The 2014 Preakness Stakes affirmed what we all thought about California Chrome heading into the race: He's the strongest horse in the field with Triple Crown destiny on his side.
His magnificent stride carried him down the final stretch with ease, and he held off a late rally from Ride On Curlin to cross the white stripe first and send the crowd at the Pimlico Race Course into a frenzy.
ESPN Stats & Info relayed the crucial information that tips California Chrome for history.
California Chrome is the 13th horse to win first 2 legs of Triple Crown since 1978, when Affirmed was last Triple Crown winner.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 17, 2014
Everyone now casts their eyes towards Elmont, New York, and the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the legendary Triple Crown series. Of course, California Chrome will be the odds-on favorite to make history in New York, but that doesn't mean he won't lack for robust challengers.
Some of the strongest colts and geldings will descend upon Belmont Park on June 7, and it is never too early to take a look at some of the horses in the running for the top prize there.
Here are the full results for the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes.
|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|
The dream of a Triple Crown is alive and well. The Preakness couldn't stop California Chrome's march towards history, and neither will the absence of a four-by-six-inch adhesive patch.
California Chrome is allowed to wear his nasal strip at the Belmont Stakes, according to Joe Drape of The New York Times.
Yahoo Sports' Pat Forde offered up his quippy insight on that story.
Our short national nightmare is over: California Chrome can wear his nasal strip at Belmont. Glad that tempest died quickly.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 19, 2014
Not too many fans would have understood why a bid for horse-racing history was brought down by a quibble over a nasal strip. But the controversy has come and gone, and now California Chrome will have to withstand a strong Belmont field in order to make history.
California Chrome's performances can be viewed through two distinct lenses. It is possible that California Chrome is a slow winner—some weren't impressed with his 2:03 Derby-winning time—that is liable to be overtaken by a late push in the lengthy Belmont Stakes.
The other viewpoint is California Chrome runs a well-paced race that leaves him with enough strength to cruise to the finish line, and jockey Victor Espinoza can open up a wide enough gap at Belmont to prevent any late takeovers.
Either way, it is two wins in the Triple Crown and six straight wins overall. California Chrome is the horse capable of showing the oddsmakers have 20/20 foresight on occasion, as ESPN Stats & Info helpfully points out.
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
Everything seems to be falling into place for California Chrome, and his ability to recover quickly should benefit him with the three weeks of rest before the Belmont Stakes. However, those late charges look like a case of a horse that might have too little, too late when it comes to the grueling Belmont Stakes. California Chrome's magical ride will end in Belmont on a late push that he's too exhausted to withstand.
Ride On Curlin
Ride On Curlin made a huge statement at Pimlico. A relatively unheralded challenger based on his 11th-place finish at the Kentucky Derby, Ride On Curlin gave California Chrome all he could handle at the Preakness, swooping in from his No. 10 post to make a late charge that California Chrome was able to hold off for the second race in a row.
This may be an example of a strong horse peaking at just the right time. Daily Racing Form's Jay Privman noticed before the race that Ride On Curlin was looking much better during training in Baltimore than he had in Louisville.
I thought Ride On Curlin's work today here at Pimlico looked a lot sharper than his final work before the Derby. #Preakness— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 14, 2014
And Ride On Curlin will be right behind California Chrome all the way to New York, via Daily Racing Form's David Grening.
Ron Sanchez said Social Inclusion 50-50 for Belmont. Will also be nominated to Met Mile and Woody Stephens, run same day.— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 19, 2014
Trainer Billy Gowan was quick to credit jockey Joel Rosario for helping Ride On Curlin improve upon his Derby performance, via The Columbus Dispatch:
I thought it was awesome. California Chrome ran a great race and he’s a great horse. My horse ran a great race. He was in a good spot down the back. Joel said he got shut off for a second, but he came running in the stretch and gave me a heck of a thrill.
Legendary jockey Calvin Borel took Ride On Curlin to his disappointing Derby finish and appears to have lost his mojo, as he and Ria Antonia came up dead last in the Preakness.
If Ride On Curlin has the chance to grow even more comfortable with Rosario in the three weeks leading up to the Belmont, he could become an even bigger threat to California Chrome at the Belmont Stakes. Another top-three finish is a very strong possibility.
After the media frenzy surrounding the Preakness Stakes, Commanding Curve will have to reintroduce himself to the casual fan. The second-place finisher at the Kentucky Derby is a name to remember heading into the Belmont Stakes.
Commanding Curve faced some of the longest odds heading into the Derby. He turned out to be the biggest threat to California Chrome's dominance, making a late push to quickly close the gap that California Chrome had built up. California Chrome held off his challenger, but it appeared that Commanding Curve ran out of track before he had run out of gas.
According to NBC Sports' Randy Moss, Commanding Curve was actually the fastest horse in Louisville that day.
For those who care, based on @TrakusRacing data, CCurve ran 9 feet farther than CChrome. So CChrome ran race 54.09 ft/sec, and CCurve 54.04.— Randy Moss (@randy_moss_TV) May 5, 2014
Running out of track won't be an issue at the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes. Commanding Curve will benefit from added rest, as his team held the thoroughbred out of the Preakness to prepare for Belmont.
Terry Finley, Commanding Curve's owner, was optimistic about Commanding Curve's chances at the Belmont based on his prior performances, as per David Johnson of The Saratogian: “He just seems to get stronger as the distances get longer so in theory the Belmont Stakes is going to hit him right between the eyes.”
Commanding Curve's rundown came in a longer race than Ride On Curlin's, so look for the Derby runner-up to make a winning push at the Belmont Stakes.