California Chrome is the prohibitive favorite for the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes and likely will be the shortest-priced favorite in the second jewel of the Triple Crown since Big Brown in 2008, who won at odds of 1-5.
Can California Chrome be beaten?
Horseplayers sending it in do not think so, as the early odds of 3-5, according to Odds Shark, actually dropped to 1-2 in advanced wagering on Friday at Pimlico.
Let’s look at three scenarios where the chalk can be beaten:
A Bad Break
There have been several of California’s Chromes 11 starts that the strapping colt did not break cleanly from the gate. In one of his losses as a juvenile, the colt broke ninth in a field of 11 and checked in sixth in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity.
In the Kentucky Derby, Victor Espinoza got the colt out of the gate cleanly and they had a perfect trip, grabbing the lead heading for home and drawing away to a sharp win.
There appears to be more early speed in the Preakness, and with a tardy break, the colt could find himself behind nearly half the field in unfamiliar territory.
To win races along the Triple Crown trail, everything has to go perfectly. We saw that in 2011 when I’ll Have Another had his Triple Crown bid derailed by a sore tendon on the eve of the Belmont Stakes.
After California Chrome coughed on Thursday, a throat blister was discovered, something that the colt has had before. He has been treated with a glycerin throat wash, and his connections say all is good with the colt.
“California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle,” Sherman’s son and assistant trainer Alan Sherman told the Pimlico media department. “He is not scratching from the Preakness. He is fine. I don’t know why it was blown out of proportion.”
While his barn is not the least bit worried about the throat blister, should bettors?
The Quick Turnaround
History shows us that horses exiting the Kentucky Derby thrive off the two-week turnaround to the Preakness Stakes and have the edge over horses that either skip or do not qualify for the Run for the Roses.
In fact, eight of the last dozen Derby favorites have come back to run first or second in the Preakness.
However, only two of the last nine Kentucky Derby winners have come back to actually win the Preakness Stakes—I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Big Brown in 2008.
Orb failed to fire last year at betting odds of 3-5, checking in at fourth. In 2011, Animal Kingdom had to settle for second as the 2-1 favorite. In 2010, Super Saver finished a disappointing eighth as the 9-5 favorite. The filly Rachel Alexandra handled Mine That Bird in 2009.
While California Chrome may very well overcome all of these minor obstacles, his price is going to be very much on the short side.
Proceed with caution.
Follow Michael Dempsey on Twitter: @turfnsport.