California Chrome provided a thrilling victory at the 140th Kentucky Derby with a late surge down the stretch Saturday, and with Preakness two weeks away his owners continue talk of the Triple Crown.
Winning his fifth straight race and first outside of his home state while making trainer Art Sherman, 77, the oldest to ever saddle a Derby-winner, California Chrome hasn’t officially been entered into the Preakness yet.
But his owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, certainly believe he could be the sixth thoroughbred to challenge for the Triple Crown in the last 12 years.
"I believe this horse will win the Triple Crown," Coburn said after the Derby.
It’s a declarative statement Coburn has used for quite some time regarding his prized California Chrome, but many of course would tell him to curb his expectations.
I’ll Have Another was the most recent to take down the Derby and Preakness, only to not start the Belmont in 2012, while Big Brown (2008), Smarty Jones (2004), Funny Cide (2003) and War Emblem (2002) all fell short in the final Triple Crown leg. Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown, with Affirmed being the last in 1978.
However, California Chrome faces a shorter track at Pimlico than he did at the Derby, and jockey Victor Espinoza has been here before.
Espinoza rode War Emblem through the 1 3 / 16-mile Pimlico oval back in 2002, and if it wasn’t for a stumble out of the gates at Belmont he might have taken the Triple Crown.
Assuming the weather conditions are just as kind to California Chrome as they were in Louisville, there’s no question he could be in contention until the final few furlongs.
Coburn also intends to give his three-year-old colt every convenience possible all the way to Maryland and back up to New York.
“He’ll fly first class,” Coburn said of Chrome to the New York Times, “and me and the wife will fly coach again.”
As of now only Pablo Del Monte, a last-minute Derby scratch who would have filled in for Hoppertunity, has officially entered the Preakness. Owners Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Wesley Ward specifically pulled their three-year-old colt in order to prepare for Pimlico.
Pablo Delmonte, based on his speedster dam One Hot Wish and stamina-filled sire Giant’s Causeway, does have an all-around pedigree to challenge California Chrome. Yet he’s only been able to combine those powers for a third-place finish at the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass Stakes.
Other Preakness contenders might include legendary trainer Todd Pletcher’s four thoroughbreds in third-place Derby-finisher Danza, as well as We Miss Artie, Intense Holiday and Vinceremos.