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May 09, 2014

California Chrome ripe for the taking


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - California Chrome is the best 3-year- old thoroughbred in America after his convincing victory in the 140th Kentucky Derby last Saturday.

However, the colt with the less-than-stellar pedigree will not win the 139th Preakness Stakes on May 17 and may not be voted the champion 3-year-old of 2014.

We've seen this all before in thoroughbred racing. A horse wins the Kentucky Derby in decisive fashion and is the overwhelming favorite for the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown.

In fact, last year, Orb won the Run for the Roses by a wider margin than California Chrome did on Saturday and went off as the 7-10 favorite versus eight challengers two weeks later in the Preakness.

Orb finished fourth in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness and third in the Belmont Stakes as the 2-1 favorite. He failed in his remaining starts and let the division crown slip away to Will Take Charge.

The field for the Preakness Stakes is shaping up to be mainly composed of horses who did not compete in the Kentucky Derby and will be fresh for the race.

The two-week gap between the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is always a concern as thoroughbreds are not accustomed to such a short turnaround. Even the three or four weeks that many 3-year-olds have between their final prep race and the Run for the Roses is short.

"To be honest, I'm not real comfortable with running him back in two weeks," Art Sherman, California Chrome's trainer, said after the Derby win, "but I know that's what we're bound to do. I don't normally run any kind of horse back in two weeks, not even lowly claimers. I'm more the kind of guy who likes to wait seven or eight weeks between races. These horses run hard and they need time to recover."

Thoroughbreds are the ultimate example of animals of routine. California Chrome had four weeks between the Santa Anita Derby and the Run for the Roses, but so did many of his rivals.

For the Preakness, many of the challengers will have much more time between starts than the favorite had and will have.

"The Triple Crown is probably the roughest races you'll ever have to face," Sherman noted. "You have two weeks till the Preakness, then you have to go a mile and a half at Belmont. I've seen a lot of champions go by the wayside. I have to keep my fingers crossed and hope I can have a fresh horse for them type of races."

The grind of the Triple Crown is not just the three main races. California Chrome has been racing almost non-stop since November. He has 11 career starts with four this year beginning with a race in January. He was given off in February but had a start in each of the last three months.

In Las Vegas, the colt is 11-5, however, to sweep the Triple Crown.

While it will be difficult to beat California Chrome in the Preakness, it will be equally hard for the colt to win the race.

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