The 2014 Preakness Stakes featured plenty of excitement, as there were a number of surprises during the second leg of the Triple Crown.
California Chrome's win wasn't one of those surprises, as he was the favorite heading into the race after winning the Kentucky Derby. Now, with six straight wins and two Triple Crown races out of the way, California Chrome has a chance to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed back in 1978.
Now that the race is over and trainers are beginning to prepare for the Belmont Stakes, let's take a look at some of the pleasant and unpleasant surprises from the Preakness.
Ride on Curlin
Starting on the outside isn't the most desirable post position. That didn't seem to matter for Ride on Curlin, though, as he came close to edging out California Chrome down the stretch.
Ride on Curlin had plenty of experience heading into the Preakness, competing in 10 races with two wins and only two finishes out of the money. One of those finishes off the board came at the Kentucky Derby, however, as Calvin Borel rode him to a disappointing seventh-place finish.
It was hard to ask much more of Ride On Curlin at the Preakness. As Jay Privman from Daily Racing Form points out, Ride on Curlin was 6 1/2 lengths ahead of Social Inclusion, the third-place horse.
Owner Dan Dougherty didn't seem upset about the finish, either. He was happy to do so well in such a big race, finishing just 1 1/2 lengths behind California Chrome.
"I'm just so happy," Dougherty told Mike Kane of the Courier-Journal. "He finally got the kind of ride that we've been looking for. Why Calvin didn't ride him this way in the Derby, I don't know. I thought we were going to run him down. California Chrome is a good horse."
In 11 career races, this was arguably Ride on Curlin's best.
With Bob Baffert and hometown hero Rosie Napravnik, Bayern was supposed to be one of the favorites to win the Preakness. Instead, Bayern came in ninth, finishing ahead of Ria Antonia, the horse with the worst odds to win the race.
Before the Preakness, Bayern looked like a legitimate contender. In four races, he had won two and finished in the money in every single one. After a third-place finish at the Arkansas Derby, Bayern finished in second at the Derby Trial Stakes, leading from start to finish but being disqualified and moved to second after repeatedly brushing with Embellishing Bob.
The loss was a very tough one for Bob Baffert, and according to Ed Zieralski from U-T San Diego, the Hall of Fame trainer is apparently giving up on trying to chase California Chrome.
With expectations so high, Bayern was a surprising disappointment this past weekend.
General a Rod
General a Rod didn't have a great run at the Kentucky Derby, but he definitely turned things around at the Preakness, nearly finishing in the money.
Through five career races before the Triple Crown legs, General a Rod was a promising contender, winning twice and finishing in the money in all of his races. An 11th-place finish at Churchill Downs wasn't ideal, but he did well at the Preakness, finishing just behind Social Inclusion for fourth place.
After that finish, managing partner of Starlight Racing Jack Wolf is eyeing another Triple Crown race for General a Rod.
“I would like to run him in the Belmont,” Wolf told WBAL in Baltimore. “I’m a racing fan first and an owner second, and I’d like to see a Triple Crown. I’d like to win the Belmont, too.”
If General a Rod can improve upon his fourth-place finish at the Preakness, he'll have a shot at finishing in the money. However, it looks like this year's Belmont Stakes will be packed full of contenders looking to take down California Chrome, so trainer Mike Maker is going to have to find a way to make sure his horse is ready.