California Chrome will enter the starting gate at the 2014 Preakness Stakes with legitimate Triple Crown hopes. If he can win the 139th running of the storied race, the Belmont Stakes immediately becomes a must-see event on June 7.
As even casual fans of horse racing probably know by now, no horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. California Chrome represents the best chance to end that drought since the physically imposing Big Brown in 2008.
He must take care of business in the Preakness before the focus shifts to the Belmont, though. So let's check out all of the important information for the second leg of his journey, followed by a look at the entire field, purse details and a race preview.
Race Schedule Information
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
When: Saturday, May 17 at 6:18 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
2014 Preakness Stakes Field
|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|
Odds via Odds Shark (May 16 at 12:45 p.m. ET)
Prize Money Breakdown
TheTripleCrown.com; $1,500,000 Total Purse
There was a scare, albeit a brief one, concerning the health of California Chrome. Claire Novak of Blood-Horse reported there was a recurrence of a minor blister issue the Triple Crown contender had dealt with before the Kentucky Derby.
The report included comments from assistant trainer Alan Sherman, who downplayed the ailment:
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.
California Chrome is clearly the best horse in the race. The difference between him and the other top contenders is still small, though. And if he's at anything less than 100 percent on race day, the margin for error he does hold is eliminated.
That said, it doesn't sound like it will end up being a factor barring a setback. California Chrome will remain the overwhelming favorite.
Social Inclusion is the horse with the best chance to end any Triple Crown dreams for another year.
He's a lightly raced horse with only three career starts to date. Yet, his effort in a nondescript allowance race at Gulfstream Park two months ago was one of the best efforts from any horse in the current three-year-old group.
Social Inclusion wasn't able to produce a repeat performance in the Wood Memorial, though. He finished third in his first race against elite competition. It lessened the expectations for his Triple Crown appearance, but the talent is definitely there to challenge California Chrome.
Jockey Luis Contreras has liked the way the horse has been getting ready, as noted by Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form:
Social Inclusion jock Contreras said mount felt 'very light' working over PIM surface. 'He felt like he was flying.' #preakness— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 12, 2014
Other horses to keep in mind include Ride on Curlin, Dynamic Impact and Bayern. None of those horses are good enough to upset the Kentucky Derby favorite if he's at his best. But if he falters, they are capable of taking advantage.
Which side would you choose for the Preakness?
Ride On Curlin, who's one of the horses aside from California Chrome making the quick turnaround after the Derby, is probably the best of the trio.
He got off to a bad start at Churchill Downs two weeks ago. A late rally was only good enough to get him into seventh place. A smaller field should allow him to get into a more favorable position early, which gives him a better chance to contend.
All told, California Chrome is the winner of five straight high-profile races and it would be a surprise if he doesn't make it six. As long as he doesn't endure a terrible trip and the illness doesn't become a factor, he's the horse to beat beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The Belmont would be different given the extended distance and the heavy workload, but he must win the Preakness before that conversation moves to the forefront. It should make for a great atmosphere at Pimlico Race Course.