It may not have the same hype level as the Kentucky Derby, but the second stage of the Triple Crown spectacle known as the Preakness is a short burst of intense action worthy of the eyes of the globe.
The race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland is shorter than the opening act of the Triple Crown and touts four fewer horses this year, but the storylines surrounding the event couldn't be bigger.
California Chrome is chasing the Triple Crown and represents the best chance many have ever seen at a contestant actually earning it. One female horse named Ria Antonia stands alone. A legendary jockey by the name of Calvin Borel makes his third start at Pimlico.
Here's how to catch the drama.
139th Preakness Stakes
When: Saturday, May 17 (Post time is 6:18 p.m. ET)
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
TV: NBC (Broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Sports
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Odds to Win|
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||12-1|
|2||General A Rod||Javier Castellano||15-1|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||20-1|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30-1|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||20-1|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||5-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||20-1|
|10||Ride on Curlin||Joel Rosario||10-1|
Preakness.com. Odds The Preakness Stakes.
For California Chrome, the post draw had to be a bit of a disappointment. Riding out of the No. 3 slot is no easy task, especially when one takes into account a jarring stat brought to light by SportingCharts:
#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
Still, trainer Art Sherman hit the nail on the head in an interview at the post draw after the odds were announced, as captured by USA Today's Gary Mihoces:
"Oh man, 3-5, it makes you want to choke," said Sherman, 77, shortly after his horse drew the No. 3 starting post in the 10-horse race and the morning line was set by the Maryland Jockey Club.
"But I wouldn't want to be in anybody else's position. Hey listen, when you lead a 3-5 favorite in the Preakness, you must have deserved to be that."
California Chrome did, as the triumph at Churchill Downs marked the fifth victory in a row for the Preakness favorite, although it was the first that was not a complete blowout.
As if the recent dominance were not enough to swing things in California Chrome's favor Saturday, Mihoces brought up a jarring stat: The favorite has won 70 of the last 138 Preakness events.
Count racing advisor Bradley Weisbord as one in the favorite's corner:
I will be rooting HARD on Saturday for CALIFORNIA CHROME. Thoroughbred racing needs a triple crown winner, hope we get the chance at Belmont— Bradley Weisbord (@BradWeisbord) May 14, 2014
But like any good Triple Crown event, the field has some noteworthy challengers.
Most pressing is Bayern, trained by legend Bob Baffert. Bayern is wicked fast and would have been a serious contender in the Kentucky Derby had he not been disqualified in the Derby Trial—which he won. As Baffert notes, he has been thinking about the Triple Crown for quite some time thanks to Bayern, via USA Today's Jennie Rees:
I was thinking Derby when I went to Arkansas. I was hoping for a Bodemeister," said trainer Bob Baffert, referring to his 2012 Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up, who also did not race at 2. "He ran well. He got a little 'late' there at the end, but he ran an incredible race.
"… I was thinking Preakness after the Derby Trial. I was a little bit disappointed he couldn't separate himself from those horses. He still won, but I was looking for a bigger effort. Then he came back well. Maybe he just needed some seasoning."
Will California Chrome win the Preakness?
Ride on Curlin and General a Rod are also two horses to watch as they are the only challengers other than California Chrome who participated in the Derby and will be present in Baltimore. Both have enough speed to challenge for the top spot if they can avoid the pack.
That is something that was an issue for both, but that's what adds another layer of intrigue to the Preakness. The fact that it is both shorter and touts fewer contestants means a horse with quick burst can both avoid getting bogged down in traffic and distance itself rather quickly.
It all adds up to what is sure to be another classic. Whether or not we get to see a serious Triple Crown push from a dominant favorite will be discovered rather quickly.
Odds via the Preakness Stakes.