Courtesy: CBS Sports
The dream of a Triple Crown is still alive after California Chrome held off Ride on Curlin to take Saturday’s 139th Preakness Stakes in an unofficial time of 1:54.84 at Pimlico.
After an excellent start, Chrome was content in third for the majority of the race until a late charge at the 3/4 mile saw him forge ahead of both Curlin and Social Inclusion, two horses pegged as potential upsetters. Chrome resisted the urge to set the pace from the outset, deferring to the lone filly, Ria Antonia and Pablo Del Monte, both longshots. Towards the end though, Chrome, Inclusion and Curlin separated themselves from the pack before the Derby winner accelerated towards the finish.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be able to have a horse like California Chrome. … Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. He’s just amazing,” jockey Victor Espinoza said after the race. Espinoza improved his record to 6-0 on Chrome after holding off (even brushing) Inclusion and Ride on Curlin down the back stretch.
Asked how he felt Chrome would handle the heightened stakes at Belmont and Espinoza laughed it off. “I hope OK. You never know until you run, but he seems like he’s going to be alright.”
One of the concerns heading into Saturday’s race was the two-week turnaround from the Derby to the Preakness, but that didn’t appear to impede Chrome whatsoever. Chrome’s mid-week cough, which was actually just the result of a small blister, didn’t appear to hamper him, either. He’ll now have three weeks off before a shot at history.
“Wow. It’s quite a thrill,” trainer Art Sherman said of Chrome’s feat on Saturday and the possibility of a Triple Crown horse. “I knew he had to run hard this race, just watching him perform, just coming back in two weeks, I was a little concerned. but I’ll tell you one thing, he’s a real race horse. I’m hoping that the mile-and-half is up his alley, too, because he’s a very good horse,” Sherman said between a slight crackle in his voice.
Chrome becomes the 34th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but only 11 have pulled off the feat, last achieved by Affirmed in 1978. Espinoza, trainer Art Sherman and owner Steve Coburn will have that chance at Belmont on June 7 in Elmont, New York. Known as “The Test of Champions,” the mile-and-a-half course is the longest of all three races.