Saturday’s Preakness race is clearly all about California Chrome and his pursuit of the first Triple Crown since 1978, but he isn’t the only horse that stands out.
Names such as General a Rod, Pablo Del Monte and Ride On Curlin should be familiar to Kentucky Derby fans, and all three are in the field that can be found here. What’s more, there are a handful of notable jockeys that could ride their under-the-radar horses to victory Saturday.
With that in mind, here is a look at some horse and jockey combinations that may be worth backing in the 139th running of the Preakness.
Horse/Jockey: California Chrome and Victor Espinoza
We aren’t exactly breaking new ground by saying California Chrome is worth backing at the Preakness, but there is a reason he is seen as such a dominant favorite.
He enters the race with five straight victories, including impressive showings at the Grade 2 San Felipe, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, the California Cup Derby and, of course, the Kentucky Derby. California Chrome became the first California-bred horse to win the Derby since 1962 and will try to become the first California-bred competitor to win the Preakness since 1986.
It is worth noting that ESPN New York pointed out that there are some health concerns leading up to the race:
Victor Espinoza, who jockeyed California Chrome to victory at Churchill Downs, will once again ride the champion. Espinoza won the Preakness in 2002 with War Emblem, so there is an experience factor involved as well.
It is difficult to envision anyone in the small field of 10 contenders upsetting the California Chrome and Espinoza combination.
Espinoza is familiar with the horse and the pressure-packed stakes of chasing a Triple Crown, and he didn’t exactly ride California Chrome hard at Churchill Downs. That means there should be plenty of reserve left in the tank for another impressive closing burst, just like we saw at the Derby.
Horse/Jockey: Ria Antonia and Calvin Borel
Ria Antonia is certainly a long shot at the Preakness as the 54th filly to run in the race.
She did win the Sovereign Award as Canada’s top juvenile filly of 2013, but she doesn’t have a win in 2014. She impressed by winning her second lifetime start at Woodbine in Canada, but she is on this list because of jockey Calvin Borel.
Borel is arguably the most famous jockey in the sport and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. He has multiple Kentucky Derby titles under his belt and also won the Preakness in 2009. If there is any jockey in the sport that could guide this long shot to victory, it is Borel.
Horse/Jockey: Bayern and Rosie Napravnik
All Bayern did to start his career was win his first two career starts. He also placed in back-to-back graded stakes in Arkansas and Kentucky.
Perhaps Bayern’s most notable finish was at the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs, where he just edged out Embellishing Bob but was ultimately disqualified after the two horses brushed more than once down the stretch.
Much like Ria Antonia, Bayern is on this list because of his jockey, despite his impressive performances.
Rosie Napravnik, who failed to become the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, will try to make history as the first female to win the Preakness. What’s more, she gets the opportunity to do so in front of her hometown fans, as she discussed with Maryland Jockey Club communications chief Mike Gathagan, via Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal:
It would be just as special. It's a Triple Crown race. It's my home track with all my friends and family around. We'd have half the grandstand cheering for us—that's what would make it special.
I would feel like—if I was able to ride the winner of the Preakness—that I was doing it for everybody who got me started in Maryland.
That would certainly be a memorable way to make history.
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