California Chrome is the overwhelming favorite to take the 2014 Preakness Stakes, but the field does feature some intriguing sleepers who could surprise at Pimlico.
After winning the Kentucky Derby in comfortable fashion, Chrome has no peers heading into the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans. The second leg of this year's horse racing Triple Crown truly only has one favorite, with the rest of the field poised to mount spoiler attempts.
|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|
From that nine-horse group of challengers have emerged some popular names to pull off the upset. Social Inclusion's blistering speed has earned it the second-best morning line odds despite having just three races to his name, while Ride On Curlin, the sixth-place finisher at the Derby, is looking to improve on what his camp considers a disappointing last run.
But look deeper into the field, and you'll find a few more horses and jockeys who could make some noise in the Preakness. Under the right conditions, any of them could be right alongside Chrome, vying for the win.
Pablo Del Monte
A late scratch from the Kentucky Derby field, Pablo Del Monte finally has a chance to compete with Chrome in a Triple Crown race. Del Monte was also a late Derby entry, replacing the injured Hopportunity, and was a 50-1 shot to win from the 20th position just days after joining the field.
Instead, trainer Wesley Ward got an extra couple weeks to prep Del Monte for Pimlico. His horse might not have had the chance to up its reputation with a strong Churchill Downs run, but as Ward tells Brisnet News (h/t NBC Lexington), Del Monte is primed to use his speed and his rest to make an immediate push.
My colt's got speed and historically, for Aloma's Ruler (1982 Preakness winner) and horses like that, speed has been to their advantage and they have taken it from gate to wire. There have been a lot of gate-to-wire winners. Everything is kind of coming together right now and I really don't want to change anything. That's why I kept the horse here until Wednesday. Everything is looking great.
Coming out of the ninth post, Del Monte will have plenty of room to break into open space from the gun and establish his position at the head of the pack.
If he can beat his competition to the front, as Ward plans for him to do, he'll have a chance to hold that lead for the duration.
General a Rod
After finishing 11th at Churchill Downs, no one is considering General a Rod anymore, overlooking that he was not able to race in the style he is most accustomed.
General runs best when he's running in front and down on the rail, but he got stuck in traffic in the 19-horse Derby field and was unable to maneuver his way up or inside.
Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form noted that while General turned in a poor performance on the biggest stage possible, he has more talent than he got a chance to show in Louisville.
One thing's for sure about General a Rod -- did not get best chance in Derby. Prefers to be close. Lost position early, worsened from there.— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 9, 2014
He will start from the second position, which will allow him to immediately get to the rail. With so much room to operate in a 10-horse Preakness field, outside starters often surge ahead early to pass competitors coming from the first few posts, but with a quick burst from the gate, General can turn his preference into a tactical advantage.
Calvin Borel (riding Ria Antonia)
How does a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee come to be underrated at a Triple Crown race?
By having his mount on a more popular horse stripped away from him.
Per Blood-Horse, Ride On Curlin trainer Billy Gowan disapproved of Borel's race management at Churchill Downs, blaming the legendary jockey moving to the rail too early for the lackluster finish.
Instead of taking the mount aboard a 10-1 dark horse, Borel will ride Ria Antonia, the lone filly in the field and, at 30-1, the biggest long shot in this year's Preakness.
Borel has had success at this race before, winning it in 2009 aboard Rachel Alexandra; that was the last time a filly earned the Black-Eyed Susans, ending an 85-year drought.
Tom Amoss, Antonia's trainer, is not deluding himself that his horse is better than California Chrome, per Jennie Rees of USA Today, but he believes in Borel and likes what has seen with the new jockey working Antonia.
"Both Ron and I wanted to put someone on Ria who would have an opportunity to work her, and feel good about her after the work," Amoss said Monday, referencing a half-mile work Sunday in a sparkling 47.25 seconds at Churchill Downs, with the filly galloping out five furlongs in a minute. "I know Calvin's confidence is very strong after that work. And that's what I like – a rider who buckles his chin strap and says, 'I'm going to win this race,' and I know that's how Calvin feels."
Borel has excelled at Pimlico before, and Antonia has been at her best with him riding. That combination could be enough to turn a long shot into an out-of-nowhere contender.