It's officially race week for the 2014 Preakness Stakes, and some of the biggest storylines are set to be answered.
California Chrome comes in off a resounding Kentucky Derby victory. And after entering the Run for the Roses back on May 3 as a huge favorite, there was no doubting he would be considered even more of an overwhelming favorite heading into Pimlico Race Course as talk of his Triple Crown bid heats up.
Will California Chrome turn on the gas again down the stretch, win his sixth straight race and move to one final step away from horse racing's first Triple Crown since 1978? Or will one of the many contenders in the field spoil the party yet again?
Let's break down the field as well as how the weather is shaping up to look at Pimlico on race day.
|Projected Weather for May 17|
|71 degrees||53 degrees||20%||NW 7 m.p.h.|
|Weather.com, as of May 12|
Overall, it's not looking like an ideal week of weather in Baltimore, Maryland, and near Pimlico heading into the 139th running of the Preakness. But that's expected to change heading into Saturday.
According to Weather.com, Saturday holds a high of 71 degrees with partly cloudy skies in Baltimore. The chance of rain is slated at 20 percent as of May 12.
A positive Saturday weather prediction comes after an 80 percent chance of precipitation the day before, so there's a chance the track could still be slow when the horses line up on Saturday afternoon.
The track figures to be slower and more complicated for horses if rain is involved, but recent trends don't show a huge impact. The 2013 Preakness was run in muddy conditions, but the winning time of one minute, 55.94 seconds was only two seconds slower than the previous year's running.
|2014 Preakness Odds (as of May 12)|
|Ride On Curlin||+800|
|General a Rod||+1200|
|Pablo Del Monte||+2000|
Odds courtesy of Oddsshark.com
Post positions have yet to be revealed, but early odds numbers have emerged for the weekend's big race.
To no surprise, California Chrome is the heavy favorite—as are all Kentucky Derby winners. Victor Espinoza will look to ride him to what would be a sixth straight win after taking California Chrome to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs.
According to Alan Sherman, assistant trainer to his father Art Sherman, it's been all thumbs up for the horse as he heads to Pimlico, per Preakness.com: “Everything is perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more. He lost a little weight after the race but put it all back on quickly.”
Danza was a big contender at the Kentucky Derby and figured to be the same at Pimlico, but Daily Racing Form's David Grening reported he's an unlikely showing for the Preakness. Commanding Curve—who finished second in the Derby—is taking Pimlico off to prepare for the Belmont Stakes.
So, whom does that leave to seriously threaten California Chrome's seemingly inevitable Preakness victory?
Bayern could easily do so. Well-known trainer Bob Baffert got Bayern to place in both the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs and won his first two starts prior to that.
Ride on Curlin and General a Rod both made appearances in the Kentucky Derby and will race at the Preakness but finished seventh and 11th, respectively.
Of course, in 2013 the "favorite" role didn't quite work out for the horse that inhabited it. Orb entered the 2013 Preakness as a huge favorite coming off his Kentucky Derby win but was beaten by 16-1 Oxbow in stunning fashion.
There are a number of horses in the mix at Pimlico this year that could play the role of Oxbow come race day and spoil California Chrome's day, including Bayern, Ride On Curlin, General a Rod and more.
But until that happens, the easy money will be on California Chrome, and betting on anyone else should produce a big payout.
All information courtesy Preakness.com unless otherwise noted