Will California Chrome plate the Preakness?

If the same horse that won the Kentucky Derby (KD) shows up Saturday (May 17) at Pimlico for the 139th running of the 1 3/16 mile Preakness Stakes, all nine of California Chrome’s opponents will be running for second.

However, will the same horse show up?  His last 1/16th mile in the Derby was very slow, in what appeared to this observer to be a taxing race. His Beyer speed figures are in decline (108, 107, 97).  Now he’s being asked to run back in just two weeks, against a phlanx of legitimate speed horses.  On top of this, he is fighting some kind of throat infection that has caused a blister on the inside of his throat, a blister that the trainer claims will have no impact.  Really?

My guess is Chrome’s form will continue to regress, at least a bit & that could open the door for another to steal this second Triple Crown jewel.

Three of Chrome’s nine foes (Ria Antonio, Kid Cruz, Pablo Del Monte) just seem too slow to compete for the win.  Social Inclusion (SI) appears to be the most accomplished of the front runners & will likely run Ring Weekend and Bayern, right out of the race.

SI owns the highest lifetime Beyer speed figure (110) of all the horses & the sharp 4f work on May 12 shows fitness.  Six weeks rest since its good 3rd in the Wood Memorial ensures a fresh horse here.  SI appears to have a legitimate upset chance.

General a Rod had all kinds of trouble in the KD & trainer Michael Maker considers that race a throw out  He  feels a better break will make the General competitive here.  I do not share his optimism.  General got good breaks in the two races preceding the KD & lost two front-end duals finishing behind Wildcat Red both times. Wildcat did not fare well in the KD and the General did not face a front runner in either of those races of SI’s caliber.

Dynamic Impact has to be considered.  His Beyer figures have been on the rise & he holds the highest last race Beyer figure of the race.  He has a similar mid-pack running style that Chrome is likely to use & will likely need to outfinish that one in mid-stretch, not an easy task.  The other concern is the jockey who only wins at a 10% rate, kind of a low percentage at this level.  However, his regal breeding suggests this distance will be no problem.

Ride on Curlin has had a positive jockey switch & appears capable of running them all down from off the pace if the front runners tire.  However, his only two wins in 10 tries have been in a maiden & a restricted allowance race.  His good 3rd in the Rebel Stakes shows potential and this race’s anticipated pace scenario seems to fit.

Rain is a possibility for the race, so track conditions could further complicate things.

I think the best upset chances will come from SI, Dynamic Impact, and Ride on Curlin.  Chrome with these three make a reasonable 10 cent superfecta box.  It is hard to put much $ on a straight win bet on a 3/5 favorite.  So, I recommend playing exactas, Chrome with one or more of these three contenders, if you like Chrome.  However, you will get great pays if Chrome should fail to fire.  At least a possibility here.

Ahem!  Excuse me, I have a blister on my throat, buts its nothing.  Don’t worry about it.

California Chrome’s story is touching – a horse of humble origins, with everyman owners, and a well-liked, aging, deserving trainer with his first & likely only Triple Crown chance.  I hope he wins.  I really do.  If he can do this, as vaunted Emerald Downs trainer Tim McCanna told me last week, “there is hope for all of us”.  Indeed.

Have fun at the races!

– Ron Classen, mytadog@comcast.net

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