California Chrome Takes Second Step To Triple Crown With Preakness Win
Thoroughbred racing in the United States has been without a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. That 36-year drought is the longest in history. Horse racing popularity has suffered a bit in the U.S. because of the lack of a superstar horse. California Chrome could be the next immortal.
California Chrome followed his 1 3/4 length victory at the Kentucky Derby with a 1 1/2 length victory at the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome settled into the pack around third place until the horses approached the final turn. There California Chrome grabbed the lead, similar to at Churchill Downs, and held off a late charge from fast-closing Ride On Curlin for the victory. As the 1/2 heavy betting favorite, California Chrome paid $3 to win in his sixth straight victory -- all since Espinoza took over the ride and since the horse has begun using nasal strips to help ease his breathing. Ride On Curlin, seventh in the Kentucky Derby, paid $5.60 to place. Social Inclusion, who didn't run in the Derby, paid $3.40 to show.
It was the first time California Chrome trainer Art Sherman had ever saddled up a Preakness horse, just as he hadn't had a Derby horse previously. It was the second Preakness win for Espinoza. He was aboard War Emblem in 2002 when that colt won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to finish eighth at the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome is the 13th horse since Affirmed to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown. The last was I'll Have Another in 2012. He was scratched on the eve of the Belmont with a leg injury that forced him to stud.
There was a record crowd of 123,469 at the Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Park is widely expected to shatter its record when California Chrome looks for history on June 7 in the 146th Belmont Stakes.