Although it is a smaller field than the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness will feature plenty of excitement as California Chrome looks to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The overwhelming favorite had an impressive showing at Churchill Downs to win the Kentucky Derby by almost two lengths. He will now face seven new competitors and two old ones in an effort to keep the dream of a Triple Crown alive.
Of course, it is extremely difficult to win each of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. No horse has accomplished the feat since 1978, as any number of problems can occur over the course of the spring.
This is what will make the battle at Pimlico such a thrill for fans to watch. Here is a breakdown of the field with post positions and odds, followed by predictions for the prestigious race.
|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|
Show: Kid Cruz
Although Kid Cruz is a bit of a long shot in this race, he certainly has the ability to turn some heads thanks to his comfort with the race track and ability to close.
The horse has won his last two starts, both of which were in the state of Maryland. His most recent win was actually at Pimlico for the Federico Tesio Stakes, which ended in an easy victory of over three lengths.
This comfort with the track and the skill to turn it on late are what make him a legitimate contender, according to Ted Black of The Racing Biz:
In each of his last two starts, Kid Cruz has displayed a serious late kick and now he’s getting to run an eighth of a mile farther than he did in the Tesio. He also arrives with a stakes win over the track and captured the Tesio despite chasing incredibly slow fractions that should have enabled the front runners to sprint clear. But instead Kid Cruz unleashed a late kick that was contrary to the pace scenario; what figures to be an honest tempo in the Preakness will enhance his chances.
Additionally, Kid Cruz has the pedigree to believe in him. His sire was 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, whose damsire was Seattle Slew.
Kid Cruz has not been challenged much in his career, but he can surprise people with a late charge into the money list.
When it comes to Triple Crown racing, there are few trainers better than Bob Baffert. He has won nine of these races, including five at the Preakness Stakes.
This year, he will hope that Bayern can lead him to victory at Pimlico. He explained to Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form that this is the horse's best chance for a win:
"Bayern isn’t a Belmont-type of a horse, so if we’re going to run in a Triple Crown race, this is it. Does he have distance limitations, or will he go on? That’s what we’re going to find out in the Preakness. We’re taking a shot."
Bayern is also in good shape with his post position at No. 5, which should allow Rosie Napravnik to get out in front and remain there for the majority of the race. Garland Gillen of Fox 8 thinks this will improve the jockey's chances of winning:
The horse has great pure speed and should be the toughest challenge for California Chrome in this event.
Win: California Chrome
Why fight the obvious? California Chrome is the most talented horse in this competition and should be able to continue his hot streak to win the Preakness Stakes.
The horse was truly outstanding at the Kentucky Derby as he easily pulled away from the pack. As Kevin Goheen of Fox Sports Ohio points out, this continues a stretch of consistent performances by the thoroughbred:
And, that's 5 wins in a row for California Chrome, all stakes races. Let the Triple Crown talk begin. #KyDerby— Kevin Goheen (@FSOhio_KGoheen) May 3, 2014
Victor Espinoza seemingly has made the difference since becoming the regular jockey. He certainly did a good job at Churchill Downs, ensuring that California Chrome had enough energy on the final stretch.
The biggest problem is the draw, which put the favorite at the No. 3 post. These inside positions have not led to much success at the Preakness in recent years:
#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
However, the small field should allow Espinoza to navigate around his competition to get the horse in good enough position to make a late charge. California Chrome simply has too much speed to lose against a relatively weak field at Pimlico.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.