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California Chrome lives up to hype at Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby isn't always a haven for favorites. Just because California Chrome was favored at the 140'th Kentucky Derby on May 3, it didn't mean he would win or even do well. Yet from the second the 19 horses went off at Churchill Downs, California Chrome was in complete control, eventually cruising to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome pulls away as expected at Derby
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Right from the start, California Chrome was up in front, starting out in third behind Uncle Sigh and Chitu. He was never lower than third for the entire race, as he didn't fade away from starting fast too soon. Instead, he got faster as he rounded the final turn, taking the lead and never really being challenged down the stretch.

California Chrome took the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths, with 37-1 longshot Commanding Curve finishing second and the more highly regarded Danza placing in third. The second most favored horse, Wicked Strong, finished fourth, as this was a race that largely went just as the odds predicted.

As such, California Chrome will be an even heavier favorite going into the Preakness Stakes on May 17. Of course, not every horse that looks dominant during the Derby has the same luck in the Preakness. Even if they do, the Belmont Stakes has exposed such horses for the last 35 years.

Performances like this still raise hopes that there will finally be a Triple Crown winner for the first time since 1978. First and foremost, California Chrome has to be the first horse to win the Derby and Preakness since I'll Have Another in 2012 -- although he never raced the Belmont. The last horse to win the first two legs and try for the Triple Crown was Big Brown in 2008, and he finished in last place.

Those disappointing memories won't loom large for horse racing fans for a few weeks, depending on what happens at the Preakness. Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby field had no real answers for California Chrome, but Pimlico and the Preakness Stakes field are far different opponents.

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