CaliforniaChrome shone like a highly polished penny as he drove down the backstetch to capture the 19th running of the Preakness under bright skies at Pimlico yesterday. The colt (now referred to as “the people’s horse”) broke from the # 3 post position in perfect order and immediately began to stalk early leaders Pablo Del Monte and Ria Antonia as they dueled ahead of the pack in a fast half mile of 46.85 seconds. Although the filly began to fade, Pablo Del Monte held his lead by a length after 6 furlongs in 1:11.06 as Victor Espinoza moved California Chrome moved three wide of him, a bit earlier than planned, and shrugged off pressure from Social Inclusion before repelling Ride On Curlin’s midstretch efforts to overtake him. He finished the 1-3/16th race in 1:54.84, the fastest Preakness since Big Brown did it in 1:54.80 in 2008.
“I thought I had perfect position until then,” stated Espinoza, “but knew I had to open up more at that point when Social Inclusion attacked me.” Espinoza also told NBC correspondent Donna Brothers that he felt more tired mentally than physically as they galloped together during a post race interview. “I had to use my brains too much, he stated smiling.
The Preakness was California Chrome’s eighth victory in 12 starts, and 6th straight with Espinoza aboard. The pair are now hoping to make it 7 in a row when they compete for the Triple Crown title in the Belmont Stakes on June 7th, breaking a 36-year drought since Affirmed won in 1978. Although 22 other horses came close by winning both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only 11 horses were able to achieve Thoroughbred Racing’s greatest achievement, winning the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes beiginning with Sir Barton in 1919. The other champions include Gallant Fox in 1930; Omaha, 1935; War Admiral, 1937; Whirlaway, 1941; Count Fleet, 1943; Assault, 1946; Citation, 1948; Secreatariat, 1973; and Seattle Slew in 1977.
The 22 horses that came close were: Burgoo King, 1932; Bold Venture, 1936; Pensive, 1944; Tim Tam, 1958; Carry Back, 1961; Northern Dancer, 1964; Kauai King, 1966; Forward Pass, 1968; Majestic Prince, 1969; Canonero II, 1971; Spectacular Bid, 1979; Pleasant Colony, 1981; Alysheba, 1987; Sunday Silence, 1989; Silver Charm, 1997; Real Quiet, 1998, Charismatic, 1999; War Emblem, 2002; Funny Cide, 2003; Smarty Jones, 2004; Big Brown, 2008, and I’ll Have Another (who did not start in the Belmont) in 2012.
Horses expected to test California Chrome’s metal once more at the Belmont Stakes in three weeks include Derby challengers Commanding Curve, Danza and Wicked Strong, Samraat and Intense Holiday (who finished 2nd,3rd, 4th, 5th and 12th) in Louisville), as well as Social Inclusion, Ride on Curlin and Kid Cruz (2, 3 and 8th respectively in the Preakness), as well as Peter Pan winner Tonalist.