Baltimore, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome got a great start and ride to capture Saturday's $1.5 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, putting him one win away from claiming the Triple Crown.
California Chrome defeated nine challengers, including one filly, in the 1 3/16-mile second leg of the Triple Crown to put himself in position to become the 12th Triple Crown champion in thoroughbred racing history. The 146th Belmont Stakes will be held June 7.
Trained by Art Sherman, the chestnut colt broke fantastic from post 3 in the 10-horse field, allowing jockey Victor Espinoza to place him off the rail. As the field went under the wire for the time, California Chrome was second behind 34-1 longshot Pablo Del Monte, but in perfect position for the long race.
Pablo Del Monte continued to set the pace up the backstretch as California Chrome raced in third with the filly Ria Antonia in second.
California Chrome moved easily to the lead on the turn for home as Social Inclusion raced into second behind the 1-2 favorite from the outside. Espinoza had his mount clear of Social Inclusion entering the stretch in similar fashion as they had done in the Run for the Roses two weeks earlier.
The favorite put away Social Inclusion nearing the furlong pole as Ride On Curlin rallied into second. California Chrome went on to register a 1 1/2- length win over Ride On Curlin with Social Inclusion third and General a Rod fourth.
"It is an awesome feeling to have a horse like California Chrome," Espinoza said after winning his second Preakness Stakes. "He's just an amazing horse."
Rounding out the order of finish were Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.
California Chrome covered the distance in 1 minute, 54.84 seconds on a fast track, the fastest Preakness since Curlin's 1:53.46 in 2007.
Owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome can become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 by claiming the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, known as the "Test of the Champion." He is the 13th horse since Affirmed's win to enter the Belmont Stakes with a chance to win the Triple Crown.
Martin was unable to be at Pimlico and 77-year-old Sherman, who became the oldest trainer to ever win the Kentucky Derby, was making his first ever visit to Baltimore.
"Wow. I'll tell you, it's quite a thrill," Sherman exclaimed. "I knew he had to run harder this race. For me, just watching him perform, you know, coming back in two weeks I was a little concerned. But I'll tell you one thing, he's a real racehorse. I'm hoping that the mile and a half is up his alley too."
Espinoza had previously won the 2002 Preakness aboard Kentucky Derby champ War Emblem.
The Preakness victory keeps California Chrome undefeated this season in five starts and adds $900,000 to his bankroll. The colt has won six straight starts, all with Espinoza riding, and has captured eight of 12 lifetime starts for $3,452,650.
This year California Chrome strung together wins in the California Cup Derby, San Felipe Stakes, Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby heading into the Preakness. He closed 2013 by winning the King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park.
California Chrome returned $3.00, 3.00 and $2.40. Ride On Curlin paid $5.60 and $3.80, and Social Inclusion paid $3.40 to show.