The 2014 Preakness Stakes draw is coming together, and at first glance, it looks like California Chrome will be leaving Pimlico with a shot at a Triple Crown still intact.
Featuring a track a half furlong shorter than that for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness is a very similar race to the first leg of horse racing's Triple Crown, giving a slight added advantage to horses that excel at charging ahead when they have open space in front of them.
Only 10 of the 14 horses in the field are set, but from that group of Derby competitors and new challengers, we can already cull out who will likely be the contenders and who will be the also-rans.
|California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Confirmed|
|Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Confirmed|
|Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||Confirmed|
|Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||Confirmed|
|Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||Confirmed|
|Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||Confirmed|
|Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||Confirmed|
|Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||Confirmed|
|General A Rod||Javier Castellano||Confirmed|
|Ride On Curlin||+800|
|General A Rod||+1200|
|Pablo Del Monte||+2000|
After making good on his favorite status at Churchill Downs, California Chrome has the odds even more heavily weighted toward him as the Preakness approaches.
That doesn't mean everyone thinks Chrome is the greatest racer; he won the Derby comfortably, but as Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden notes, that has as much to do with the horses going against Chrome as it does with his own ability.
California Chrome's slow Derby may be indicator of weak class of 3yos or small chance at Triple Crown. But he still won the Derby.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) May 7, 2014
For now, we don't have to worry about how Chrome stacks up against previous greats in the sport. If he can build a similarly wide margin at Pimlico and set his sights on Belmont thereafter, that's all that matters.
Considering his formula for success at the Derby—powering far ahead at the top of the stretch and coasting to the finish—Chrome should be even more comfortable racing at Pimlico. Endurance won't be as much of a concern on a slightly shorter track, and the smaller field should produce more open room to run.
This is Chrome's race to lose; it would be an upset no matter who topped him.
The Derby Returnees
Ride On Curlin and General a Rod are each taking another shot at Chrome after losing to him at Churchill Downs. Curlin came in seventh, 6 3/4 lengths behind the leader, while General trailed by 8 1/4 lengths in an 11th-place finish.
There's a bit of intrigue surrounding these two horses in terms of their Preakness mounts.
After riding General in the Derby, Joel Rosario will ride Curlin at the Preakness, replacing Calvin Borel after what Curlin trainer Billy Gowan deemed an unsatisfactory showing at the Derby. Gowan wanted Borel to gradually work his way to the rail, but the jockey broke immediately from the outside, per ESPN's Claire Novak.
That means General also needs a new jockey, with Javier Castellano, a veteran who rode We Miss Artie in Louisville, taking the reins.
Don't worry about consistency or familiarity with new riders on these horses. Both raced below their standards at the Derby and are hoping for more. If Chrome falters, Curlin is more likely to overtake him, but General has a chance as well.
The New Shooters
Of the established field, that leaves the horses entering their first Triple Crown race of 2014: Pablo Del Monte, Kid Cruz, Social Inclusion, Dynamic Impact, Bayern, Ring Weekend and Ria Antonia.
As a sign that these odds are truly in constant flux right up until the betting windows close on race day, Ria Antonia, the trailer in the current field, has landed a high-profile mount looking for redemption after the Derby.
Calvin Borel will have mount on Ria in Preakness.— horseracinghl (@horseracinghl) May 12, 2014
Borel may have mismanaged his ride at Churchill Downs this year, but he's as good as they come. With him riding Antonia, the biggest underdog has to be considered an outside shot to watch at the very least.
Social Inclusion is another interesting challenger. He has raced just three times in his career, all in 2014, but those three starts have resulted in two first-place finishes; the only time he didn't win, he came in third. He doesn't have as much race experience as Chrome or others, but he's fast and he's fresh, which makes him a threat.
Dynamic Impact and Bayern—two other little-raced horses—will also make serious bids for the Black-Eyed Susans, but Inclusion is the one to watch from this group. It remains to be seen if he can spoil Chrome's Triple Crown quest, but he certainly has the talent to do so.