California Chrome has run away from the competition in five consecutive victories, winning by an average of over five lengths.
The Kentucky Derby winner has had it his way ever since Victor Espinoza climbed aboard back in December when the streak began.
Whether they do again in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico today depends on a good trip, the tactics used by the chestnut colt’s nine rivals and a little luck. California Chrome is the even-money favorite against nine rivals.
“When you run a 3-5 shot, you’ve got a lot more pressure on you knowing you’re going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it,” trainer Art Sherman said.
California Chrome galloped two miles in the rain Friday. A small blister in the colt’s throat that caused him to cough a day earlier was blown out of proportion, according to Alan Sherman, Art’s son and assistant trainer.
“California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle,” he said. “He is not scratching from the Preakness.”
The colt had a similar blister before his Derby win. He was being treated with a glycerin throat wash.
If the chestnut colt with four white feet can repeat his Derby success in the $1.5 million Preakness, he’ll set himself up for a Triple Crown try in three weeks in the Belmont Stakes.
It’s been 36 years since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become horse racing’s 11th Triple Crown winner.
Six of the past eight Derby winners did not win the Preakness.
“The Triple Crown means so much, but I’m old school,” Art Sherman said. “Let’s just go one race at a time.”
California Chrome extended his winning streak to five with a thrilling victory in the Derby two weeks ago, when Espinoza kept him no worse than third in the 19-horse fray before accelerating in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths.
In the Preakness, California Chrome will break from the No. 3 post, a spot that has seen 11 winners but none since Prairie Bayou in 1993.
“If he runs his race, and he’s come back good from the Kentucky Derby, he should be tough in there,” Espinoza said.
Social Inclusion is the 5-1 second choice and is one of eight horses coming in fresh, having skipped the Kentucky Derby. Only two Derby horses — Ride On Curlin (seventh) and General a Rod (11th) — have returned to challenge California Chrome in the Preakness.
“You need a good trip, a good setup and to have everything go your way,” said Mike Maker, who trains General a Rod. “Obviously, California Chrome is head and shoulders above everybody so far. He’s proved it, and every race, he’s continued to do so.”