With the post draw for the 2014 Preakness Stakes complete, the path California Chrome will take in pursuit of the black-eyed Susans—and the path his challengers will take in their upset attempts—has become that much clearer.
Prior to the draw, Chrome, the Kentucky Derby champion, was already a runaway favorite to win the Preakness as well. Odds Shark gave him commanding 5-8 odds to take the second leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. The most favored threat to Chrome's chances was Danza at 7-1, and he did not end up entering the field.
That said, the post draw didn't do any favors for Chrome.
History says that Dynamic Impact, General a Rod and Chrome will struggle starting so close to the rail. In fact, no horse has won the Preakness from their posts in nearly two decades.
With a significantly smaller field than the 20-horse Derby, the Preakness offers competitors plenty of room to run—that is, if they're not stuck on the rail and unable to break out into open space.
By that logic, the draw was clearly less ideal for Impact and General than it was for Chrome. Jockey Victor Espinoza will have an easier time maneuvering Chrome toward open track than his competitors will, and as the official Preakness odds show, the draw has had no impact on Chrome's favorite status.
In fact, without accounting for Danza as a potential spoiler, Chrome's official odds actually represent a slight improvement over the preliminary Vegas projection.
Only a catastrophic draw was going to alter Chrome's status as the prohibitive favorite. In terms of this race, that would've meant a rail draw such as 2013 Derby winner Orb received; Orb was unable to battle his way into space in time to catch Oxbow, falling victim to circumstance and dashing his Triple Crown chances.
Running from the third post should be more than manageable—especially considering the field offers so few concerning challengers.
Now, Social Inclusion, a new shooter who did not run the Derby, takes Danza's place as the next-most formidable horse in the field. An impressive start to a young career, with two victories and a third-place finish in three races, has earned Inclusion 5-1 odds. He is fast, he is running from the eighth post and he is better rested than Chrome.
That said, the one race Inclusion did not win was his most recent.
Favored 8-5 at the Wood Memorial, despite his incredible speed, he could not catch Wicked Strong or Samraat, two horses who went on to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, at Churchill Downs, neither posing much of a challenge to Chrome.
Ride On Curlin represents the toughest Derby returnee in the field. After a disappointing sixth-place finish in what his trainer deemed to be a poorly run race, per The Blood-Horse, Curlin will have Joel Rosario as his jockey rather than Calvin Borel.
Perhaps the switch will help bridge the gap between Curlin and Chrome, but considering the dominant fashion in which Chrome won the Derby, it's unclear how much that will matter.
California Chrome has every bit as much talent as Inclusion, not to mention seven wins in 11 career races. No three-year-old around can match his blend of speed and race experience, and that makes him the easy pick to continue his chase for the Triple Crown.
All odds courtesy of Odds Shark.