Now that the Preakness Stakes post positions and official odds have been set, the favorite is just as clear now as it was before.
California Chrome established his bona fides for Pimlico when he roared ahead of the pack at Churchill Downs. No other horse in the field could give him a serious fight at the Kentucky Derby, and Chrome cruised to victory in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
That Chrome would have the best odds to win the Black-Eyed Susans was a given even before the post positions draw. Now that the morning line is set, we know just how heavily the Derby winner is favored.
|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|
As Art Wilson of the L.A. Newspaper Group points out, those 3-5 odds carry all-time significance. Not only do they put Chrome head and shoulders ahead of the other nine horses in the field, but they also make him a heavier favorite than some of the greatest racers in the sport's history.
Even if Chrome is no Seattle Slew, he's that much better than the rest of his competition.
The closest thing this field offers to serious challengers are the highest-placing Derby returnee, Ride On Curlin, and a talented new shooter, Social Inclusion.
Curlin enters the Preakness with a new jockey, Joel Rosario, after Calvin Borel had the mount at Churchill Downs. As Blood-Horse reports, a difference of opinion on strategy between Borel and trainer Billy Gowan led to the change after a disappointing sixth-place Derby result.
Trainer Billy Gowan was not happy with the ride Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel gave the colt during his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs. Ride On Curlin broke from the No. 19 post and dropped back to last as Borel took the colt straight to the rail.
"I told him before the race that he had three-eighths of a mile to work his way over," Gowan said.
That switch carries even greater import following the post position draw.
Ride On Curlin will be running from the far outside position at Pimlico. Since there are only 10 horses in the field, he'll be starting closer to the rail than he did in the Derby, but Gowan can trust Curlin's mount to navigate the open spaces more to his specification.
Then again, it remains to be seen whether a jockey taking the mount less than two weeks before the Preakness can harness the horse's potential, or whether the horse actually has the potential Gowan claims he has to match Chrome.
If any horse in the field has the speed to keep pace with the favorite, it's Social Inclusion, a relatively new racer who, after skipping Churchill Downs, enters Pimlico fresher than the Derby competitors.
In three career races, all in 2014, Inclusion has picked up a pair of wins and a third-place finish, standing out from the rest of his competition by simply blowing right by them. He doesn't have the experience Chrome has, but he has the athleticism to keep up with him.
But the small sample that makes up Inclusion's track record becomes worrisome when you consider his third-place finish came the most recently, at his only career stakes run.
Entering the Wood Memorial, Social Inclusion was the favorite after just two prior races, but he was unable to come from outside positioning to beat Wicked Strong or Samraat, two horses that entered the Derby and were both unable to push Chrome en route to fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively.
Running from the eighth position, Inclusion will be able to use his speed to his advantage on an open track, but Chrome has more stamina and has won in this type of race before.
Inclusion might very well be his closest competition, but California Chrome is hands down the horse to beat.