California Chrome's Triple Crown Won't Be Dismantled at Preakness

Josh CohenCorrespondent IIMay 16, 2014

California Chrome is the prohibitive favorite to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.
California Chrome is the prohibitive favorite to win the second leg of the Triple Crown.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Triple Crown races are some of the most challenging in all of horse racing, but the Preakness will not give California Chrome much trouble.

If you're looking for insight on how Chrome will dominate the Run for the Black-Eyed Susans, you need look no further than his performance at the Run for the Roses.

Chrome entered Churchill Downs a 3-2 favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, and he performed up to that standard. When he reached the top of the stretch, he fired ahead and broke away from the rest of the field, cruising to victory by a comfortable margin.

With that breezy victory in the sport's biggest event, Chrome has established himself as the pre-eminent three-year-old racing today. And when the morning line came out for Saturday's race at Pimlico, they revealed just as much.

2014 Preakness Stakes Post Positions and Odds
PostHorseJockeyTrainerMorning-Line Odds
1Dynamic ImpactMiguel MenaMark E. Casse12-1
2General a RodJavier CastellanoMike Maker15-1
3California ChromeVictor EspinozaArt Sherman3-5
4Ring WeekendAlan GarciaH. Graham Motion20-1
5BayernRosie NapravnikBob Baffert10-1
6Ria AntoniaCalvin BorelTom Amoss30-1
7Kid Cruz Julian PimentelLinda Rice20-1
8Social InclusionLuis Contreras Manny Azpurua5-1
9Pablo Del MonteJeffrey SanchezWesley A. Ward20-1
10Ride On CurlinJoel RosarioWilliam Gowan10-1

Let's address the obvious: The 3-5 odds are overwhelming in the context of a race as competitive as the Preakness. As LA Newspaper Group writer Art Wilson notes, Chrome is an even heavier favorite than some of the best racers of all time.

Lest that be cause for concern that California Chrome is overrated; keep in mind, no one's asking him to be as good as affirmed Saturday. Chrome just has to be the best in the field, and given his ability and experience, he can certainly do that.

Even his closest rivals for the Preakness title fall short of Chrome when subjected to scrutiny.

Garry Jones/Associated Press

Ride on Curlin is the highest-placing returning Derby competitor, and per Blood-Horse, his camp believes he's much more talented than his sixth-place finish indicates.

Trainer Billy Gowan was not happy with the ride Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel gave the colt during his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3 at Churchill Downs. Ride On Curlin broke from the No. 19 post and dropped back to last as Borel took the colt straight to the rail.

"I told him before the race that he had three-eighths of a mile to work his way over," Gowan said.

Because of that difference of opinion on strategy, Calvin Borel won't be riding Curlin again. Instead, Joel Rosario will be in the saddle at Pimlico, where Curlin will run from the far outside post yet again, this time without such a rush to gain inside positioning.

While trainer Billy Gowan and Co. surely want to be on the same page with their jockey, this switch smacks of desperation. Ousting a Hall of Famer who has won this race before won't likely wind up all that helpful, especially considering Curlin has not exhibited the speed and the acceleration Chrome has.

Garry Jones/Associated Press

Social Inclusion is the only horse running the Preakness that can actually match Chrome's top speed.

Inclusion has just three career races to his name—all this year—but he has thoroughly impressed in that short time, winning two of them and setting a Gulfstream Park track record in the process, per Brisnet.

Coming out of the eighth position, Inclusion will likely find more daylight at the start than Chrome will from the third post. Considering his athletic prowess, Inclusion could try to hold the lead gate to wire.

That said, he was unable to do that from an outside position in his most recent race.

After opening his career with two wins, Inclusion entered the Wood Memorial, his first Stakes, an 8-5 favorite, only to fall short of Wicked Strong and Samraat for a third-place finish. Those two horses would ultimately come in fourth and fifth, respectively, at Churchill Downs, neither giving Chrome any reason to worry as he glided to the finish.

The odds put Inclusion as Chrome's toughest challenger, but the Derby winner is every bit the physical specimen and has far more experience; with seven victories in 11 career races, Chrome has won more than twice as many races than Inclusion has run.

Chrome will still have to turn in a strong performance to win, but his history says there's no reason to doubt he will. As long as he does, the Black-Eyed Susans will be his.