California Chrome was once again the horse to beat entering the 2014 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, and once again he proved the odds to be true with an impressive victory.
His win at the Preakness—after taking the Kentucky Derby two weeks prior—puts him just one win away from breaking horse racing's 36-year Triple Crown drought.
He'll attempt to do so June 7 at the Belmont Stakes.
In winning the first two legs of the Triple Crown, he joined elite company, per ESPN Stats & Info:
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
After getting into his usual position near the front, California Chrome started out strong and shadowed the early leaders. When it came time to enter the final stretch, there he was—taking over the lead in convincing fashion.
As told by the video highlights, he made more sure of his Triple Crown bid staying alive with each stride:
However, unlike his performance at Churchill Downs on May 3, California Chrome had to work for his victory down the stretch. He didn't blow the lead open, and had Ride on Curlin nipping at his heels in the final 200 yards.
If he had slowed down, similar to the Derby, we wouldn't be talking about a Triple Crown anymore in 2014. But instead, he turned it on, and made one last push to assure victory—showing no signs of the short two-week rest.
Here's the final order of finish:
|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|
In the heat of the moment of California Chrome's victory, it took no time for two words already cropping up before the Preakness even began, to resurface.
No horse has won it since Affirmed did so in 1978. But despite that, California Chrome is one of many to win the first two legs, per ESPN 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
Trainer Art Sherman's colt is one of 13 to win both the Derby and the Preakness, but he's shaping up to have as solid of odds to complete the trifecta as any past winner.
Per ESPN's RJ Bell, California Chrome is once again a favorite—this time to win one of the rarest prizes in all of sports:
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 hard to poke a stick at California Chrome's performances and find any feasible reason to doubt the horse's ability to win the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Formidable horse after formidable horse have been pegged up against Sherman's horse, and none of them proved able to catch him down the stretch.
It is almost a formality that California Chrome will be in the driver's seat when the horses come around the final turn at Belmont. He's just that good, and any horse able to catch him at that point has already had a chance to.
What does come into question, though, is the length of the track and how it compares to previous races.
Belmont is the true marathon of horse racing. A 1 1/2-mile trek that towers in size over any other race these horses have competed in—California Chrome included.
Jockey Victor Espinoza has proven able to navigate this talented colt through ideal racing scenarios in the first and second legs of the Triple Crown, but June 7 will bring an unfamiliar situation. The long track will mean more opportunities for contenders to jam him up and put him into positions where he hasn't been in Churchill Downs or Pimlico.
At the end of the day, California Chrome has proven again and again that he's head and shoulders above the competition.
Unless the added 1/4-mile stretch at the Belmont Stakes makes a huge difference, California Chrome should make history in New York on June 7.
All information courtesy of Preakness.com, unless otherwise noted