The 2014 Preakness Stakes will give viewers the best chance in years to see a horse with a legitimate shot to go on to complete the Triple Crown.
California Chrome enters the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans off a commanding victory at the Kentucky Derby and with a clear edge over the rest of the field. When he broke away at the top of the stretch and built a comfortable cushion at Churchill Downs, that much was already clear.
Since then, the 10-horse Preakness field has been set, along with post positions and morning-line odds, which point to Chrome being one of the heaviest favorites in race history.
|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|
Just how imposing are those 3-5 odds? Well, check out this stat, courtesy of L.A. Newspaper Group horse racing writer Art Wilson:
There's no saying now whether Chrome belongs in the same hallowed category as horses like Affirmed and Seattle Slew, but when the gun sounds at Pimlico, everyone will be watching his pursuit of greatness.
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore
When: Saturday, May 17
Post Time: 6:18 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
The Potential Spoilers
Two horses of the nine that are running against Chrome have the athletic ability to keep pace with the favorite: one returning challenger coming off an unsatisfactory Derby and one new shooter looking to capitalize on rest.
Trainer Billy Gowan had high hopes for Ride On Curlin at Churchill Downs, but they were dashed when the horse was blocked after an immediate move from the 19th post all the way down to the rail; Gowan had wanted the horse to gradually make his way to inside position. Ride On Curlin went on to finish sixth, and Gowan looked to make a change.
Per The Blood-Horse, that meant a jockey swap.
Hall of Famer Calvin Borel won't have the mount for the Preakness; he has been replaced with Joel Rosario. Despite Borel's Preakness experience—he won the Stakes aboard Rachel Alexandra in 2009—Gowan is instead opting for a jockey with whom he sees eye to eye on strategy, allowing Ride On Curlin to capitalize on the open space in front of him before working inside.
Racing from the far outside spot yet again at Pimlico, that tactic will come in handy for Ride On Curlin, but if Chrome finds an open track from the third post, it won't matter; once Chrome has front position, even a runner as strong as Ride On Curlin won't catch him.
But Social Inclusion might.
It did not take this horse long to establish itself as one of the most talented three-year-olds out there. In three career races, all this year, Inclusion has two wins, setting the track record at Gulfstream Park in the process. Trainer Manny Azpurua told Brisnet: "I really like this horse and I like everything he's done since I've got him. I'm so pleased with him and I believe he's going to keep improving."
The physical gifts are obviously there, but the one concern with Inclusion is that his most dispiriting result was his latest.
There's no shame in a third-place finish at the Wood Memorial, but Social Inclusion entered the race as an 8-5 favorite in his first-ever stakes. He was unable to make a strong enough move to the front from the far outside position, losing to Wicked Strong and Samraat. Those horses both went to the Derby, where they finished fourth and fifth, respectively, as neither was able to push Chrome.
Starting from eighth rather than further out works in Inclusion's favor, but there is evidence that speed alone won't be enough.
Chrome is every bit as fast and has a proven record of success, with seven wins in 11 races. In all likelihood, the Preakness will be his eighth, and he'll look ahead to complete horse racing's greatest feat with a ninth at Belmont.