The Preakness Stakes post positions and official odds are out, revealing an overwhelming favorite separated from the field of challengers.
To the surprise of no one, California Chrome has by far the best odds to win at Pimlico. After a dominant performance to win the Kentucky Derby, Chrome proved that no other three-year-old horse racing today can match his combination of pure speed and experience on the track; the victory at Churchill Downs was Chrome's seventh in 11 races.
|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|
Those 3-5 odds aren't just extraordinary in the context of the 2014 Preakness field; they're historically special. Chrome is a heavier favorite to win this race than some of the greatest horses ever to compete at Pimlico have been.
With what seems like an overwhelming talent edge over the rest of his competition, Chrome is the only horse who can truly be called a contender in this race. It's quite possible Chrome might only lose if he beats himself, though that's possible from the third post.
Horses starting close to the rail have suffered at the Preakness because they can't easily access from those positions the open track this race provides.
#Preakness2014 post position draw goes in the next few hours. Since 1995, there hasn't been a Preakness winner from positions 1 through 3.— SportingCharts (@sportingcharts) May 14, 2014
Whereas the Kentucky Derby fields as many as 20 horses in a single race, the Preakness has a cap of 14, and this year the race will only field 10. Speedy horses on the outside can charge ahead before cutting back toward the inside, blocking those positioned on the rail who have to maneuver more for openings. Unless they can maneuver their way toward the outside early, they're hopeless.
Despite decent 12-1 odds, that spells doom for Dynamic Impact from the first post, but clearly no one is worrying about Chrome at the third. He's too quick out of the gate and too good at maintaining his velocity to fall victim to his positioning.
That said, there are a couple horses starting from the outside who should have easier runs than Chrome will. Even if the Derby champ doesn't get trapped inside, these are the sleepers who could upset Chrome nonetheless.
Chrome is far more accustomed to big-time racing than Social Inclusion is; the new shooter, who skipped Churchill Downs, has run just three career races, less than half as many as Chrome has won.
That said, Inclusion can absolutely fly with open space in front of him, and he'll have plenty of it coming from the eighth position. He's the only horse in the field who can match California Chrome from a speed perspective, and considering Chrome will be racing the Preakness on just two weeks' rest after the Derby, Inclusion will be the fresher horse.
If there's one knock against Inclusion, who has won twice in impressive fashion this year, it's that his most recent race was the only won he didn't win.
Inclusion entered the Wood Memorial as the favorite in his stakes debut, but he couldn't deliver from the outside post, finishing third behind Wicked Strong and Samraat. Those two horses both went to Louisville, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, behind Chrome, with neither giving him much cause for concern.
Ride On Curlin
If you believe Ride On Curlin trainer Billy Gowan, his horse's sixth-place finish at Churchill Downs is not a fair representation of his true ability.
Per Blood-Horse, Gowan felt Calvin Borel did not put Curlin in the best position to succeed at the Derby. The horse started from the 19th position, so when Borel navigated him immediately to the rail rather than easing his way inside, he found himself blocked and unable to make a real charge at the lead.
Because of that difference of opinion on strategy, Borel won't have the mount at Pimlico. Curlin will instead have Joel Rosario as his jockey. Considering Curlin is racing from the far outside position in the Preakness, this change seems particularly relevant.
It remains to be seen how Curlin runs with Rosario, or whether he's actually the rival for Chrome from an athletic standpoint that Gowan purports he is.
From what we have seen leading up to the Preakness, it's not likely. That's not a knock against Curlin, but a compliment for Chrome.
Chrome is an extremely heavy favorite, but his status as such is deserved.