The 2014 Preakness Stakes is inching nearer, and the fate of a very anticipated Triple Crown bid will be validated heading into the final leg.
California Chrome comes into Pimlico Race Course off an inspiring Kentucky Derby victory, and talk of the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978 has fittingly heated up in the days leading up to the Preakness. The odds reflect that, as he was initially installed as a 3-5 favorite after Wednesday's post position announcement.
Despite the aurora surrounding the big favorite, there are plenty of horses in the field capable of spoiling California Chrome's chances by winning Saturday's race.
Let's break down a complete preview of the 139th Preakness and highlight the contenders to watch.
Where: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland
When: Saturday, May 17
Start Time: 6:18 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|2014 Preakness Stakes|
|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|
Contenders to Watch
Riding a captivating hot streak and boasting the runaway speed that few have shown since the last Triple Crown was won, California Chrome might have the best shot at achieving horse racing's most elusive crown in recent history.
Entering the May 3 Kentucky Derby off four straight victories by a combined 24 lengths, California Chrome was a big favorite at Churchill Downs. Instead of folding like so many favorites have at the Derby, he did what he's done in every race—stay near the inside and the front all race and burst out into a huge lead when the stretch run begins.
The hyped horse had a scare in training on Thursday, however. The New York Times' Joe Drape reported California Chrome had a cough, but assistant trainer Alan Sherman shot down any concern, per Drape:
The horse is completely fine. His blood work came back perfect. He coughed about four times today, and we got him checked out right away. The blister isn’t going to affect him at all; the vet said there were absolutely no other problems, nothing else going on.
It's not surprising to see something crop up with the world's magnifying glass fixed on California Chrome in the days leading up to the race. With such a minor diagnosis and the trainer quickly putting concerns to rest, nothing other than the other nine horses should be holding the Kentucky Derby winner back from winning his sixth straight victory.
Ride on Curlin
Ride on Curlin didn't have the best of performances at the Kentucky Derby a few weeks back, but he has a big shot at bouncing back at Pimlico.
Seventh place wasn't a horrible finish in the packed Derby field, but it was certainly subpar for one of the favorites heading in. That got renowned jockey Calvin Borel replaced with 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Joel Rosario.
Even with the jockey change likely not making an impact in preparations, he's already been turning heads leading up to race day:
Ride on Curlin proved early in 2014 to be one of horse racing's hottest names, with four top-three finishes in each of his 2014 races before Churchill Downs. If he's indeed getting back to that form he showed early in the calendar year, there's no doubting he will be in the thick of things heading down the stretch at Pimlico.
It will be an uphill battle from the No. 10 starting spot, but an early move inside on this small field of horses shouldn't be out of the question for this talented horse.
Bayern enters Saturday as one of California Chrome's biggest threats heading into Pimlico.
Trained by the legendary Bob Baffert, Bayern took an unconventional approach to this year's Triple Crown. He raced at Churchill Downs, but not in the Kentucky Derby—instead, a week before at the Grade 3 Derby Trial Stakes.
Finishing second in that race allowed Bayern to take both a strong result and an extra week of preparation into Pimlico. And considering the three Triple Crown races all fall practically within one month, rest and preparation time make all the difference.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik rode in her first Preakness in 2013, becoming the third female jockey to do so. In her second appearance, growing familiarity with the course should show—especially on such a promising contender.
All information courtesy of Preakness.com unless otherwise noted.