Kentucky Derby champion California Chrome drew the third post for Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. This only solidified his status as the runaway favorite for the race.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Chrome is listed at 3-5 in the morning line with the next lowest odds coming at 5-1 on Social Inclusion. Bob Baffert trainee Bayern checks in with the third lowest odds at 10-1.
No horse has won the Preakness from the third gate since Prairie Bayou in 1993, but with just 10 horses in the field, Chrome won't run too much risk of getting pinned against the rail. Besides, any concerns that may have been born from the post position should be put to ease with the excitement of those in Chrome's camp at the reveal of the post.
Maryland Jockey Club's Mike Gathagan helps highlight:
Have a look at the post positions for the entire field, the morning line and my rankings. I also take a closer look at the top contenders.
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||Mark E. Casse||12-1||6|
|2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||Mike Maker||15-1||8|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||3-5||1|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||H. Graham Motion||20-1||7|
|5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||Bob Baffert||10-1||2|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||Tom Amoss||30-1||10|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||Linda Rice||20-1||9|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||Manny Azpurua||5-1||3|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley A. Ward||20-1||4|
|10||Ride on Curlin||Joel Rosario||William Gowan||10-1||5|
California Chrome will enter this race on an epic roll. The Art Sherman trainee has won five straight races and done so by over a combined 26 lengths.
Chrome's margin of victory at the Derby was less than two lengths and his winning time of two minutes, 3.66 seconds was the slowest Derby winner on a fast track since 1974. Those facts don't point toward a dominant horse until you take into account the fact that his closing kick down the homestretch gave him such command of the race that jockey Victor Espinoza didn't have to push Chrome too hard, and he began his celebration early.
Chrome will be battling the inside track. Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form helps explain this problem:
For most of this month, outside paths have ruled a slow-playing main track, a trend that extends beyond the current meet. Recall talk of how Kentucky Derby winner Orb got bogged down on a dead rail in the 2013 Preakness. Departing was stuck there, too, and his subsequent performances proved him better than his sixth-place Preakness finish.
Still, everything else is pointing to another Chrome victory. Consider that eight of the past 16 winners of the Preakness have been Kentucky Derby champions, and any concerns of the short turnaround between the two races are quickly erased.
Social Inclusion's status as the second favorite is understandable despite the fact he finished in third at the Wood Memorial in his last run and was scratched from his last scheduled start.
Let's start with the scratch. That came in a Gulfstream stakes race on May 3 and stemmed from a bruised foot. By all accounts, Inclusion has put the injury behind him, and he's training well.
Hersh reported that Inclusion looked good in training at Pimlico and passed along that jockey Luis Contreras had this to say about Inclusion: "He feels great. He feels very light on this racetrack."
So, we can expect a healthy run for Inclusion. As for his last start, he broke wide and held a lead before being overtaken by Wicked Strong and Samraat against the strong field of the Wood Memorial.
Inclusion did not race as a two-year-old but was undefeated in his two races prior to that. That included him setting Gulfstream Park's track record for 1 1/16 miles.
Inclusion is a strong bet to finish in the money and perhaps even gallop to the win.
Bayern is another intriguing entrant. Like Social Inclusion, Bayern didn't race as a two-year-old and did not run in the Kentucky Derby.
He did start the Derby Trial Stakes, which is just a week before the Derby, and he led the race wire to wire. He was disqualified for interfering with another horse, but his speed was apparent.
As The Washington Post's Rick Snider tweets, Bayern certainly passes the eye test:
Bayern arrives for Preakness. Impressive looking. pic.twitter.com/XqkZ48xV3v— Rick Snider (@Snide_Remarks) May 14, 2014
Bayern has the looks of a horse coming into his own and should be aided by the fact that legendary trainer Bob Baffert is just starting to really get a feel for this horse. And, as USA Today's Jennie Rees reports, Baffert will be taking off Bayern's blinkers for this race.
I expect Bayern and Inclusion to set an early pace and look for Bayern to push for a money finish.