The stage is set for the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
This year's race features a strong field of 10 contenders led by the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.
On Wednesday, the post-position draw shook up betting lines in a big way. After all, we learned last year how bad draw can affect the performance of a top-tier horse when Derby winner Orb started against the rail and finished in fourth place.
California Chrome fared better this year than Orb did in 2013, but—due to the strength of the field—there's no sure thing in Baltimore.
Here's a look at the race's post positions and odds following Wednesday's draw:
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Odds to Win|
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||12-1|
|2||General A Rod||Javier Castellano||15-1|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||20-1|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30-1|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||20-1|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||5-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||20-1|
|10||Ride on Curlin||Joel Rosario||10-1|
Preakness odds courtesy of The Baltimore Sun.
With the odds set, it's time for some predictions.
California Chrome took the Kentucky Derby by storm, defeating Commanding Curve by 1 3/4 lengths to earn his fifth consecutive win. Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza's experience shined as he navigated the track with ease on his way to a dominant win.
Here's a look at California Chrome's sparkling Derby performance:
After such an impressive performance, it's easy to see why this horse is a big Preakness favorite.
California Chrome owner Steve Coburn made a bold prediction after winning the Derby, according to a tweet from Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal:
California Chrome's cowboy hat-wearing owner, Steve Coburn, goes big and predicts his horse will win the Triple Crown.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) May 3, 2014
There hasn't been a horse to successfully earn Triple Crown honors since Affirmed in 1978; however, California Chrome is certainly on the right track.
One horse with a strong possibility to dethrone California Chrome is Social Inclusion.
Possibly the fastest horse on the track, Social Inclusion was phenomenal back in March at Gulfstream Park, defeating favorite Honor Code by 10 lengths and securing a new 1 1/16-mile track record of 1:40.97.
His masterful performance was quite impressive:
Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News tweeted a bold statement from Social Inclusion's owner Ron Sanchez:
With the speed this horse has shown this year, that's certainly a possibility.
Other horses figuring to be well in the mix on Saturday are Ride On Curlin—the Kentucky Derby's seventh-place finisher—and Bayern.
Ride On Curlin had the daunting task of starting well outside at Churchill Downs in 19th position. With such a large field, it's difficult to make up that much ground. The horse drew the far outside No. 10 spot at the Preakness, but that's not as much of an issue given the smaller field.
Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form also tweeted the horse has been running better of late:
I thought Ride On Curlin's work today here at Pimlico looked a lot sharper than his final work before the Derby. #Preakness— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 14, 2014
Bayern had some strong showings this season, including a huge win in Santa Anita. After finishing in third in Arkansas, however, trainer Bob Baffert decided to keep his horse out of the Kentucky Derby due to the short turnaround time, according to Don Markus and Aaron Dodson of The Baltimore Sun.
We'll see how that strategy works on Saturday.
Taking everything into consideration, here's a look at a prediction of the top-five finishers in Baltimore:
|4||Ride On Curlin||10-1|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions
As we know, anything can happen leading up to the race.
The way it stands right now, it appears the 2014 Preakness Stakes is California Chrome's to lose; however, it won't be easy against such a strong field.
Expect this race to be one for the ages this year at Pimlico.