The 2014 Preakness Stakes takes place this Saturday, and as is usual this time of the year, the Triple Crown aspirations of one horse are still alive.
California Chrome won pretty convincingly at the Kentucky Derby—even if it was a historically slow race—making him and jockey Victor Espinoza the favorites at the Pimlico Race Course this weekend.
There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in horse racing since Affirmed did the job in 1978. Will we see the first winner of the prestigious achievement in 36 years? California Chrome certainly seems poised to do so, but we'll have to reassess the situation after Saturday's events.
Leading into the event, he's the odds-on favorite. Here are all the odds prior to race-day, as of May 16.
|2014 Preakness Stakes Final Odds|
|2||General A Rod||15-1|
|9||Pablo Del Monte||20-1|
|10||Ride On Curlin||10-1|
|HRTV, Official Preakness Odds|
The field for the Belmont Stakes has yet to be released, but we do know that Espinoza and Chrome will face stiff competition from the likes of Bayern and Social Inclusion in the Preakness.
Given the nature of races on shorter tracks, horses that can kick it into a higher gear do well. Bayern and Inclusion are very, very fast, and each should provide Chrome with a good test. Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form tweets that Bayern "sizzled" in one of his recent workouts:
Should Chrome outrun the likes of Bayern and Inclusion, the likelihood of a win is pretty high. While the rest of the field is full of talent, there isn't a horse in the pack that can actually compete at a high level with Chrome.
Espinoza has Chrome running exceptionally well, and it's all because of the strategy he implements. He put this strategy on display in the Derby, and then went on to explain it afterward to Ben Roberts of the Lexington-Herald Leader:
This strategy works perfectly for Chrome. After stretching out his legs and keeping with the leaders in the first portion of a race, the horse is capable of turning on the jets later on and then maintaining this higher speed all the way through the finish.
There are several reasons why Chrome is a favorite, and even his owner, Steve Coburn, is a believer, via Kyle Tucker of the Courier Journal:
After taking care of business at the Preakness, it will be up to Chrome's performance at Belmont. With a win there, he'll make history.
Prediction: Chrome Wins by a Nose
Chrome is the best horse, but that doesn't mean another fast horse won't give him a run for his money. Social Inclusion will be that horse.
Espinoza's winning strategy at the Derby worked fantastically in a longer race, but will it work at the shorter Preakness? Chrome was up by nearly five lengths at Churchill Downs before Espinoza wisely pulled back and coasted to the finish line.
The win ended up being by just under two lengths, but Chrome showed off a burst of speed at the end that will be difficult to match.
Inclusion has the speed to do so, and he'll challenge Chrome to the end. The fact that Chrome always has something on reserve is a scary thought, however, and that's what will lead him to the close victory.
I predict that Chrome gets it by a nose. He'll head into the Belmont Stakes with a chance at history.