California Chrome Wins Preakness, Shot at Triple Crown

California Chrome Wins Preakness, Shot at Triple Crown

California Chrome now has a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Steven Coburn and Perry Martin's California Chrome kept Triple Crown hopes alive with a smooth victory in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, in Baltimore, Maryland, May 17.

With wins in the Preakness and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, California Chrome will head to New York for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes June 7 and a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

With Victor Espinoza riding for trainer Art Sherman, California Chrome got a trip similar to that in the Kentucky Derby; he rated just off the early leaders, bid on the far turn, made the top and drew away to victory. At the finish the Lucky Pulpit colt had 1 1/2 lengths on fast-closing Ride On Curlin, who was 6 1/2 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Social Inclusion. General a Rod was fourth.

The time for 1 3/16 miles on a fast track was 1:54.84.

California Chrome, the heavy favorite, paid $3, $3, and $2.40 across the board. Ride On Curlin returned $5.60 and $3.80, while Social Inclusion paid $3.40. The $2 exacta was worth $18.20 and the $2 trifecta paid $76.

The early pace was set by Pablo Del Monte and jockey Jeffrey Sanchez from Post 9. Espinoza put California Chrome in the mix early from Post 3 just outside of the leader heading into the first turn, but the filly Ria Antonia was sent up outside of the favorite by Calvin Borel. Espinoza then had to back off a bit and ended up stalking the top two through an opening quarter-mile in :23.56 and a half-mile in a lively :46.85.

When Ria Antonio backed off heading into the far turn, California Chrome made his move outside of Pablo Del Monte. But Luis Contreras got Social Inclusion under way, and California Chrome was sandwiched for a brief period before he took the lead after six furlongs in 1:11.06.

Social Inclusion, who acted up in the gate, couldn't keep pace with the winner. The only competitor with a shot in the final eighth of a mile was Ride On Curlin, who rallied from ninth early under Joel Rosario in a quality effort.

California Chrome trained very well at Pimlico the week leading up to the Preakness. His connections were very confident going in to the race, though they expected the colt would have a target on his back.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Espinoza, who in 2002 won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with War Emblem but lost the Belmont . "It was a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. It worked out well and he's an amazing horse. I saw a horse go to the front and I said, 'I'll sit behind him.' Then I saw another one come, and I had to use my breaks. But as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfectly."

Sherman, who plans to keep California Chrome at Pimlico for a few days, earlier said he wasn't thrilled with running the horse again after just two weeks.

"To me, this race was even a little tougher knowing that I'm coming back in a little shorter distance than I normally ever run them, and the time I give them to rest between races," Sherman said. "I was a little concerned about that, but he has big heart this horse--big.

"It's quite a thrill. I knew we had to run harder to win this race. He's a real racehorse, and I hope a mile and a half is up his alley, too."

California Chrome was bred in California by his owners. He is the first California-bred to win the Preakness since Snow Chief in 1986.

Coburn was in tears after the Preakness, and showed his emotions at the post-race press conference.

"I don't know how to explain how I feel within my heart and soul," Coburn said. "It's hard for me because I get very emotional about it. I honestly believe this horse is America's horse. He's giving everybody that little light bulb, and when it clicks on, you know what? We can do this.

"I don't know what it is, but we're going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best he can be. I've been a firm believer in that ever since (he was born), and he hasn't proven me wrong. This is a nice horse."

Originally published on BloodHorse.com.

About the Author

Tom LaMarra

Tom LaMarra, a native of New Jersey and graduate of Rutgers University, has been news editor at The Blood-Horse since 1998. After graduation he worked at newspapers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as an editor and reporter with a focus on municipal government and politics. He also worked at Daily Racing Form and Thoroughbred Times before joining The Blood-Horse. LaMarra, who has lived in Lexington since 1994, has won various writing awards and was recognized with the Old Hilltop Award for outstanding coverage of the horse racing industry. He likes to spend some of his spare time handicapping races.

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