Wednesday marked the post position draw for the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Not only does it give a better idea of how California Chrome's bid for the Triple Crown figures to go, but it also helps determine the initial odds for his top challengers.
California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and is the clear No. 1 favorite, checking in with 3-5 morning-line odds. Next in line among the 10-horse field is Social Inclusion (5-1), followed by Bayern and Ride On Curlin at 10-1 shots to win apiece, according to the HRTV broadcast.
Horse racing is so difficult to predict, but bettors wagering against California Chrome can do so at their own peril. He has won his past five races and proven plenty capable of getting it done on the biggest stages, evident in triumphs at Churchill Downs and the Santa Anita Derby.
Here is a look at the complete field and where they will start from at Pimlico on Saturday, followed by a race preview.
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Trainer||Morning Line Odds|
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||Mark E. Casse||12-1|
|2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||Mike Maker||15-1|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||3-5|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||H. Graham Motion||20-1|
|5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||Bob Baffert||10-1|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||Tom Amoss||30-1|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||Linda Rice||20-1|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||Manny Azpurua||5-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley A. Ward||20-1|
|10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||William Gowan||10-1|
There's no doubt that California Chrome has the most talent of any horse in this field. He also has a jockey in Victor Espinoza who has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in the past, doing so aboard War Emblem in 2002.
Espinoza has to be champing at the bit to get back to the Preakness with a Kentucky Derby champion, as he tries to ride to the sport's first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Marcus Hersh analyzed what California Chrome's No. 3 post means for how the race will unfold:
There will be speed to the outside of California Chrome, who drew post 3. #preakness— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 14, 2014
At 9.5 furlongs, the Preakness is the shortest of the three Triple Crown races, so it tends to lend to a quicker pace. That plays into California Chrome's favor, as The Baltimore Sun's Childs Walker referred to in his post draw breakdown:
If the speed horses jump out quickly, which didn’t happen at Churchill Downs, California Chrome’s reaction could determine his fate. Recent history suggests he is a solid bet in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Eight of the last 17 Derby champions have also won at Pimlico.
Past Preakness winner and Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel feels confident in his horse, Ria Antonia, and suggests that he can dash California Chrome's lofty aspirations if the race falls the right away, per KY Derby Contenders:
Ria Antonia jock Borel: "There are no outstanding horses other than California Chrome. If we can find a hole, we’ve got a shot.”— KY Derby Contenders (@DerbyContenders) May 14, 2014
There may be reason for such sentiments, considering this is a quick, two-week turnaround that California Chrome hasn't had to deal with before. Plus, trainer Art Sherman estimated that California Chrome has gained quite a lot of weight since his triumph in the Run for the Roses, per J.J. Hysell:
California Chrome was measured this week and Sherman estimated the colt had gained 35 pounds since the Derby. - #Preakness notes— J.J. Hysell (@trifectabox) May 14, 2014
That shouldn't slow down California Chrome enough to the point of being a terrible disadvantage, though, because his combination of acceleration and stamina is unparalleled amongst his nine opponents. One knock on him is bad starts, so Espinoza just has to avoid what minimal traffic trouble will be there ahead of the first turn in order to be in prominent position for the winner's circle.
No. 2 favorite Social Inclusion finished third in the Grade I Wood Memorial Stakes, and won his two prior starts. Since he didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, he figures to be fresher than California Chrome and should make a run as his top competition.
Bayern would be a unique story, in light of female jockey Rosie Napravnik having gotten her start at Pimlico. It would be a landmark victory if she were able to pull it off, and if there's any non-Triple Crown storyline to pull for, that's the one. Jennie Rees of USA Today reported what Napravnik had to say about her homecoming and what a win would mean:
It would be just as special. It's a Triple Crown race. It's my home track with all my friends and family around. We'd have half the grandstand cheering for us – that's what would make it special. "I would feel like – if I was able to ride the winner of the Preakness – that I was doing it for everybody who got me started in Maryland and who gave me the opportunities that led to Fair Grounds, Kentucky and Saratoga and having a horse in the Preakness.
Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form reported that Napravnik was pleased with Bayern's work leading up to the race, according to the horse's Hall of Fame trainer and five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert:
Baffert says "Rosie was happy with it" following Bayern's 1:02.60 work this morning at CD. Said track was dull, "All systems go." #preakness— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 12, 2014
Who will win the Preakness Stakes?
Not to be discounted is Ride On Curlin, who rode to a disappointing seventh at Churchill Downs but now has a new man in Joel Rosario in the irons for this race. Rosario is well respected, and is likely a big reason Ride On Curlin is a 10-1 favorite, projected to finish in or just outside of the money.
Getting any substantial return on a California Chrome bet isn't possible, but the Triple Crown seems as within reach as it has been in recent memory for any Preakness hopeful. With all the hype this horse has generated even before the Kentucky Derby, it would benefit all involved with the Preakness Stakes and in horse racing if Espinoza rides California Chrome to a sixth straight win on Saturday.
The Belmont Stakes often feels anticlimactic if no horse is vying for the Triple Crown. Although the Preakness can foster an inspiring underdog story, as it did with Gary Stevens' triumphant comeback in his upset win aboard Oxbow in 2013, this year's race could use California Chrome to rise to the occasion yet again.
Odds among the rest of the field are rather close, but the disparity between the others and California Chrome would make his falling short even more of a letdown.