The Preakness Stakes: Size Up The Challengers To California Chrome

The second leg of the Triple Crown goes Saturday, when the Preakness Stakes runs from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. Post time is 6:18 PM ET, the coverage is on NBC and all the focus is on California Chrome.

California Chrome came into the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago with a lot of hype off his victory in the Santa Anita Derby, and was installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite. In a race known for its unpredictability and longshots, California Chrome rose above the field and pulled away down the stretch.

The Preakness does not have the same history of unpredictability as the Kentucky Derby does. Between that, and all the buildup after what happened in Churchill Downs, California Chrome is an even bigger favorite, with the morning line posted at a most unprofitable 3-5. Can anyone stop this horse from taking the Triple Crown dreams of his connections to the Belmont Stakes next month?


There are nine challengers, and oddsmakers say Social Inclusion, at 5-1, is the best of the group. The resume doesn’t look overly impressive—a couple non-stakes race victories at Gulfstream Park in Florida, and a third-place finish at the Wood Memorial in New York. It’s not bad, but if this is the best the field can come up with, California Chrome probably makes it two in a row.

In 2009, Rachel Alexandra became the first filly in 76 years to win the Preakness Stakes. Another filly will take her crack at beating the boys this time out, although the resume for Ria Antonia isn’t quite as strong.

Rachel had blew away the field at the Kentucky Oaks (the filly version of the Derby) and was the favorite at the Preakness Stakes. Rio Antonia was 6th at the Oaks, 2nd at the Santa Anita Oaks and 4th at the Rachel Alexandra Stakes.

The oddsmakers have noticed—Rio Antonia is 30-1 and the longest shot in the field. I have to think she’d have been better off running in Friday afternoon’s Black Eyed-Susan, the top filly race at Pimlico this weekend.


Most of the Kentucky Derby field isn’t running this time around. Horses don’t typically run on two weeks rest. Besides California Chrome, there are only two other entrants who also ran at Churchill Downs two weeks ago…

Ride On Curlin is ridden by Joel Rosario, one of the best jockeys in the West. After in-the-money finishes at the best three stakes races in Arkansas, Ride On Curlin ran seventh in the Kentucky Derby, a respectable finish in the 20-horse field. Ride On Curlin is 10-1 for the Preakness Stakes.

General a Rod (the name has no connection to Alex Rodriguez, and hopefully the trainers have the horse on fewer PEDs than A-Rod) has Javier Castellano, an excellent and accomplished jockey. He ran 3rd at the Florida Derby, which is always a high-quality field and second at the Fountain Of Youth Stakes, also in Florida. General a Rod then placed 11th at the Kentucky Derby. He’s at 15-1 for Saturday.


Bayern (10-1): The combination of jockey Rosie Napravnik and trainer Bob Baffert gives this horse respect, and Rosie takes another shot at being the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race. Bayern won a couple non-stakes races at Santa Anita, and then finished in-the-money at a couple of low grade stakes. This horse falls in the category of “interesting.” Doesn’t knock your socks off, but it’s a decent resume and a solid trainer/jockey combo.

Dynamic Impact (12-1): After running strong at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, Dynamic Impact came north and won the Illinois Derby. Now it’s time for the next step up in class.

Kid Cruz (20-1): Do you believe in homefield advantage in horse racing? If so, this is your horse. Kid Cruz won a stakes race here at Pimlico about a month ago. He also has a couple of non-stakes wins at Laurel (also in Maryland) and Aqueduct in New York.

Pablo Del Monte (20-1): He’s ran several stakes races and placed anywhere from third to fifth, including the Blue Grass, a fairly high profile race run in Kentucky during the prep season that leads up to the Triple Crown.

Ring Weekend (20-1): Martin Garcia rode Lookin’ At Lucky to Preakness Stakes glory in 2010 and he’s aboard Ring Weekend, a horse that won the Tampa Bay Derby (moderate prestige) and the Calder Derby (no prestige) after spotty showings in non-stakes races.


Well, my Kentucky Derby picks blew up in my face, thanks mainly to my lack of belief in California Chrome. This time around I believe, but the odds are too low. So I wouldn’t focus on the win bet, but at the exacta and trifecta. I would bet a three-horse box that takes the favorite and pairs him up with Bayern and General a Rod.

The point of “boxing” the exotic is that I would get any order of finish, and can cash the exacta if I have the top two or the trifecta if these horses finish in the top three. The total cost of the wager would be $24.