2014 Preakness Stakes Contenders
by Robert Ferringo - 5/16/2014
Horses get colds?
Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome's fragile health is becoming one of the top stories leading up to this week's Preakness Stakes. The Derby winner is a monster 3-to-5 favorite to win this weekend's race despite swirling rumors regarding the horse's health.
California Chrome was overheard coughing after a routine workout Thursday. According to published reports, the cough was at first attributed to a slight cold. But after some blood tests and an endoscopic exam it was reported that the cough was the result of a throat blister. I'm not sure that is much better than the cold, but the coughing fit has dusted up plenty of speculation around the track this week.
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The 139th running of the Preakness Stakes will be held at 6:15 p.m. on Saturday, May 17. The race will take place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and represents the second race of horse racing's Triple Crown.
California Chrome will need to be at its best this week against a full 10-horse field at Pimlico. He will face seven unfamiliar challengers on Saturday as only three horses - General a Rod, Ride On Curlin, and California Chrome - that appeared in Churchill Downs two weeks ago taking the track again this week.
Despite a field full of speed horses, the blistering pace the Derby promised never materialized. But the Preakness, the shortest of the Triple Crown races, should more than make up for it as several frontrunners and sprinters in this field will push California Chrome from the break.
Here is a look at the top 2014 Preakness Stakes contenders:
California Chrome (3-to-5) - A heavy favorite, California Chrome is clearly the top horse in this race. The horse ran the most flawless Kentucky Derby I can recall and comes to Pimlico on a five-race winning streak. California Chrome has seven wins to his name over the past two years but has history working against him this weekend. Only four California-bred horses have ever won the Preakness and none since Snow Chief in 1986. However, California Chrome also bucked the odds by becoming the first West Coast mount to win the Kentucky Derby since 1962.
General a Rod (15-to-1) - I was high on General a Rod at the Kentucky Derby. But to no avail as he finished off the board for the first time in six career races in a disappointing 11th. The General ran an odd race at the Derby, sitting mid-pack instead of pressing the pace, as is this mount's want. When it was time to make a move, General a Rod didn't have the juice and was never a threat to the leader. I expect jockey Javier Castellano, who gets the return call after ceding to Joel Rosario at Churchill Downs, to be more aggressive with this horse, and I think we'll see a max effort from General a Rod.
Bayern (10-to-1) - A Bob Baffert horse, Bayern is shedding the blinkers and looking to set a blistering pace at Pimlico. This front-running horse had a blinding win at Santa Anita back on Feb. 13 followed by somewhat disappointing efforts at the Arkansas Derby (show) and Derby Trial (place). Baffert horses have taken the Black Eyed Susan's five times in his career, and the owner has already said that Bayern won't run at Belmont. So this is it. This is another horse that I expect to go all-out. Whether or not that will be enough in this talented field will be another story.
Social Inclusion (5-to-1) - Social Inclusion is another front-running horse that will look to test California Chrome for the entire 1 3/6-mile run at the Preakness. This horse has only three starts to his name and has posted three impressive performances, including a track record run at Gulfstream on March 12 and a grudging third-place finish at the Wood Memorial. Social Inclusion hasn't run since the Wood, back on April 5, and will be well-rested heading into this run.
Ride On Curlin (10-to-1) - You might remember this mount's sire, Curlin, the Preakness winner in 2008. However, Ride On Curlin lacks the pure speed of his father and has a different running style. Ride On Curlin is more of a stalking horse and will be hard-pressed to keep up with the speed in this Preakness field. However, Calvin Borel (rightfully or not) shouldered most of the blame for Ride On Curlin's disappointing showing in the Kentucky Derby (7th) because Borel held him back for too long. Joel Rosario gets the call for this race and will be the fourth jockey in four races for this mount. Ride On Curlin has put up some excellent workout times this week. But he once again pulled another outside post - No. 10 of 10 - after starting No. 18 in the 19-horse Derby field. Kind of the anti-California Chrome, this looks like a talented horse that just can't catch a break.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and horse racing aficionado. He has correctly predicted the winner in four of the last seven Preakness Stakes, including hitting the top horse in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. He has correctly predicted at least one Triple Crown winner in four of six years and in 2010 and 2011 he picked the winner in an amazing five of six Triple Crown races. Purchase his Preakness Stakes selections HERE.
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