California Chrome validated his huge odds and a boatload of hype at the 2014 Preakness Stakes, beating out the field in an impressive victory to move one win away from the Triple Crown.
Just like he did at Churchill Downs two weeks prior, California Chrome stayed alongside the front-runners through the majority of the race before taking over around the final turn and sprinting to a convincing victory. However, this one required holding off a late surge from Ride On Curlin, who nearly caught up to the victor in the closing lengths.
Social Inclusion edged out General a Rod for a narrow third-place finish, but Ride On Curlin was alone in pressuring California Chrome's seemingly inevitable win.
Take a look at the race replay:
Here's the complete results list, along with payout information for the top finishers:
|1||3||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||-|
|2||10||Ride On Curlin||Joel Rosario||1 1/2|
|3||8||Social Inclusion||Luis Contreras||8|
|4||2||General a Rod||Javier Castellano||8|
|5||4||Ring Weekend||Alan Garcia||12 1/4|
|6||9||Pablo Del Monte||Jeffrey Sanchez||14|
|7||1||Dynamic Impact||Miguel Mena||15 3/4|
|8||7||Kid Cruz||Julian Pimentel||15 3/4|
|9||5||Bayern||Rosie Napravnik||20 3/4|
|10||6||Ria Antonia||Calvin Borel||30 3/4|
|1||California Chrome||Steve and Carolyn Coburn and Perry and Denise Martin||$900,000|
|2||Ride On Curlin||Daniel J. Dougherty||$300,000|
|3||Social Inclusion||Rontos Racing Stable Corp.||$165,000|
|4||General a Rod||Starlight Racing, Skychai Racing||$90,000|
|5||Ring Weekend||West Point Thoroughbreds||$45,000|
Entering the Triple Crown season, there wasn't much hush surrounding California Chrome. Even heading into the Kentucky Derby on May 3, the then-5-2 favorite was expected to at least threaten to join Affirmed as the only Triple Crown winners of the last 36 years—and his performance there validated it in a big way as he was able to slow down late in an easy victory.
But at Pimlico on Saturday, it was a whole new story.
California Chrome started out just like the did at the Derby by staying near the front and emerging as the runaway leader down the stretch. But during the part of the Kentucky Derby where he was jogging to an easy victory, Ride On Curlin was coming on strong at Pimlico.
Undoubtedly worn out, California Chrome kicked it into another gear to hold off that late surge—something he hasn't shown before, but hasn't had to show before. It resulted in him holding off the fast-paced Ride On Curlin and winning his sixth straight race.
Afterward, a confident trainer in Art Sherman was looking forward to the ultimate test of the Belmont Stakes, per Preakness.com:
I have a good feeling about it. I’m really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks (between races) and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don’t care how many fresh shooters they’ve got there; he’s the real McCoy.
Running two races totaling nearly 2.5 miles, along with the preparation needed, in a two-week span certainly has California Chrome worn out. The Triple Crown is known for being grueling on any horse that attempts it with such an unforgiving time span between races—two weeks between Churchill Downs and Pimlico, three weeks between Pimlico and Belmont.
All of the extra work has Sherman planning some rest for the colt, but, per Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman, that won't be coming until June 8—the day after Belmont:
Art Sherman said that California Chrome will "get a nice break after the Belmont." #deservesit— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 18, 2014
Going into New York in a few weeks, California Chrome will certainly be getting plenty of time off now. Racing more than once a month is rare for even the best of horses, and only dire circumstances call for it.
Having a chance to make history makes it definitely worth it for Sherman and company to attempt pulling it off, and ESPN's RJ Bell says the early lines are pointing in the Preakness winner's favor:
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
Winning the Derby and the Preakness back to back calls for a horse to be mentioned among the greats of this generation, but not near all-time. A Triple Crown—something only won 11 times in history—would put California Chrome in the all-time great category.
With three Triple Crown winners coming between 1973 and 1978 and none since, though, California Chrome looks to have as good of chances as any horse in recent history of pulling off the feat.