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'Chrome' looks for golden Preakness as favorite

The 139th Preakness Stakes Preview

By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer

BALTIMORE (AP) -- California Chrome has run away from the competition in five consecutive victories, winning by an average of over five lengths.

The Kentucky Derby winner has had it his way ever since Victor Espinoza climbed aboard back in December when the streak began.

Whether they do again in the 1 3-16-mile Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday depends on a good trip, the tactics used by the chestnut colt's nine rivals and a little luck. California Chrome is the even-money favorite against nine rivals.

"When you run a 3-5 shot, you've got a lot more pressure on you knowing you're going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it," trainer Art Sherman said.

California Chrome galloped two miles in the rain Friday. A small blister in the colt's throat that caused him to cough a day earlier was blown out of proportion, according to Alan Sherman, Art's son and assistant trainer.

"California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle," he said. "He is not scratching from the Preakness."

The colt had a similar blister before his Derby win. He was being treated with a glycerin throat wash.

If the chestnut colt with four white feet can repeat his Derby success in the $1.5 million Preakness, he'll set himself up for a Triple Crown try in three weeks in the Belmont Stakes.

It's been 36 years since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become horse racing's 11th Triple Crown winner.

"The Triple Crown means so much, but I'm old school," Art Sherman said. "Let's just go one race at a time."

California Chrome extended his winning streak to five with a thrilling victory in the Derby two weeks ago, when Espinoza kept him no worse than third in the 19-horse fray before accelerating in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

In the Preakness, California Chrome will break from the No. 3 post, a spot that has seen 11 winners but none since Prairie Bayou in 1993.

"If he runs his race, and he's come back good from the Kentucky Derby, he should be tough in there," Espinoza said.

Social Inclusion is the 5-1 second choice and is one of eight horses coming in fresh, having skipped the Kentucky Derby. Only two Derby horses - Ride On Curlin (seventh) and General a Rod (11th) - have returned to challenge California Chrome in the Preakness.

"You need a good trip, a good setup and to have everything go your way," said Mike Maker, who trains General a Rod. "Obviously, California Chrome is head and shoulders above everybody so far. He's proved it, and every race, he's continued to do so."

Other rival trainers aren't conceding the race to California Chrome, either.

Billy Gowan oversees Ride On Curlin, who has started just as many races in his young career (10) as the Derby winner. He'll have a new jockey in Joel Rosario, who replaces Calvin Borel.

"I've got a whole lot of respect for California Chrome," Gowan said, "but I'd like to try him one time at the top of the stretch and see how we are."

That's the point in the race where Espinoza has turned California Chrome loose during their winning streak. In the Preakness, the speed horses will break from the gate on the outside of California Chrome. Rivals like Social Inclusion and Ride On Curlin could try to box in the Derby winner in an attempt to put pressure on him early.

"But he's not chicken-hearted, by no means," Sherman said. "My biggest concern is the first 70 yards leaving the gate. I don't want him to get impeded behind horses with no place to go. All you can do is hope for a good trip."

Sherman calls California Chrome a "push-button horse," meaning Espinoza can pretty much position the colt anywhere he wants in the race.

"He doesn't have to go to the lead, but if you ask him to run, he'll give you a burst," the trainer said. "The way he wins races, blows them away, blows my mind."

Still, six of the past eight Derby winners did not win the Preakness.

There's a posse of contenders that would love to extend that history.

One of them is Social Inclusion, who will be making just the fourth start of his career and first since finishing third in the Wood Memorial more than a month ago. He's trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, who would become the oldest winning trainer in the 139-year history of the Preakness.

Another is Ria Antonia, the first filly to run against the boys since Rachel Alexandra won in 2009. She is on a streak of her own, having lost six straight races. Borel, who rode Rachel, is aboard.

And there's Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who will try to win his sixth Preakness with Bayern, a colt disqualified for bumping in his last start in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. Rosie Napravnik will be aboard, trying to be the first female jockey to win the race at the track where she rode her first winner in 2005.

Linda Rice is trying to become the first female trainer to saddle a Preakness winner with Kid Cruz, named for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. He's the only colt with a win over the Pimlico track.

The other challengers are Dynamic Impact, the Illinois Derby winner; Pablo Del Monte, third in the Blue Grass; and Ring Weekend, a gelding who was second in the Calder Derby last month.

After heavy rain overnight Thursday and into Friday, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high around 70 degrees, ensuring Pimlico's dirt track will be fast.

Post time is 6:18 p.m. EDT.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

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frank.foreman May 17 2014 at 3:47 AM

Awesome looking horse , with the will to show what he's got. God I love horses. They have to be the most inspirational animal god ever created. Nothing like seeing them run free , roaming vast stretches of land and just being horses. It makes me want to go running with and amongst them. Hope he stays healthy and takes the history books 1 step further. I'd give him some really clean water with lots of just melted ice in it , to let him decide how much to drink of it to make any difference for his throat. Scotch on the rocks and let em go.

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1 reply
quixoticjak frank.foreman May 17 2014 at 6:47 AM

"There's nothing as good for the inside of a man, as the outside of a horse..."

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2 replies
Kate quixoticjak May 17 2014 at 12:52 PM

I know that quote, but who is it by? I won't be able to get back to you (AOL isn't allowing me to receive replies), but if you post it on here, I can look for it later, smile.

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missimin quixoticjak May 17 2014 at 1:41 PM

For Kate:
There is nothing so good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. ~John Lubbock, "Recreation," The Use of Life, 1894

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aktimex54 May 17 2014 at 6:17 AM

This IS NOT sport, it's animal abuse! Don't tell me these owners care about the horses, they couldn't care less about them, and when they expire trackside or otherwise they wait for the insurance check and move on to the next horse. Unfortunately I work around these people and not by choice, they're the filth of the earth...i've seen homeless beggars who have better personal hygene. This "sport" should be banned, i'd like to see these "horse lovers" saddled and forced to run until they drop, at the very least they wouldn't be able to contaminate the rest of the planet!

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6 replies
halt1025 May 17 2014 at 6:31 AM

obomacare

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1 reply
quixoticjak halt1025 May 17 2014 at 6:49 AM

....can't even get the spelling correct....

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cherofnc May 17 2014 at 9:32 AM

My horses tend to cough now and then a bit this time if year...I have always thought it is just a little pine pollen in the throat, but I am sure those people know better than me and that was not mentioned. I am sure he does not get dusty hay as is sometime the case if they cough. Keeping my fingers crossed that it is a good clean race. The horse racing industry needs a break, and a pretty bright red boy with lot's of chrome (very unuslual for throughbreds) might just do it. Last high coloured horse to be a winnah was Secretariat.

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2 replies
jtfee cherofnc May 17 2014 at 10:33 AM

It is not unusual for a horse to sound hoarse, but watch out if they have a frog in their throat.

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Kate cherofnc May 17 2014 at 12:49 PM

Was it really? That's very interesting, and thanks for saying so! About Secretariat, I mean. Boy, that was some horse. I did not know that chrome is an actual term; I thought it was just his name, without referring to coat.

Yes, if Chrome's trainer is not worried about the cough, I don't see any reason why anyone else should be. This should be a very interesting race!

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IBruzEZ May 17 2014 at 9:49 AM

Wishing them all good luck and excited to be watching the race. Lots of reasons for each of them to be a winner... lots of "first times".....

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torianne May 16 2014 at 11:27 PM

"Blister"? I trained and won with many thoroughbred racehorses. Is it possible that C.C. is actually suffering from a trapped epiglotis? The "wash" could merely be a type of throat "freeze" so that Chrome doesn't feel his flap, nor can he displace it.

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1 reply
wlh1923 torianne May 16 2014 at 11:34 PM

Buuuuurp.

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rdorff555 May 17 2014 at 10:49 AM

You can't talk yourself into the WINNERS CIRCLE, you must first outrun the other horses.

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Kate May 17 2014 at 12:43 PM

I'll see if I can get my computer to do a live stream: I'd love to see how Chrome does this time. My money (literally) was on Wicked Strong in the Derby, but as I only bet once a year, I lost cheerfully, and was pleased that Chrome won because of the backstory on him. He's quite a horse, and I wish him luck!

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Carol May 17 2014 at 12:53 PM

Go California Chrome!

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