Ahead of the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, we talked about a separation between one horse and the rest of the field. That it was California Chrome, then everyone else.
Ahead of the Preakness, it’s a similar story – just multiplied. It’s California Chrome, a Grand Canyon sized hole, then the rest.
That’s not to say the colt won’t be challenged on Saturday, or that he’s a “sure thing” – which anyone who’s lost their shoes when some jockey inexplicably took his speed-favoring horse to the back of the pack will tell you doesn’t exist anyway. It is to say, though, that on talent alone – and paying no mind to a sore throat that has erroneously dominated the headlines the past few days – California Chrome is easily better than this lackluster field (for a look at said lackluster field, you can check out yesterday’s part one of this preview).
The only question, really, is whether the race’s setup will keep him from winning – whether the expected pace will allow him the legs needed to run on when the field turns for home.
The Race: Out of the gate, expect California Chrome to jump to an early lead, trying, as he did successfully in the Derby, to clear the field and escape any traffic trouble that could be presented by an inside post. Quickly, though, Bayern and Social Inclusion will usurp the favorite on the lead – a welcomed development for the Derby champion, who will be happy to shift to their outside and rate. Pablo Del Monte will move up toward the front as well, with Dynamic Impact, General a Rod, and Ring Weekend also close, pushing the engaging leaders toward very quick early fractions.
Filly Ria Antonia will follow in a second group of contenders hoping to tread water until the race’s late stages and capitalize on the grueling pace. Kid Cruz and Ride on Curlin will follow her to round out the field of ten as they head around the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch.
Down the track’s far side, the speed duel at the pack’s front will become the story. Bayern and Social Inclusion will be battling for the lead, with Pablo Del Monte challenging as well, and others at the front pushing them along – including California Chrome looming large just behind and to the outside of those mentioned three.
Around the far turn, though, the Triple Crown hopeful will no longer be willing to wait; he’ll begin his run then, and pick off the leaders with ease. Others like Ring Weekend and Pablo Del Monte will attempt to move with California Chrome, but won’t hang with the more talented Derby winner. At the back of the pack, though, real noise will be made by Kid Cruz and Ride On Curlin – whose closing runs will see them moving up quickly along the outside.
At the top of the stretch, much the way he did in the Derby, California Chrome will kick away from the field and take command. Social Inclusion will sit in second for the time being, with much of the others fading to the late surges of Kid Cruz and Ride On Curlin. In deep stretch, the question will be whether or not the early fractions hurt California Chrome the way it did the other front-runners – whether he’ll have enough to hold on for the win.
In the end, I think he will. He’ll cross the wire first and send us to the Belmont with Tripe Crown hopes alive. California Chrome wins. Ride on Curlin, capitalizing on a better trip than he had in the Derby, will be second, with Kid Cruz closing in for third. Social Inclusion will hang on for fourth to round out the superfecta.
The Bet: Though I expect California Chrome to win on Saturday, and though he’s a just 3/5 favorite over this field, he’s not worth betting at those odds. Instead, I’ll look to pair him with others in exotics and play Win-Place-Show bets with some quality long-shots.
- Exacta and Trifecta Boxes with California Chrome, Ride on Curlin and Kid Cruz – perhaps with Social Inclusion as well depending on his odds.
- Win-Place-Show bets on Kid Cruz and Ride on Curlin – especially the former who figures to be at the larger price.
Author: Joe Bianchino
Joe Bianchino is a writer, producer, and radio host located in upstate New York. He is a life-long New York sport fan, Chelsea supporter, and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @JoeBNTS. Email him at Joe@noticketsports.com.