California Chrome Wins Preakness, Seeks First Triple Crown Win in 36 Years
California Chrome won the second of three Triple Crown races on Saturday, setting up one of the most anticipated Belmont Stakes in decades. If the thoroughbred can win at Belmont Park in New York on June 7, California Chrome will become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
12 Horses Have Failed
Since Affirmed last won the Triple Crown in 1978, 12 racehorses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in the same year. All twelves of those horses failed in their bid to win the Belmont Stakes, which is a longer and more grueling race. The Kentucky Derby is 1.25 miles, the Preakness is 1 & 3/16 miles, and the Belmont is 1.5 miles. Several of the challengers over the years have been injured and one sustained a fatal injury in seeking to win the three most prestigious events in the horse racing world.
Coming into the Preakness, California Chrome was a 10/17 favorite to win the race. This was a much different field of thoroughbreds than the Kentucky Derby in April. Of the 10 Preakness entrants, only 3 of them raced at the Kentucky Derby.
Pre-Races Odds for Preakness
Below are the odds for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in Baltimore, from the favorites to the longshots. The Belmont Stakes odds will not be released until the field is complete. It still is not certain if California Chrome will enter the Belmont Stakes field.
- California Chrome – 10/17
- Social Inclusion – 7/2
- Bayern – 12/1
- Ride On Curlin – 12/1
- Kid Cruz – 14/1
- General A Rod – 20/1
- Dynamic Impact – 24/1
- Ria Antonia – 24/1
- Ring Weekend – 30/1
- Pablo Del Monte – 32/1
Pablo Del Monte has the longest odds in the race, but it was the pace horse through the early stages of the race. Ria Antonia was in second down the backstretch, with California Chrome in strong position in third place. On the outside was Social Inclusion, which was the second favorite despite not racing in the Kentucky Derby.
Rounding the turn, Social Inclusion made its move, which led to wild jockeying down the homestretch. California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, put it best when he said, “This was a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I had to use my brains too much, but it worked out perfectly. The outside horse (Social Inclusion) moved too early.”
Preakness Stakes Payouts
California Chrome paid $3 to win and place, while it pad $2.40 to show. Ride On Curlin finished in second, returning $5.60 to place and $3.80 to show. Social Inclusion, which had 5/1 odds in some venues, returned $3.40 for its third place finish. Rounding out the top half of the field, General A Rod finished fourth and Ring Weekend ended in fifth place.
Fastest Time in Seven Years
California Chrome’s time at the Preakness was 1 minute and 54 & 4/5 seconds, which is the fastest finish in Pimlico since Curlin in 2007. When the press asked Art Sherman, the trainer for California Chrome, his thoughts on the Preakness, he replied, “Everything has gone perfect.”
One of the major challenges of the Preakness Stakes is it comes only two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. Each year, a number of horses are withheld from the Kentucky Derby field, in hopes they will perform better at the Preakness. This is a natural disadvantage for the winner of the Kentucky Derby. For a horse to win at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, it is a testament to the endurance and tenacity of the thoroughbred. Yet twelve consecutive horses have failed to win at Belmont Stakes. The anticipation of a possible Triple Crown win happening will make Belmont Park the center of the sports and gambling world on June 7.
One Possible Stepping Stone: Nasal Strips
One point of contention might end the California Chrome’s race for history before it begins. California Chrome has won a nasal strip in each of its races during its current 6-race winning streak. These are the equine equivalent to the nasal strips worn by NFL players in the late 1990’s, and first worn by San Francisco 49ers Hall of Fame wide receiver, Jerry Rice.
Nasal strips are supposed to force open the nasal passages, making it easier to breathe and providing more blood flow to the athlete (whether man or horse). While the stewards at Churchill Downs and Pimlico allow nasal strips, Belmont Park historically does not allow such a device on a racehorse.
When asked if the horse would run if nasal strips were banned, Art Sherman indicated they might. “The horse has been on a six-race winning streak with nasal strips,” said Sherman. “I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.” Sherman indicated the final decision would be made by California Chrome’s co-owner, Perry Martin.
New York Racing Officials on Nasal Strips
The New York State Gaming Commission says it has no rules against nasal strips. Instead, the stewards at the New York Racing Association would decide such matters. In a prepared statement, New York racing authorities said, “Neither the New York State Gaming Commission nor the stewards at the New York Racing Association have received a request to use nasal strips in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. If a request to use nasal strips is made, the decision on whether to permit them or not will be fully evaluated and determined by the stewards.”
All horse racing fans hope such an issue will not derail a rare run at the Triple Crown. Two years ago, I’ll Have Another had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. At the time, the stewards would not allow nasal strips, though I’ll Have Another had been using them up to that point. In that case, I’ll Have Another suffered a leg injury which injured its career, so the horse was scratched from the race.
One might be critical that an owner would scratch California Chrome from the race for a far having its nasal strips banned. Thoroughbreds are high-spirited, flighty animals. If everything is not perfect, then they can respond in bad ways. With possible $30 million in stud fees on the line, California Chrome’s owners might assume their horse would not run well, and thus choose to leave their horse unbeaten in the Triple Crown chase.
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