Hours before the big event at Pimlico Race Course, the 2014 Preakness Stakes does not get any easier to predict.
Logic says to roll with California Chrome. It's rather easy, but it isn't a fun investment for those who want to make a positive financial impact on their wallets or purses while enjoying the show.
The field, at least on paper, is a rather drab affair. But with a nifty bump to $1.5 million in prize money and the propensity for anything to happen once the gates open, the middle race of the Triple Crown will still entertain.
Here's a look at how fans can catch the action, followed by full field projections.
139th Preakness Stakes
When: Saturday, May 17
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland
Time: Broadcast begins at 4:30 p.m. ET
Post Time: 6:18 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Note: Full Triple Crown NBC TV Schedule can be found here.
|Projected Finish||Post||Horse||Jockey||Odds to Win|
|1||3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|2||10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||10-1|
|3||6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30-1|
|5||1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||12-1|
|6||2||General A Rod||Javier Castellano||15-1|
|7||8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||5-1|
|8||4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||20-1|
|9||7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||20-1|
|10||9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||20-1|
Odds via Preakness.com
While 3-5 is a horrific payout, it is hard to go any other way this year. The line speaks to just how great California Chrome has been during his recent tear, which includes five straight wins and a triumph at Churchill Downs.
Even better, the rags-to-riches story of a horse not backed by millionaires and the like would be a feel-good occasion for fans.
That goes twofold for jockey Victor Espinoza. Normally reserved, Espinoza revealed a facet of his character in a recent press conference that is hard to ignore—let alone not root for. He says, via Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, that 10 percent of his earnings go to those in need:
I just want to mention one thing. I've always been for all the cancer people. I support that. One day, I went to the City of Hope [hospital]. All the kids, they have cancer. I can't go there. Really, like I cry. Since that time, I donated 10% of my earnings for all the kids that have cancer. It makes me cry to see all the kids that can't even have a life like we have.
I never cry. I only cry for this thing.
Espinoza rides for a good cause and should not have any issues on Saturday in continuing his virtuous ways.
The 10-horse field is rather weak, although familiar opponent Ride On Curlin will have a say in the proceedings. After showing a strange bit of leftover energy after the Derby, trainer Billy Gowan elected to enter his horse despite the quick turnaround.
By all accounts, that energy has translated into great workouts leading up to the event, as captured by Daily Racing Forum:
The No. 10 post is not kind to any horse, but being so far outside will not doom Ride On Curlin this time around on a shorter track with fewer contestants.
As for projected third-place finisher Ria Antonia, it's a bit mind-boggling the odds are so drastic.
The lone filly will be guided by Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, whose last win at the Preakness came in 2009, and while Ria Antonia has her detractors, Borel makes any horse a legitimate threat.
As Reid Cherner of USA Today points out, one Rachel Alexandra suggests Ria Antonia has a better chance on Saturday than most anticipate:
For those picking filly Ria Antonia in Saturday's Preakness, Rachel Alexandra in 2009 is a confidence boost. http://t.co/zOXq8iFkEW— Reid Cherner (@ReidCherner) May 16, 2014
Perhaps the field is not as horrific as most presume. Regardless, the second stage of the Triple Crown is not one to miss. With only 10 contestants in the field, the action will be short and furious as the sport perhaps takes another step toward a historic moment.