Preakness Results 2014: Winners and Losers from Pimlico
The 139th Preakness Stakes is in the books, and it was one for the ages.
California Chrome was the talk of the race coming in, and he did not disappoint. The colt, who was dealing with a cough before the race that caused some bettors to panic, was trying to keep his Triple Crown hopes alive after previously winning the Kentucky Derby.
With nine other horses and the pressure of the world working to stop his quest for history, the horse and jockey Victor Espinoza still managed to speed away down the stretch and cross the finish line first.
Before all of the attention turns to the Belmont Stakes, let's look at the winners and losers from Pimlico.
Winner: California Chrome
He did it! California Chrome galloped into history on Saturday, becoming the 34th horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. This was his sixth victory in a row.
He has captured the hearts of the nation not just for his racing ability but for his backstory. He doesn't have the regal lineage of most star racehorses. Instead, he is the progeny of a horse that two first-time owners bought for only $8,000. But his owners knew that California Chrome was a special horse from the start, and now he has a chance to become one of the most famous horses in history.
Gary Mihoces of USA Today reported jockey Victor Espinoza's account of the race:
I was on a dead run, then I seen another horse go to the front, and I was going to sit second. Next thing I know, I see another one, it moved too early. I had to use my brains too much at that point. I sat back and saw that the other horse got clear of him and it worked out perfectly.
Loser: Social Inclusion
Social Inclusion was supposed to be the horse with the best chance of beating California Chrome, but the horse owned by Rontos Racing Stable finished in third place and never really challenged for the victory.
Most expected him to get out front and set the pace of the race, but instead Pablo Del Monte led the pack early. Left back with the rest of the pack, Social Inclusion's phenomenal speed was never the factor it was supposed to be.
His owner, 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, had waited his entire life for a horse as talented as Social Inclusion. But Azpurua is going to have to keep waiting if he wants to win the Preakness.
Winner: Belmont Stakes
You know that NBC is smiling. With California Chrome's win at Pimlico, the Belmont Stakes in three weeks has become must-see TV.
As you've likely heard by now, there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have gone into Belmont with a chance to make history, but they have all fallen short. I'll Have Another was the last one with a shot just two years ago, but he pulled out of the Belmont Stakes with tendonitis.
Belmont Park is located in Elmont, New York, and has a mile-and-a-half track, the longest of the Triple Crown races.
Loser: Ride On Curlin
Second place can be the worst place to finish in a race as prestigious as the Preakness, and it surely felt that way on Saturday for Ride On Curlin and his team.
He was one of only three horses to race both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the smaller field was supposed to be a big advantage for the horse ridden by jockey Joel Rosario. But Ride On Curlin, the spawn of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, just didn't have enough to overtake California Chrome.
In the Kentucky Derby, Ride On Curlin got left behind because of his bad positioning at the start of the race. At Pimlico, he simply got left behind because of his speed.
Winner: Dumbass Partners
Score one for Team Dumbass. Martin Perry and Steve Coburn are the owners of California Chrome, and they call themselves Dumbass Partners.
Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News reported on the story of how the two came up with the name, which began when they bought California Chrome's father for only $8,000 at an auction:
Someone at that sale said only a dumb ass would spend $8,000 for Love That Chase, a Maryland-bred who won one of six career starts, and hence that’s how 'Dumbass Partners,' or 'DAP,' was formed, racing in purple and green silks with the picture of a bucktoothed jackass on the back.
Perry wasn't at Pimlico to celebrate, due to both his dislike for the spotlight and business back home, but Coburn accepted the victory on behalf of the duo. It was a great day for the little guys in horse racing.
Loser: Churchill Downs
So much for southern hospitality. In his victory speech, owner Steve Coburn turned a few heads when he talked about how much better Pimlico was than Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.
Churchill Downs has gotten a lot of negative press lately. As Bleacher Report's John Scheinman wrote before the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs Inc. is worried about the bottom line and little else, which has caused a lot of conflict with the racing community.
Coburn and his partner Martin Perry were particularly disappointed with the way the staff at Churchill Downs treated Perry's grandmother.
Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times chronicled the complaints of Perry and Coburn:
Carolyn Coburn [Steve's wife] also said their co-owners did not have a pleasant experience with the organizers at Churchill Downs. The Martins picked up Perry’s 83-year-old mother, Katherine, from a nursing facility in Michigan and drove her to Louisville for the Derby.
"Churchill did not go out of their way to get her to where she needed to be and to assist us," Carolyn Coburn said of Katherine Martin, who was in a wheelchair. "Steve and Perry did everything, got her in her seat, then we had to get her to the rail so she could watch the race, then get her to the winner’s circle."
For these humble owners, a little kindness would have gone a long way.
While the Coburns had nothing nice to say about Churchill Downs, they couldn't have been more complimentary of their treatment at Pimlico.
Speaking to Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times before the race on Saturday, Carolyn Coburn bragged about the way Pimlico treated all of the players involved in the Preakness:
Pimlico and Maryland has been wonderful to us. They welcomed us with open arms. And they appreciate us. And not only us, but all the other owners, all the other trainers, the jockeys, they have just embraced us, and it has been just such a different experience.
The grounds at Pimlico are also very fan friendly, which has made the Preakness a coveted destination for celebrities, families, racing enthusiasts and people just looking for a fun Saturday. This year, recording artist Lorde performed during the pre-race festivities, and celebrities such as Michael Phelps and Mike Tyson were seen taking in the scene. It was reported that there was a record attendance of 123,469 at Pimlico on Sunday. That's a lot of Black-Eyed Susans.
Loser: Home-Track Advantage
Coming into the race, a lot was made of the Pimlico connections of two of the competitors.
Rosie Napravnik was the jockey for Bayern. The 26-year-old jockey grew up in Maryland and first raced at Pimlico when she was in high school. She felt at home on the track, especially since the crowd at the Preakness was filled with her family and friends.
The horse Kid Cruz, named after NFL player Victor Cruz, was also said to have an advantage, since he had won a race at Pimlico just last month.
However, neither of those edges materialized. Kid Cruz finished in eighth place, while Napravnik and Bayern finished ninth.
Winner: The Espinoza Brothers
Victor Espinoza clearly had a great day. For the second time in his career, the 41-year-old jockey won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness in the same year. He is now 6-of-6 when racing with California Chrome.
But it's also important to note the journey of his brother Jose, who was standing on the sidelines and cheering him on. Jose is a jockey too, but his career came to a halt last year when he was thrown from his horse right after crossing the finish line. Since that accident, day-to-day life has been a challenge for Jose, who is rehabbing intensely, though it's unlikely he'll ever be able to ride again.
Tim Layden of Sports Illustrated profiled the two brothers:
The brothers were together in Louisville on Derby day. Jose flew in from New York on Saturday morning to see Victor win the most important horse race in the U.S. Their lives remain in very different places, yet intertwined. For Victor, career-defining success comes tempered by his older brother's pain. For Jose, life-changing injury comes cushioned by his brother's climb to the top of the sport.
On Saturday, cameras caught Jose cheering on fervently as his brother crossed the finish line in first place.
Losers: Females in Horse Racing
It was a historic Preakness for women of the racing world. For the first time in history, there was a female horse plus both a female trainer and a female jockey. Unfortunately, none of them got the finish they were hoping for.
In last place came the filly Ria Antonia, who simply looked outclassed among her competitors. In ninth place was Bayern, who was ridden by jockey Rosie Napravnik, a fast-rising star in the racing world. In eighth place was Kid Cruz, who was trained by Linda Rice.
Napravnik was trying to become the first female jockey to win the Preakness, and Rice was trying to become the first female trainer to win. Both likely have many successes ahead of them, but Saturday simply wasn't their day.