California Chrome once again left a field of horses in the dust, galloping to a 1 1/2-length victory at the 139th Preakness Stakes while trotting one step closer to an elusive Triple Crown.
Weeks after claiming the Kentucky Derby crown at Churchill Downs, the favorite pulled away from the competition on Saturday, emerging down the stretch to win the second leg at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course.
Although Pablo Del Monte bursted to an early lead, the eventual winner never lagged too far behind, holding his distance in second or third before striking once Pablo Del Monte grew fatigued. Social Inclusion stood neck and neck with California Chrome briefly before falling to third, while Ride On Curlin finished a distant second.
|1||3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||-|
|2||10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||William Gowan||1 1/2|
|3||8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||Manny Azpurua||8|
|4||2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||Mike Maker||8|
|5||4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||H. Graham Motion||12 1/4|
|6||9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||Wesley A. Ward||14|
|7||1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||Mark E. Casse||15 3/4|
|8||7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||Linda Rice||15 3/4|
|9||5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||Bob Baffert||20 3/4|
|10||6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||Tom Amoss||30 3/4|
via NBC Broadcast
Trainer Victor Espinoza was ecstatic about how the race unfolded, per the Associated Press' Beth Harris.
"It's an awesome feeling," Espinoza said. "Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I see another horse go to the front. I was going to sit second. .. I sit back, as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfect."
The thoroughbred has now obtained six straight victories, winning every race in 2014. In total, those wins have come by a total of 27 1/2 lengths.
That leaves just one race separating trainer Art Sherman's horse from history. Nobody has swept the three illustrious events since Affirmed rattled off three victories in 1978. California Chrome, however, is hardly the first once to come close since.
According to SportsCenter's official Twitter page, California Chrome is he 13th horse whose Triple Crown hopes remained intact heading into the Belmont Stakes.
Lucky number 13? California Chrome is 13th horse to win both Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes since last Triple Crown in 1978.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 17, 2014
Courtesy of the Daily Racing Form, Sherman addressed the challenge ahead immediately after his horse's second victory.
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
At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is the shortest track of the three main events. Churchill Downs touts a 1 1/4-mile course, making Belmont the longest of the trio.
According to the Los Angeles Times' John Cherwa, Sherman expressed confidence in his horse handling the longer field.
“After watching him run today I think he can go a mile and a half,” Sherman said. “He’s a horse that can rate. And when you have a speed horse that can rate you’re always dangerous.”
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Distance doesn't figure to pose a huge problem for Chrome, who only gets stronger as the race progresses. He especially exhibited that strength at Pimlico, starting steady on the outside before picking apart the pack during the closing furloughs.
This is also not a worry exclusive to the Triple Crown contender. The top threats all must endure the same conditions, and nobody is a lock to handle them well.
Which makes the best horse with the sturdy track record the overwhelming choice to again emerge victorious on June 7. He always win, and always by a wide margin, so California Chrome must be considered the logical choice to end the Triple Crown drought.