Post positions for the 2014 Preakness Stakes were revealed Wednesday, and the field of 10 is headlined by the 3-5 morning-line favorite California Chrome.
The Kentucky Derby winner is in hot pursuit of the Triple Crown and figures to be the best bet to make it to the winner's circle at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Claire Novak of BloodHorse.com was on the scene during Wednesday's draw to tweet the posts and initial odds:
Social Inclusion is perceived as the top potential challenger with 5-1 odds of claiming victory, and it helps that he comes in with more rest than California Chrome after not running at Churchill Downs.
Below is a look at the list of contenders in order of post position and their major connections, along with an updated analysis of the favorites based on where they're starting from in the 139th Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.
|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|
Analyzing Odds-On Favorites
California Chrome (3-5)
The tandem of this wonderful horse and jockey Victor Espinoza is seeking its sixth consecutive win, and the odds suggest it's all but in the bag. California Chrome's connections have had every reason to be confident, and he's yet to let them down, in part because of Espinoza's prowess in the irons.
But as least one big figure in the prohibitive favorite's camp, co-owner Perry Martin, could stand to see the spotlight soften a bit, per Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden:
California Chrome co-owner Perry Martin disliked media attn before, during and since Derby so much that he's skipping Preakness.— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) May 14, 2014
That's what happens when you are the Triple Crown favorite. Enormous pressure will be on Espinoza Saturday to replicate the feat he achieved aboard War Emblem in 2002, when he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
The Daily Racing Form's David Grening notes that history isn't on California Chrome's side with regard to the No. 3 post position:
California Chrome drew post 3 inside of speed horses Social Inclusion (8) and Pablo del Monte (9) Prairie Bayou '93 last horse to win from 3— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 14, 2014
With a co-owner spooked by the media magnification, an unfavorable draw based on past winners and the expectations that come with being a Triple Crown hopeful, California Chrome is facing a ton of scrutiny. Trainer Art Sherman must do his best to tune out the noise and focus on preparing his colt for further greatness, though it may be easier said than done.
No one can doubt that California Chrome is the most talented horse in the field, though, and that counts for a lot. The fact that Espinoza has had such raging success in the saddle is also a positive sign, as is the wide gap between California Chrome and the rest of the field in the morning line.
Social Inclusion (5-1)
Look no further than his finish in the money at the Grade I Wood Memorial Stakes to prove that Social Inclusion is worth his gaudy status as the second favorite at Pimlico.
Oh, and before then, Social Inclusion won his two starts by a combined 17.5 lengths. That means his run at the Wood Memorial was no fluke. California Chrome ran a rather slow pace to win the Kentucky Derby, so at a slightly shorter, 9.5-furlong track in the Preakness, it will be interesting to see how the 3-5 favorite handles a faster pace.
Social Inclusion's speed is sensational based on his previous winning margins. All that prevented him from getting to the winner's circle in his last start was a slight letdown during the final stretch, but it's something jockey Luis Contreras can account for in pursuing Triple Crown glory.
Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form highlighted some strong work Social Inclusion did earlier this week:
Per PIM clockers: Social Inclusion out 59.3 5fs & 1:13.3 6fs after 47 half. Didn't pull all the way up til 1/8th pole. #preakness— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 12, 2014
As long as Contreras doesn't break Social Inclusion too early, there is a strong chance that a swift start will allow him to gain an edge on California Chrome, who isn't known for getting out of the gates with grace. That could change the entire complexion of the race.
Starting in the eighth post will also help Contreras avoid potential traffic issues. Even though this is a smaller field, there should be a cluster near the rail if California Chrome is a bit slow to begin, and Dynamic Impact will likely do what he can to get some breathing room starting to the inside.
Who's the biggest threat to beat California Chrome in the Preakness?
Even the co-favorites to finish in the money are huge long shots to win the Preakness outright, but between the two contenders listed at 10-1, Bayern has the superior connections to get it done.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, he is also ridden by jockey Rosie Napravnik, who began her career at Pimlico, acquiring her jockey license there in 2005. She will be as determined as ever to race to victory aboard this exceptional horse. Baffert has also won the Preakness five times, so anyone he enters can't be counted out so easily.
Napravnik has had an interesting lead up to her home Triple Crown race, winning the Kentucky Oaks but finishing last in the Kentucky Derby after drawing the No. 1 post. She also was disqualified after she appeared to ride Bayern to victory in the Derby Trial Stakes.
"What are you going to do?" said Baffert after the disqualification, per the Associated Press' Gary B. Graves. "At first I thought he hung on and won. Then I saw the inquiry. I saw all the bumping, there was a lot of stuff going on there...They made the right call."
Fox 8 WVUE-TV's Garrett Gilland weighed in on Napravnik's improved position from her lackluster start in the Run for the Roses:
Finishing third at the Grade I Arkansas Derby suggests Bayern's best is yet to come in high-profile races, and this is his first shot at one since then. Given the experience Napravnik has at this racetrack and Baffert's savvy, don't be surprised if this 10-1 shot triumphs on Saturday.
While this would be an excellent story, it would also dash some of the momentum for the rest of horse racing's Triple Crown season. That will be the case if anyone other than California Chrome crosses the finish line first. Fascinating as it is to fathom one of these dark horses challenging the mighty favorite for the Triple Crown's second jewel, the ratings and interest for the Belmont Stakes would drop considerably.
This is California Chrome's race to lose, but if Napravnik dashes his dreams, she could set the stage for more female jockeys to flood into the sport. The venue couldn't be more ideal for her to thrive, and at least it would add some historical significance and versatility in narratives beyond the go-to Triple Crown buzz.