The 2014 Preakness Stakes field has been finalized, and the morning-line odds have been set. To no one's surprise, California Chrome was named the 3-5 favorite and will be counted on to provide horse racing with a big jolt by living up to the hype and continuing his bid for the Triple Crown.
A lot of attention will inevitably fall on trainer Art Sherman's Kentucky Derby winner as he seeks to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978. That's understandable, especially considering the perception that California Chrome is the best shot in years to pull off the elusive feat.
However, this Preakness field of 10 figures to present at least a couple of formidable contenders to give California Chrome a run for his money at Pimlico Race Course in Balitmore, Maryland. Barring an unforeseen poor run from the favorite, though, this could be a historic, dominant victory for California Chrome.
Here is a look at the complete list of entries, along with more detailed analysis on the lineup for the 139th Run for the Black-Eyed Susans.
|Post||Horse||Jockey||Trainer||Morning Line Odds|
|1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||Mark E. Casse||12-1|
|2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||Mike Maker||15-1|
|3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||3-5|
|4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||H. Graham Motion||20-1|
|5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||Bob Baffert||10-1|
|6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||Tom Amoss||30-1|
|7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||Linda Rice||20-1|
|8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||Manny Azpurua||5-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley A. Ward||20-1|
|10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||William Gowan||10-1|
California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness with War Emblem in 2002. Now he has another chance at Triple Crown immortality. Having won his five previous starts in the irons for the horse, there's little to suggest Espinoza is in for a disappointing trip at Pimlico.
AmericasBestRacing.net's Jose A. Contreras feels California Chrome has earned his status as the clear-cut horse to beat:
California Chrome has EARNED all his "good/perfect" trips because of his versatility & cruising speed. Expect him to head to NY w TC dreams.— Jose A Contreras (@LosPonies) May 15, 2014
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman highlighted California Chrome's versatility, regardless of the pace of the race or the condition of the track on Saturday, per the Associated Press:
He's so tactical. If they go slow in front, he'll take it right to them and push the horses in front of him. If they're going fast in front, he can just sit off the pace. That's the good thing about him. He doesn't have one style of running. He's pretty pushbutton. If you ask him, he'll do it.
Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports provided his input regarding how decorated California Chrome is compared to his Preakness peers:
California Chrome has won three graded stakes races in a row, by a combined 14¼ lengths. The other nine horses in the field have combined to win two graded stakes races – Dynamic Impact in the Illinois Derby last month and Ring Weekend in the Tampa Bay Derby in early March. Winners of major 3-year-old spring races like the Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial, Blue Grass Stakes and Florida Derby are all sitting this one out.
The second favorite is Social Inclusion at 5-1, and beyond finishing in the money at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes, there isn't any experience against elite competition to suggest he can stack up with California Chrome. A massive gap in the morning line shows how little faith bettors should have in any other entry.
Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com did bring up an interesting point about how Social Inclusion may in fact be good enough to finish first:
Social Inclusion (8) is only horse who has bested California Chrome's peak pace figure. Worth a win bet (around 6:1). http://t.co/TNcowUf5fh— Paul Bessire (@predictmachine) May 15, 2014
But that may be more wishful thinking for bettors hoping to make some coin off a different horse, since California Chrome's short odds aren't attractive. As much fun as it often is to root for an underdog, there aren't many realistic candidates to pull a Preakness upset.
However, last year's race saw Oxbow go wire to wire for a win. He had Hall of Fame connections in trainer D. Wayne Lukas and jockey Gary Stevens, so that can go a long way in helping out less favored horses.
That's why Bayern could be a trendy bet at 10-1. Rosie Napravnik got her jockey license at Pimlico in 2005, and trainer Bob Baffert is in the Hall of Fame, aided by five previous triumphs at the Preakness Stakes.
ESPN's Jeannine Edwards points out how successful the Napravnik-Baffert tandem has been:
Where will California Chrome finish in the Preakness?
This is a rare confluence of circumstances thanks to a rather weak field and the lack of returning Kentucky Derby entrants. Besides California Chrome, only General a Rod and Ride On Curlin rode at Churchill Downs among the 10 starters. That adds pressure for Espinoza to seize the second jewel ahead of the Belmont Stakes.