California Chrome looks to take another step toward horse racing immortality on Saturday in the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes. His impressive performance in the Kentucky Derby has fans dreaming of the sport's first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
The Art Sherman trainee was dominant at Churchill Downs. He pulled away down the stretch to win by just under two lengths. It could have been more, but jockey Victor Espinoza wisely took it easy once the race was firmly under control.
California Chrome was clearly the best horse heading into the Derby after winning four straight races, including the Santa Anita Derby, during the buildup.
So after his win in the first leg, it comes as no surprise he arrived to Pimlico Race Course as the heavy favorite. He checks in at 5-8 odds heading into the draw for post positions, according to Odds Shark.
How many more Triple Crown races will California Chrome win?
He will face off against a combination of fellow Derby returnees and new horses to the Triple Crown trail. The inclusion of fresh horses is always one of the biggest hurdles a horse must overcome in order to complete the trifecta.
That said, the same statement that held true at Churchill Downs remains in place on Saturday. California Chrome is the best horse in the race, and the only way another horse ends up crossing the finish line first is if something goes wrong.
A terrible start from the gate or getting caught toward the front amid an extremely fast pace were the two biggest concerns for the Derby. A third factor this time around will be returning on the shortest rest of his career to face another elite field.
That said, California Chrome showed no signs of running out of energy at the Derby, which bodes well for his chances of bouncing back strong.
Childs Walker of The Baltimore Sun passed along comments from Alan Sherman. The veteran trainer wasn't ready to put specific expectations on the race, but he talked about the thrill of the chase:
It's an awesome feeling having a horse of this caliber. It's the first time we've had a horse this good, so we're enjoying the ride.
TVG noted the Triple Crown hopeful looked strong in the days leading up to the post position draw:
California Chrome first one around this morning. Moving very well over this relatively chewed up track today pic.twitter.com/tfTWMjJ5wC— TVG (@TVG) May 11, 2014
While the draw may have an impact on exactly how big of a favorite California Chrome is at post time on Saturday, there's no doubt he will remain the top choice. There's no evidence to suggest he's anything other than the best horse in the field.
In a perfect world, he would draw somewhere in the middle of the starting gate for the Preakness. A repeat of his No. 5 starting spot from the Kentucky Derby would be welcomed by Sherman and Co. Avoiding the extreme inside is probably the biggest key.
That said, whether he starts on the inside, outside or somewhere in between, California Chrome is the horse to beat for the second straight Triple Crown race.