It wasn't as easy as the Kentucky Derby, but California Chrome kept his Triple Crown bid alive by galloping to victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.
Ride On Curlin made a valiant run at Chrome down the stretch, but it wasn't enough to seriously challenge Chrome. Social Inclusion took show. Chrome's margin of victory was similar, but he was more heavily tested at several points during this race.
Have a look for yourself:
Chrome's win was far from unexpected. He was a runaway favorite for this race and provided for a slender payout. Have a look at the payouts and finishing order from the race:
|Ride on Curlin||—||$5.60||$3.80|
Source: NBC Broadcast
|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|
Source: NBC Broadcast
This B/R tweet provides a great view of the winning margin:
It was a flawless race for jockey Victor Espinoza on Chrome. Starting out of the third post, the pair burst out of the gate to avoid all the traffic moving to the rail. This was key. The inside has been problematic at Pimlico. Chrome became the first winner of the Preakness from the inside-three posts in the past 20 years.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Pablo Del Monte was the fastest out of the gate to set the pace, and Ria Antonia followed just behind. Chrome, meanwhile, was left with clean space in third and carried an effortless gallop.
As the horses made the turn for the homestretch, Pablo Del Monte and Ria Antonia began to fade as Chrome began to surge. Espinoza led Chrome easily past the leaders.
The only horse with the speed to match Chrome was Ride On Curlin. Jockey Joel Rosario had his horse flying past the pack and gaining on Chrome. The burst tailed off, however, as Chrome was able to maintain his lead over the last few hundred yards.
Although Chrome had a fairly comfortable win, he certainly had to work for it. He was pressed hard for position and couldn't let off the gas at any point. Espinoza handled it all brilliantly.
WDRB in Louisville's Eric Crawford passed along Espinoza's thoughts:
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
With Chrome now having the first two legs of the Triple Crown under his hoof, thoughts aggressively turn toward the Triple Crown. This sport is starved for its first Triple Crown champ since Affirmed in 1978.
Chrome has flashed everything needed to accomplish that feat, but that is not the difficult part of this monumental task.
In fact, he is the 13th winner of the first two legs since Affirmed's triumph, and he is the ninth horse in the last 17 years to do so.
To complete the task, Chrome will have to tackle the Belmont on June 9. This is the longest of the three races, and coming on the back end of the hectic Triple Crown schedule, it is exceptionally taxing.
Chrome will be asked to go 1 1/2 miles against a field of much fresher horses. Trainer Art Sherman is anxious to see if his horse, as Daily Racing Form tweets, can handle it:
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
This horse has all the looks of a grand champion, but after years of failed bids, I'm not going to believe a horse will be a Triple Crown champion until after it happens.