There might not be a single horse in the 2014 Preakness Stakes field capable of spoiling California Chrome's hopes of continuing his Triple Crown bid, but if there's one, it's Social Inclusion.
Handled by 85-year-old trainer Manny Azpurua, Social Inclusion is one of nine horses with the opportunity to end what has been one of the most hyped chances to end the more than 30-year Triple Crown drought in recent memory on Saturday.
The opening morning-line odds released by Preakness.com after the post positions announcement prove that Social Inclusion is California Chrome's biggest threat, at 5-1, joining the Kentucky Derby winner as the only horses with better than 10-1 odds.
It's not hard to see why.
In the colt's first two career races, it became immediately apparent Social Inclusion would be one of the names to watch in the Triple Crown circuit this summer. A 7 1/2-length victory in his first career race at Gulfstream Park in six furlongs proved just how dangerous the horse could be.
Less than a month later, Social Inclusion had another victory under his belt—a 10-length one at 1 1/16 miles that was even more impressive than his first victory.
Social Inclusion did eventually fail to win a race after being relegated to third place by a nose in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, behind Kentucky Derby impressers Samraat and Wicked Strong.
That result put Social Inclusion on the outside looking in for contention for a Kentucky Derby spot—a crushing blow for many trainers and horse camps, but the perfect scenario for Social Inclusion heading into Pimlico Race Course.
In fact, making the Derby wasn't the ultimate goal all along, as owner Ron Sanchez made clear on April 6, shortly after Social Inclusion's run in the Wood Memorial, per Brisnet.com via KentuckyDerby.com:
If we can make the Derby, we're going to go, but I think the main goal is the Preakness. It was the original plan. It's going to be tough to be in the Derby, you know? Actually, we are in spot 22 with 20 points, and there are like four preps coming up. It wasn't our main goal to get into the Derby, but we gave it a try.
Missing out on the Derby wasn't likely a great feeling for Sanchez and Co., as it assured no opportunity of competing for arguably horse racing's biggest singular event as well as the Triple Crown, but it set up perfectly moving forward. With six weeks of rest in between appearances, Social Inclusion will be as rested as any horse in the field.
California Chrome, General a Rod and Ride On Curlin highlight the group of horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby just two weeks back. That sort of turnaround is highly unusual for these horses, but there's often no true choice when the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity presents itself.
But there are other horses in the field who are rested as well, so what makes Social Inclusion so different to where he's still the top contender? Well, it's one word—speed.
Sanchez told USA Today's Jennie Rees just how confident he is of his horse's chances Saturday:
Probably everybody thinks there's going to be a lot of speed and then they try to stalk. But it wasn't a good decision. We'll have a lot of speed here, I'm sure. I'm really sure.
We'll take the lead, or at least be 1-2-3. No farther back than that. It wouldn't make any sense. This is a horse with speed, and you have to use it.
As told by his combined 17-plus lengths of victory in his opening two races and Sanchez's relentless optimism, Social Inclusion can leave the field in the dust.
While there's no doubting California Chrome will be gunning just as fast, if not faster, the 5-1 secondary favorite figures to be breathing down the Derby winner's neck down the stretch.
There were speedsters in the field that seemed capable of catching California Chrome at Churchill Downs who ended up not living up to the hype. Social Inclusion is rested, boasts impressive finishes and looks to be the part of a horse who will at least threaten down the stretch.
California Chrome is a 3-5 favorite and a serious Triple Crown contender for a reason, but don't count out Social Inclusion as his biggest competition heading into Saturday's race.
Information courtesy of Preakness.com unless otherwise noted.