While it had a predictable finish, the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore helped to further the historic narrative that is California Chrome's shot at a Triple Crown.
California Chrome's victory does much for his owners and all associated, but it does even more for the sport as a whole and places a wealth of coin in everyone's pocket.
Here's how the classic race unfolded in Baltimore on Saturday.
|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|
In an effort to garner more attention and have what is the middle and sometimes skipped leg of the Triple Crown become bigger, the purse was increased to $1.5 million this year, a $500,000 upswing from past years.
The field was not the most competitive, but expect future years to be even better now that there is more money to be had. Here's how the top five made out this year:
|First||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn & Perry and Denise Martin||Victor Espinoza||$900,000|
|Second||Ride On Curlin||Daniel J. Dougherty||Joel Rosario||$300,000|
|Third||Social Inclusion||Rontos Racing Stable Corp.||Luis Contreras||$165,000|
|Fourth||General a Rod||Starlight Racing, Skychai Racing||Javier Castellano||$90,000|
|Fifth||Ring Weekend||West Point Thoroughbreds||Alan Garcia||$45,000|
Perhaps most disappointing of all was how bettors were treated. Those able to make smart plays were not exactly rewarded with massive payouts, to say the least. Here is a look at the loot bettors were able to make off with in a range of bets:
|Ride on Curlin||—||$5.60||$3.80|
Twelve horses have been down California Chrome's path since the last Triple Crown winner in 1978. Meaning, 12 have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to falter in New York on a longer track in a race that draws much better competition.
But No. 13 has a different feel.
No. 13 has now won six races in a row, the five before Saturday having come via a combined—and jarring—26 lengths. No. 13 is rode by jockey Victor Espinoza, who hasn't lost yet in the saddle of No. 13. Espinoza was seen Saturday beautifully slicing his way through traffic to take the win rather comfortably.
As he told Eric Crawford of WDRB in Louisville, the victory wasn't the typical romp in the park:
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
California Chrome's unlikely ascension to the top has been downright captivating, and it's hard to not root for him at this point. The owners, as captured by Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal, are not the typical horse-racing folk:
That's why when Coburn and Martin were offered $6 million for their horse, they turned it down, calling it a "slap in the face" because the offer came from "somebody who's never even put on a pair of boots to go to work in the morning." California Chrome is a workman's horse. He's going to stay that way.
"He's like a dream come true," Coburn said. "Some people go all their life trying to find a horse that can make it to the Kentucky Derby and we did it with our first horse. Living in Nevada, an odds-making state, I don't know what the odds are of that happen are — maybe one in a trillion?"
June 7 might just see history made. The Belmont Stakes is longer and California Chrome will have to perform on yet another quick turnaround against fresher horses, but nothing has stopped the unlikeliest of winners just yet.
The field of up to 20 contestants figures to be stacked. Danonymous Racing provided a list of potential favorites:
But really, it's all white noise at this point. The most dominant showing in the sporting world continues in New York sooner rather than later, where a sport may finally get the boost it so desperately needs.