California Chrome corralled another victory at the 2014 Preakness Stakes, adding intrigue to the upcoming Belmont Stakes with the Triple Crown still in play.
Starting from the No. 3 post, the Kentucky Derby winner rode strong at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, finishing 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Ride On Curlin to obtain his sixth straight victory dating back to November.
Bleacher Report captured the finish on Twitter with the winner's unofficial finishing time.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, no horse had emerged victorious from the third starting position in over 20 years until California Chrome's triumph on Saturday.
The odds-on favorite conquered a field of 10 horses, two of which also ran at Churchill Downs. Although jockey Joel Rosario led Ride On Curlin to a second-place finish, Pablo Del Monte glided out of the starting gate to take an early lead before fading down the stretch.
Social Inclusion, one of the top contenders to dethrone the favorite, threatened to provide a photo finish before losing ground during the closing furlongs. Here's how the results played out at Pimlico.
|2014 Preakness Stakes Results|
|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|
|via NBC Broadcast|
Jockey Victor Espinoza scoped out the playing field early before applying pressure for a late push. With Pablo Del Monte off to a fast start, he emerged from the outside at third place to break away for the lead and eventual victory.
"It's an awesome feeling," Espinoza said. "Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I see another horse go to the front. I was going to sit second. ... I sit back, as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfect."
The attention now turns to finishing the job with a Triple Crown, a feat no horse has accomplished since Affirmed in 1978. But according to SportsCenter's official Twitter page, many other competitors have come close during those 36 years.
Despite California Chrome's rousing success, a few obstacles jeopardize his chances at rattling off the clean sweep.
Belmont Stakes Preview
Before handing California Chrome the Triple Crown, let's make sure he'll even compete at the Belmont Stakes on June 7.
Throughout his winning streak, he has raced with a nasal strip to enhance his breathing. The device, however, is not allowed by New York racing officials, which led trainer Art Sherman to suggest, via USA Today's Gary Mihoces, that owner Perry Martin may not run his horse if the strips are not approved.
"Perry Martin ... he might not run if they say you can't run with a nasal strip. He's very funny about things like that," Sherman said. "(Martin) could say, 'Hey, I don't understand why they won't let me run (in New York). Maybe they don't want us there.'"
Two years ago, I'll Have Another was forbidden to wear the strip in his quest for the Triple Crown. The denial became a moot point, as the horse did not compete due to injury.
This is poor timing to abandon the strips, which aid the flow of air passage while running. Belmont's track spans 1 1/2 miles, the longest of the Triple Crown events. Should Chrome compete, however, Sherman still likes his chances to achieve history, per the Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman.
The best of the best are expected to come out at Belmont, with the top contenders from the Derby and Preakness lined up for the final main draw. Danonymous Racing provided an early look at the opposition.
Commanding Curve, Danza and Wicked Strong finished second, third and fourth, respectively, at Churchill Downs before skipping the Preakness, a tactical move by their owners to stay fresh for Belmont.
Ride On Curlin and Social Inclusion, the top two finishers behind California Chrome at Pimlico, will get a shot at redemption as well. There are ample candidates to execute an upset over the Triple Crown bidder at Belmont.