Preakness 2014 Contenders: Examining Favorites and Underrated Horses

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Preakness 2014 Contenders: Examining Favorites and Underrated Horses
Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

This year marks the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes and, just like every year, there are a few clear favorites as well as some legitimate horses flying under the radar.

History was made at last year's race when jockey Gary Stevens became the oldest jockey to ever win the race at 50 years old. He helped lead Oxbow to the first wire-to-wire win since 1982, while helping trainer D. Wayne Lukas win his sixth Preakness and 14th overall Triple Crown race.

With this year's Preakness taking place on Saturday, let's take a look at some of the early favorites as well as some of the more underrated contenders.

Note: All morning line odds are provided by Preakness.com

 

Favorites

California Chrome (3-5)

After a dominant run at the Kentucky Derby, many are expecting California Chrome to make another strong push at the Preakness. That's not the only reason he's the favorite to win, however, as he's been a dominant horse since December.

California Chrome has won five straight races—seven of 11 overall—and he's looking to extend that streak to six wins after this weekend. Along with a strong finish at Churchill Downs at the beginning of May, California Chrome won his other three races in 2014 by a combined 18 lengths.

There was a bit of a scare on Thursday regarding a cough for California Chrome, but according to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News, rumors of the colt being ill are false.

After a decent draw at the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome is in good position once again for the Preakness, drawing the No. 3 post for Saturday. Art Sherman, California Chrome's trainer, seems quite content with the draw.

''Three is fine with me,'' Sherman told the Associated Press (via SI.com). ''Most of the speed is on the outside of me. If they go, they go, I can tuck in right behind them without any problems. I think my horse will perform.'

The post position will help California Chrome, but he'll have to keep up with some very fast horses in this race, especially since this is the shortest of the Triple Crown tracks.

 

Social Inclusion (5-1)

Arguably the fastest horse in this race, Social Inclusion will be trying to ruin California Chrome's chances at a Triple Crown by grabbing a win at the Preakness.

Although Social Inclusion has less racing experience than the other nine horses at the Preakness, his speed has been on full display in his three races, winning the first two and most recently finishing in third at the Wood Memorial Stakes. He won his first race by 7 1/2 lengths, and followed that up by winning by 10 lengths at Gulfstream, setting a track record at 1:40.97 in March.

There are plenty of supporters for Social Inclusion, including Sean Feld from HRRN, who believes that the colt will win on Saturday.

Social Inclusion will be starting near the outside at the No. 8 post but, with his speed, he should be able to make it near the front of the pack before the end of the race.

 

Sleepers

Pablo Del Monte (20-1)

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When Hoppertunity was scratched from the Kentucky Derby due to health reasons, Pablo Del Monte was eligible to replace him. However, instead of racing out of the No. 20 post at Churchill Downs, he was instead sent to Baltimore to run in this weekend's Preakness.

Pablo Del Monte got off to a strong start in 2013, winning his first two races before ending the year at the Generous Stakes, where he finished in fifth. This year, he's finished in fourth and then third twice, but is still looking for another big win.

Trainer Wesley Ward feels good about his horse and believes that Pablo Del Monte's speed will go a long way in helping him succeed, according to Lex18.com, saying:

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.

At the No. 9 post, Pablo Del Monte will have to prove just how fast he can be, or else he could fall behind pretty quickly. 

 

Ria Antonia (30-1)

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Despite having the worst odds in the entire field, bettors shouldn't sleep on Ria Antonia, the only filly in the field. She could make a legitimate push near the front of the pack.

Even though she hasn't won in three starts this year, Ria Antonia has two career wins along with a second-place finish at the Santa Anita Oaks in April. She's faced males for the majority of her career, and she's had success before.

While she hasn't won since last November, Ria Antonia will have a big edge in this one, as she'll be ridden by Calvin Borel. Borel is known best for winning the Kentucky Derby three out of four years in 2007, 2009 and 2010. He's also the only jockey to lead a filly to victory at the Preakness (2009) since 1924 with Rachel Alexandra. 

As Rick Snider from DCPressBox.com points out, having Borel as her jockey will make Ria Antonia a legitimate contender.

If there's anyone that knows how to ride a filly to victory, it's Borel, and he'll be looking to come up with another major upset win at a Triple Crown race.

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