The legend of California Chrome continues to grow following another dominant performance, winning the Preakness which means he is one win away from joining a prestigious club of race horses who have completed the Triple Crown. Jockey Victor Espinoza was close to that one in the past, but that’s probably the only thing remotely close to a championship lineage this group has got.
In 2002 Espinzoa won the Derby and Preakness with War Emblem before finishing 8th at Belmont. No horse has been able to complete the triple crown since Affirmed in 1978. Since then we’ve had 12 horses to win the first two races, the last of which was I’ll Have Another two years ago who didn’t even compete in the third race due to an injury.
The Chrome story might become the stuff of stories a long time from now. Parents who cost the two-man ownership group a combined $10,500. A mother who has won only one race. The two owners who are regular joe’s as one might consider them. Friends who have just one horse in their stable, with a 77-year old trainer who had his glory moment in 1955 as the exercise rider for Swaps, a winner of the Kentucky Derby.
This one came to be a bit more difficult than the Derby. He did come in as the winner by 1.5 lengths ahead of Ride on Curlin covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84 with good conditions at Pimlico. This made it six straight wins for the Chestnut Thoroughbred with white-marks that earned him his name, beginning with four incredibly dominant wins in California before heading on East for the big ones, withstanding the pressure of being the big favorite before the two races.
Chrome had a strong start but the lead was quickly taken by Pablo Del Monte who was joined by Ria Antonia. Espinoza kept Chrome at third, comfortably just behind the leaders, waiting for the opportunity to break ahead. That one presented itself a little bit too early, but as Espinoza described later, he felt he had to make a push early because of the competition, which seemed more difficult to beat than in the Kentucky Derby.
Social Inclusion joined the chase just as California Chrome was breaking ahead past the half mile marker. Pablo Del Monte fell back, but Social Inclusion was just behind California Chrome the rest of the way. Still, the speed and endurance were enough to make it an impressive victory for an unlikely champion, with a couple of low-profile owners. Now it’s on to Belmont, with history-making seeming a lot more clearer now.