California Chrome put together another sparkling performance on Saturday, winning the second jewel of the Triple Crown at the 139th Preakness Stakes.
With the Kentucky Derby and Preakness now complete, only the 2014 Belmont Stakes stands between California Chrome and immortality.
There hasn't been a horse to win the coveted Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. However, the way California Chrome has looked over his past six races, he has a great chance to end that 36-year drought.
Veteran jockey Victor Espinoza makes California Chrome all the more dangerous. His tactics have been highly intelligent and play to his horse's strengths.
During the Kentucky Derby, Espinoza wisely pulled California Chrome's reins in the early portion of the race to avoid traffic at the front of the pack. He kept pace and shifted outside over the far turn only to burst out to the front and secure a commanding victory.
Here's a look at the duo's performance:
We saw more of the same on Saturday at Pimlico.
After a great break out of the gate, Espinoza settled California Chrome right behind the leaders and made a quick shift to the outside.
He held his position up to the far turn once again—that's where Espinoza made his move.
Bursting from about three wide, California Chrome took to the front of the pack with ease. His fantastic endurance and closing ability quickly increased his lead by a couple of lengths.
Even with a strong surge from Ride On Curlin down the final stretch, California Chrome was too far ahead and strong to be overtaken.
Here's how the pair's dazzling performance at the Preakness looked:
Espinoza spoke with Gary Mihoces of USA Today and commented on California Chrome's performance after the race. "It's an awesome feeling to have a horse like California Chrome. It was a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. It worked out well, and he's an amazing horse."
Now, we approach the third jewel of the Triple Crown—the Belmont Stakes.
Already, California Chrome is being viewed as the favorite, even though the field has yet to be set. RJ Bell of ESPN tweeted the early line:
California Chrome is a favorite to win the Triple Crown (-130 at Sportsbook.ag) - rest of Belmont field +100— RJ Bell (@RJinVegas) May 17, 2014
It's difficult to speculate on the Belmont Stakes at the point. After all, we still don't know the contenders—aside from California Chrome, of course.
The third leg of the Triple Crown has been the Achilles' heel of many horses in years past. California Chrome is the 13th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed won all three back in 1978, according to SportsCenter:
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
That's plenty of failed attempts.
Nevertheless, according to a couple of tweets from ESPN Stats and Info, California Chrome is already defying the odds:
California Chrome joins Big Brown (2008) & Smarty Jones (2004) as the only odds-on favorites to win the Preakness since 1980.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2014
California Chrome is the 1st horse to win the Preakness from the No. 3 post position since Prairie Bayou in 1993.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2014
With a short turnaround from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness, followed by another short turnaround to the Belmont Stakes, winning all three is a rather daunting task to accomplish.
But we can still hope.
There's a possibility we could see some familiar faces in New York, according to a tweet from Mihoces:
"contenders" for Belmont includes Derby horses sitting out #Preakness: Commanding Curve, Danza, Intense Holiday, Samraat & Wicked Strong.— Gary Mihoces (@ByGaryMihoces) May 17, 2014
That's a very strong field.
Commanding Curve gave California Chrome a nice run down the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby, Social Inclusion fared well at the Preakness, and Wicked Strong, Samraat and Danza all figure to be formidable opponents as well.
But one thing stands out: California Chrome has already beaten those horses.
Post positions will play a huge factor once again, and if his luck holds up and he gets another favorable post, we could very well see our first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.