The Triple Crown trail has now moved on to Old Hilltop in Baltimore, where the 139th edition of the Preakness Stakes will take place on Saturday. The race drew a field of ten, including California Chrome, who won the 140th Kentucky Derby two weeks ago in emphatic fashion. The other Derby runners to come back and challenge California Chrome again are General A Rod and Ride On Curlin. That's it!! There will be a filly in the field in Ria Antonia, who is trying to duplicate Rachel Alexandra's feat of winning the Preakness fifteen days after running in the Kentucky Oaks. Of course, Rachel won the Oaks by twenty lengths, while Ria Antonia ran sixth in Louisville. It might have been more intriguing had Untapable, the winner of the Oaks, come back to run in the Preakness, but that didn't happen. So, let's take a look at the 139th Preakness Stakes:
I think it will be incredibly difficult for anyone to defeat #3 California Chrome in the Preakness at Pimlico. He has shown so far to be the best of this three-year-old bunch in 2014 and there really doesn't appear to be much to challenge him on Saturday. He has won five in a row, and while he did sit the garden trip in the Derby, the superb speed figures still cannot be discounted, nor can the expert handling he has received from trainer Art Sherman and jockey Victor Espinoza. All reports from Pimlico say that Chrome is handling that track surface very well and that is usually one of the key factors in picking the winner of the Preakness. I expect California Chrome to win the Preakness on Saturday and roll into Belmont with a shot to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in Thoroughbred racing history.
Bob Baffert has had some success in the Preakness in the past and he has a strong bullet to fire on Saturday with #5 Bayern. Baffert is taking the blinkers off this colt for the Preakness. Bayern crossed the line first in the Derby Trial the week before the Derby at Churchill Downs, but was DQ'd and placed 2nd. Baffert elected to wait the three weeks to run here, as opposed to wheeling right back one week later in Louisville. Rosie Napravnik rode Bayern in the Trial and gets the call again in the Preakness. Bayern might still have a bit of greenness in him with only four starts under his belt. While there does appear to be speed aplenty in this edition of the Preakness, Bayern might be able to withstand the early pressure and still produce a strong finish.
Linda Rice claimed #7 Kid Cruz for $50,000 out of a maiden claiming race he won at Aqueduct in late November. Since that claim, Rice and Kid Cruz have teamed up for two Stakes victories and a second in an Allowance start. The win in the Federico Tesio makes Kid Cruz the only horse to have started at Pimlico, much less picked up a victory. The Sire is Lemon Drop Kid, who won the Belmont back in 1999, so you would be led to believe that the distance will not be an issue for this longshot. His price on the morning line here is 20-1, which I find somewhat generous. If there does appear to be a preponderance of speed in the Preakness, Kid Cruz might be one of those closers who could be a factor when the finish line approaches.
Finally, I think of those horses that did run in the Derby to come back and challenge Chrome once again, #10 Ride On Curlin might have the best opportunity to do some damage on Saturday. He finished 7th in the Derby and closed well to pass some horses in the stretch, despite being nine-wide. He posted a bullet workout already this weekend at Pimlico, going a half-mile in 49 3/5 on May 14th. Joel Rosario has recent successful experience on the Triple Crown trail with Orb last year.
They Are Off Top 4 Selections: California Chrome, Bayern, Kid Cruz, Ride On Curlin
The best of luck to you all on your Preakness wagers on Saturday. They Are Off will return in three weeks with a look at The Belmont Stakes. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!