California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza have won the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, and the duo is now on the path to greatness.
The Triple Crown hasn't been completed since Affirmed won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1978, even though Josh Elliott of NBC Sports points out that 13 horses have come within one win of the prestigious honor:
California Chrome wins the 139th Preakness Stakes, is now the 13th horse to have a Triple Crown shot since Affirmed's TC win in 1978.— Josh Elliott (@JoshElliott32) May 17, 2014
Chrome and Espinoza really set themselves apart from the rest of the group on Saturday. Sure, Ride On Curlin put on a good show at the end, but Chrome's blistering one minute and 54.84 seconds paced the group.
Espinoza was brilliant yet again on top of Chrome. Starting out of the No. 3 post position, Chrome got off to a good start. Espinoza kept him behind the leaders just long enough to create enough space to get good positioning on the outside. After the horse completed its drift outside, Espinoza pushed.
After Chrome caught up to Pablo Del Monte—the horse that led for much of the race—it was all about pure speed. Espinoza made the colt turn on the jets and put space between them and the rest of the horses.
Chrome was able to maintain this speed through the finish line, winning by a length-and-a-half. Bleacher Report captured the pretty-close finish:
This result was closer than the one at the Derby. Espinoza and Chrome were up by nearly five lengths before pulling back and winning by about two. After the Preakness, Espinoza told Eric Crawford of WDRB in Louisville that this race was much more challenging:
California Chrome jockey Victor Espinoza on winning the #Preakness, “This race, it was more complicated. … It was a challenge for me."— Eric Crawford (@ericcrawford) May 17, 2014
Now, all eyes will be on Chrome during the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Many questioned Chrome's ability to transition from Churchill Downs to Pimlico, but he silenced those doubters on Saturday. Now, people are already questioning the horse's ability to go from Pimlico to Belmont. Trainer Art Sherman isn't worried, via Daily Racing Form's Twitter account:
Moments after race, Art Sherman tells NBC: "He's a real racehorse, and I'm hoping that the mile and a half is up his alley, too." #Preakness— DRF Derby (@DRFDerby) May 17, 2014
I'm siding with Sherman. Sure, he's biased as the horse's trainer, but few people know Chrome better. He has worked him out during this run, and Chrome has won six straight races as a result.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Chrome, an unlikely victor, is on a path to history. No one in the field has proven to be a consistent threat over either of the past two Triple Crown races.
It's inevitable; Chrome will win at Belmont. He and Espinoza will be the first Triple Crown winners since Affirmed.
The horse has dominated the field both because of his natural abilities and the talents of Espinoza. If the jockey can implement the same strategy he has in the past two races, Chrome will be coasting to victory at Belmont.