California Chrome wins Preakness Stakes, to try for Triple Crown in three weeks

CROWN CHASE CONTINUES

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BALTIMORE — It gets even harder from here on out for California Chrome.

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Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates aboard California Chrome after winning the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Ride on Curlin (left) was second.  MATT SLOCUM/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MATT SLOCUM/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jockey Victor Espinoza celebrates aboard California Chrome after winning the 139th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. Ride on Curlin (left) was second.

He won easily in his home state of California, he dazzled in the Kentucky Derby and he dug deep to win the Preakness on Saturday.

Now comes the toughest test of all, the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.

The chestnut colt with four white feet will attempt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, something that hasn’t been done since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have won the first two legs and failed to complete the sweep in the 1½-mile Belmont; the last was I’ll Have Another, who was scratched on the eve of the Belmont two years ago.

“You have to have a very good horse to win these three races,” said Art Sherman, the winning 77-year-old trainer. “I’m hoping I’ve got one right now.”

Maybe the horse with the modest pedigree and average Joe owners is the one.

California Chrome defeated Ride On Curlin by 1½ lengths in the Preakness, covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84 at Pimlico.

He’s now won six consecutive races. The streak started with four in a row in California by a combined 24¼ lengths. Then California Chrome coasted home in the Derby by 1¾ lengths after opening up a big lead in the stretch. The margin dwindled in the Preakness as he fought off multiple challengers.

California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn shed tears after his colt crossed the finish line, dabbing them away with a blue-and-white bandanna.

“I don’t mean to be bold or cocky or arrogant,” Coburn said. “I saw this baby when he was a day old, I told my wife, ‘Carolyn, this horse is going to do something big. I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best that he can be.’”

Quite a statement from a guy with a one-horse stable.

Coburn and partner Perry Martin bred an $8,000 mare to a $2,500 stallion to produce California Chrome. Based on the colt’s humble breeding, he probably shouldn’t be on the verge of making history.

His mother, named Love the Chase, won just once.

The owners were long shots to get this far, too.

Coburn and Perry who live on each side of the California-Nevada border get up early for their jobs – Coburn working as a press operator and Martin running a lab that tests high-reliability equipment.

“We just hope that this horse is letting America know that the little guy can win,” Coburn said.

Sent off as the overwhelming 1-2 favorite by a record crowd of 123,469, California Chrome bounced out of the gate running, with jockey Victor Espinoza moving the colt into the clear. Pablo Del Monte, a 34-1 shot, charged to the lead and was soon joined by filly Ria Antonia.

Espinoza tucked Cali­fornia Chrome into third, an ideal spot behind the leaders. They stayed there until making their move approaching the final turn.

“I had to move early today,” Espinoza said. “I had to start moving at the half-mile pole, which is tough for a horse to start moving early and keep going all the way to the end. California Chrome proved he can move.”

He went for the lead, catching Pablo Del Monte while Social Inclusion joined the chase. Pablo Del Monte soon dropped back along the rail, and California Chrome sprinted away from Social Inclusion at the top of the stretch.

But there was one more challenge to come.

Ride On Curlin, next-to-last in the 10-horse field, ranged up and appeared ready to overtake California Chrome. Once again showing his class, California Chrome denied the threat.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Espinoza said. “Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I see another horse go to the front. I was going to sit second. ... I sit back, as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfect.”

California Chrome paid $3, $3 and $2.40. Ride On Curlin returned $5.60 and $3.80, while Social Inclusion was another 6 ½ lengths back in third and paid $3.40 as the 5-1 second choice.

General a Rod was fourth, followed by Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.

California Chrome earned $900,000 after earning $1,417,800 for winning the Derby, bringing his career earnings to more than $3.4 million.

Espinoza will get another crack at trying to complete the Triple Crown, after missing with War Emblem in 2002. He finished eighth in the Belmont that year.

“You have to be a super horse to win,” the jockey said. “Hopefully, California Chrome comes back good, and he’s the one that hopefully can do it.”

Bob Baffert trained War Emblem, one of his three Triple tries that ended in failure. He missed with Silver Charm in 1997 and again the following year with Real Quiet, who lost the Belmont by a nose.

“California Chrome is something. He’s a cool customer,” Baffert said after the race. “He does everything right. He’s fast enough to stay out of trouble.”

TRYING TO MAKE HISTORY

Eleven 3-year-olds have won the Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes), the last being Affirmed in 1978. Nineteen have failed by losing in the Belmont.

YEAR HORSE FINISH

2008 Big Brown Last

2004 Smarty Jones Second

2003 Funny Cide Third

2002 War Emblem Eighth

1999 Charismatic Third

1998 Real Quiet Second

1997 Silver Charm Second

1989 Sunday Silence Second

1987 Alysheba Fourth

1981 Pleasant Colony Third

1979 Spectacular Bid Third

1971 Canonero II Fourth

1969 Majestic Prince Second

1968 Forward Pass Second

1966 Kauai King Fourth

1964 Northern Dancer Third

1961 Carry Back Seventh

1958 Tim Tam Second

1944 Pensive Second

– Associated Press

RACE RESULTS

WIN

California Chrome

$3, $3, $2.40

PLACE

Ride on Curlin

$5.60, $3.80

SHOW

Social Inclusion

$3.40

BELMONT STAKES

WHEN: June 7

WHERE: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

DISTANCE: 1½ miles

TELEVISION: NBC & NBC Sports Network

Comments (2) Add comment
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Riverman1
90583
Points
Riverman1 05/17/14 - 08:46 pm
4
0
Great horse coming from a

Great horse coming from a small operation.

seenitB4
93697
Points
seenitB4 05/18/14 - 10:44 am
1
1
I love this horse

Pure magic watching him run...I hope he wins again--wow

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