With the Preakness in the rearview mirror, and only so much time before the Belmont Stakes in New York, it can be daunting to fully dissect the tape.
Besides, what's there to look at, right? California Chrome became the 13th horse since Affirmed's Triple Crown win in 1978 to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Better yet, he and jockey Victor Espinoza did it in quite dominant fashion:
But there is plenty to learn from the race at Pimlico.
Let's get the most obvious out of the way first—nobody is beating California Chrome, the $10,000 investment by two relatively normal guys.
There was a brief moment where it looked like some may compete, but it proved to be more an error on other jockey's parts than a weakness displayed by California Chrome. Espinoza breezed his way through the early traffic and did not even have to strike his horse to get them into final gear for an easy win, as racehorse owner Ramiro A. Restrepo notes:
The last 3/16' s Victor Espinoza just showed him the whip, never hit him. Cali Chrome runs like Affirmed. They wont pass him...— Ramiro A. Restrepo (@RamiroRestrepo) May 18, 2014
Between now and Belmont, many will try to doom California Chrome's chances. Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden encapsulates these naysayers best:
The colt has now won six consecutive races, beginning with a modest stakes event in California on Dec. 22. Yet entering the Preakness, cynics picked at California Chrome's record. They suggested that his Derby had been slow (which it had). They argued that he had benefited from a series of perfect tactical trips, with nary a straw in his path, to use the hoary parlance of the game (this was also true, but owing in large part to the horse's transcendent athleticism and the superb horsemanship of Espinoza, who began riding Chrome at the start of the winning streak). His Preakness victory was an emphatic response to all of this, a performance that was both fast and tough.
Little negative remains to say when one goes back and watches the film. Many will try, though, as a predictable outcome doesn't earn all involved a lot of money. It's akin to the situation with one Floyd Mayweather and the level of competition around him.
If there is one other major takeaway from the film it's that the rest of the field has to be smarter. Danonymous Racing provided a list of names that are expected to compete at Belmont Park on June 7:
Look at how Social Inclusion and jockey Luis Contreras performed. The horse was a favorite going into the race, but elected for a strange strategy and pushed the issue early.
Espinoza himself put it best, per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:
"In a tenth of a second I had to make that decision," Espinoza said. "… So I sit third, and I thought it was perfect. As so as I think that, in a half mile, here comes the other one. They attacked me too soon."
Social Inclusion was toast before the final bend.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Then came Ride On Curlin, who also drastically underestimated endurance levels. There was a brief glimpse of an upset, but, in the final stretch, Ride On Culin seemed to lose speed while simultaneously seeing California Chrome kick into final gear, again, without the aid of anyone but himself.
Maybe the talent pool is iffy. Perhaps California Chrome is just that good. But a longer track at Belmont Park clearly just means more time for the sport's best horse to capitalize on the mistakes of those in desperation mode before the gates even open.
The Preakness confirmed what we have known all along.