California Chrome topped a field of 19 in the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Two weeks later, California Chrome -- whose dominance is raising the possibility the sport could see its first Triple Crown since 1978 -- is the overwhelming favorite to finish first at the Preakness Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby was California Chrome's fifth straight victory, and the odds favor California Chrome to bring home first place at Pimlico. But when the horses dash out of the gate on Saturday, will the odds hold up?
SI.com's Tim Layden says that they will. Layden correctly pegged California Chrome to win the Kentucky Derby, and he believes that Chrome will win his second straight Triple Crown competition at this weekend's Preakness Stakes.
Even though some observers are concerned that California Chrome's cough will hold him back, Layden feels that the illness won't set back the horse. Still, he acknowledges that it will be a much-discussed issue entering the race:
It's very plausible that Chrome's malady is very minor and won't affect his performance. Yet soundness rumors spread like wildfire at the racetrack, and the Chrome camp's vague flip-flopping on details of the horse's treatment ensure that the the cough will remain fodder for doubters until California Chrome wins the Preakness, and probably beyond.
There are only 10 starters in the Preakness, compared with 19 at this year's Kentucky Derby. The competitors are speedy and will certainly perform well early in the race.
But Layden writes that California Chrome will have enough to outlast the competition and win the Preakness:
To pick against Chrome in the Preakness is to make one of two significant leaps of faith: Presume either that one of the other nine horses will run the race of his life, or that Chrome will regress badly from his Derby. Neither appears likely (although there's that cough). The pace will be quick, but not too quick for Chrome. He will inhale the speed on the turn, as usual, and roll down the lane to victory. Ride On Curlin will close for second and Kid Cruz will get up for third. The speed horses will all fade. And then it's on to Belmont, where California Chrome will have chance to end a historic drought.
If California Chrome wins the Preakness, the horse racing world will turn its collective attention to the Belmont Stakes, where he would have a chance to win the Triple Crown.
The Belmont takes place on June 7 in New York.