California Chrome had the look of a Triple Crown contender heading into the Kentucky Derby. Nothing happened during the first leg of his journey to alter that status. He enters the Preakness Stakes as an overwhelming favorite, and rightfully so.
Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown all the way back in 1978. For California Chrome to move one step closer to ending that extended drought, he must overcome a field of fresh newcomers and a couple returning rivals. Social Inclusion headlines the group trying to pull off the upset.
Let's check out all of the important viewing information for the second leg of the Triple Crown. It's followed by a complete look at the 10-horse field preparing for Saturday's feature race at Pimlico Race Course along with a Preakness preview.
Preakness Coverage Info
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
When: Saturday, May 17 at 6:18 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
139th Preakness Stakes Field
|2014 Preakness Stakes|
|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|
|Odds via Odds Shark (May 16 at 9:45 a.m.)|
Those searching for any type of negative from California Chrome's showing in the Kentucky Derby pointed to his mundane finishing time. He crossed the line in a shade under two minutes, four seconds, which was the slowest winning time since Super Saver in 2010.
While it's certainly something to consider heading into the Preakness, it's not a big deal. He still won the race by nearly two lengths, and Victor Espinoza played it smart. The veteran jockey backed off once the race was in hand, allowing the talented colt to take it easy for his final strides.
The bottom line remains the same from the Derby. California Chrome is the best horse in the race, and the only way he doesn't win is if something goes wrong, whether it be a terrible break from the gate or an inability to bounce back on short rest.
David Grening of the Daily Racing Form provided a couple interesting notes, including one about another long drought the Triple Crown hopeful will try to end:
The starting positions should serve as an advantage. In a perfect world, Espinoza will guide California Chrome just behind the lead pack while Pablo Del Monte and Social Inclusion wear each other out battling for the lead.
Social Inclusion is the second choice. As a fresh horse, he's got the best chance of any Preakness horse to extend the Triple Crown-less streak for another year.
He's still somewhat of a mystery, though. The Manny Azpurua trainee won the first two races of his career but didn't face serious competition until his third (and most recent) race. That was the Grade I Wood Memorial, where he finished third behind Wicked Strong and Samraat.
Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun passed along comments from owner Ron Sanchez about the horse maturing since that race: "Since the Wood, he grew up a lot. He turned 3 May 1, he's a baby. Hopefully we were the first ones to be on the ground [in Baltimore] and we're ... the first to hit the wire. That's going to be nice for us."
The biggest key for Social Inclusion is getting a clean break and working toward the lead without expending a ton of energy. If he's forced into a long early battle with Pablo Del Monte, there will likely be too much pace and it will doom both horses' chances.
All of the other contenders have track records that make it tough to beat California Chrome unless he's completely off his game.
Ride On Curlin has never won a race against elite competition. The same goes for Bayern. Dynamic Impact won the Illinois Derby but did very little before that point. And General a Rod finished a distant 11th in the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago.
Ultimately, that bodes very well for California Chrome. The lack of major threats gives him a little more margin for error just in case he doesn't enjoy a perfect ride like he did in the Derby.
Look for Pablo Del Monte and Social Inclusion to go stride for stride early on. California Chrome will settle in just behind them. It will be crucial for Espinoza to keep him under control if those speed horses are setting an unsustainable pace.
Then, just like in the Derby, once the field starts making the turn for home, California Chrome should find another gear and move to the front of the pack. His win will bring horse racing back to the forefront looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes.
Prediction: California Chrome