Norman Casse was confident in the way jockey Miguel Mena rode his horse in training, and believes Dynamic Impact will have plenty in the tank when it comes to race time. Via Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal:

By design, our last work before they run, they never gallop. So he angled off the rail. I asked Miguel if he had tons of horse left to gallop out had he wanted to, and he said he had a ton of horse left. All signs are showing he’s doing really well.

And if there’s one jockey who can take an unheralded horse to a surprise victory, it’s the legendary Calvin Borel.

Ria Antonia is the lucky filly carrying Borel. Churchill Downs' official Twitter account reported the news:

Trainer Tom Amoss and owner Ron Paolucci made the decision on Monday, according to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News.

Borel is a three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and won the 2009 Preakness Stakes atop thoroughbred filly Rachel Alexandra. A seasoned jockey like Borel gives Ria Antonia a chance to ride the inside rail to a surprise finish this year.

Everyone will be looking to catch California Chrome in the Preakness Stakes, as the horse is on an incredible win streak and displayed a comfortable stride in the Kentucky Derby. California Chrome looks strong enough to have a good shot at a Triple Crown. Of course, he will have to make history to do so. There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed took all three races way back in 1978. 

California Chrome won't be the only horse looking to make history. The Preakness has proved to be difficult for fillies in the past, with a paltry five winners in 136 races. Ria Antonia may have the perfect jockey in Borel, but she will be hard-pressed to overtake the colts over the 1 3/16 miles of Pimlico.