"It was a glorious and imposing spectacle to behold these noble ships standing up the vast bay of the Chesapeake, into the very heart of America; manned, too, with eager souls, panting for fame..." - Robert Barrett, Naval Recollections of the Late American War, 1843 (Barrett was a British midshipman serving aboard the British frigate Herbrus which took part in the bombardment)
Will California Chrome withstand the efforts of the other nine horses that are gunning for fame by beating him like Fort McHenry and the rest of Baltimore withstood the British onslaught during the War of 1812?
Do I want to see a Triple Crown winner? Yes. Do I think the industry needs a Triple Crown winner? Yes. Do I think it will be California Chrome? No. I admit that some small part of me WANTS him to pull it off, but the realistic side of me can't rationalize it - not at Pimlico, and definitely not at Belmont.
I am not going to jump on the band wagon and bash the win by California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby. He ran the race he had to run to win with something left in the tank for the Preakness. So what if it was a low Beyer figure for a Derby win - it was better than 18 other horses posted! There have been enough theories about wind, footing, and the general demise of thoroughbred racing/breeding, but the fact remains that California Chrome ran his race and won, with some help (troubled trips for Wicked Strong and others), while maintaining my o-fer streak of not picking a Derby winner since Smarty Jones. There is always next year, right???
I boycotted Churchill and it cost me - I had the four horses that made up the superfecta and instead of doing my annual $1 box on my top four, I opted to pass... do not pass "Go" and do not collect $7,691. Small consolation being that my old college roommate did play a trifecta box on those four horses and returned a tidy $1,712 plus a nice show bet on Commanding Curve. Beers are on Mike next time I see him!
As a bettor it is understandably difficult to get excited for the Preakness each year. An increasing number of the Derby entrants seem to defect from the second leg with each passing year - leaving only California Chrome, Ride On Curlin, and General a Rod as the lone three Derby horses making the trip to Baltimore this year. The wrong horse out of the Kentucky Oaks is running here, Ria Antonia who pulled Calvin Borel off of Ride On Curlin (Untapable would have likely made this a more exciting race). Lastly, off of that Derby win, California Chrome offers no value at 3-5 in a race that should set up again well for him.
Pace - Expect Bayern, Pablo Del Monte, and Social Inclusion to rush out and set a moderate +/-47.0 opening half mile (setting up very similar to the Derby). California Chrome, Dynamic Impact, Ring Weekend, General a Rod and Ride On Curlin should be sitting comfortably within about 3 lengths of the leaders for most of the race. Kid Cruz will be bringing up the rear trying to muster a late rally. I am not expecting much out of Ria Antonia at all here. Before the far turn, expect the trio early speed to be running out of gas - General a Rod will be flat as will Ring Weekend. I expect the late runs to be made here by California Chrome, Dynamic Impact, and Ride On Curlin (although I am still suspect of his ability around two turns). Kid Cruz will mount a small run late, maybe finding his way into your superfecta or trifecta; but it will really come down to California Chrome and Dynamic Impact. Dynamic Impact has the breeding (Tiznow and Smart Strike as his dam sire) to go much further and I think that this will be his edge in the closing moments of a close race.
My top four in finish order preference:
1 Dynamic Impact (12-1) - fresh legs and pedigree prevail
3 California Chrome (3-5) - valiant effort, well timed moves, but just short
10 Ride On Curlin (10-1) - moving late, but not sold he is good enough to win at two turns
7 Kid Cruz (20-1) - late rally gets him a share here
I'll be watching the tote and just may throw a few bucks on a box this time!
Good luck all!