California Chrome completes second jewel in Triple Crown

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The dream lives on for the connections of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome. The California homebred colt of owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn captured the second jewel in the Triple Crown when he won the 139th running of the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) before a record crowd of 123,469 gathered at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. Now 77-year-old winning trainer Art Sherman has three weeks to prepare the chestnut son of Lucky Pulpit for the June 7 Belmont Stakes (G1) and an attempt to make history as the 12th Triple Crown winner and first California-bred to accomplish the elusive feat. Winning rider Victor Espinoza has been in this position once before, in 2002 with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem.

“I have a good feeling about it,” said Sherman of the upcoming Belmont Stakes, a day after California Chrome’s Preakness win. “I’m really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks (between races) and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don’t care how many fresh shooters they’ve got there; he’s the real McCoy.”

Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in a field of 10, California Chrome broke alertly from post three as longshot Pablo Del Monte and the filly Ria Antonia emerged to take the early lead. Espinoza settled California Chrome in behind the pair as they took the field around the oval in a sharp quarter of 23.56 seconds and the half mile in 46.85 seconds. California Chrome moved into the lead around the far turn with the betting public’s second choice, Social Inclusion, launching a bid from the middle of the pack. Making his bid from the back of the field was Ride On Curlin and jockey Joel Rosario. Deep into the stretch, California Chrome kicked on, leaving Social Inclusion in his wake and holding off a late drive from Ride On Curlin, who finished 1 ½ lengths back in second. Social Inclusion was another 6 ½ lengths back in third, a head in front of fourth-place finisher General A Rod.

“It was not easy, but we got it done,” said winning rider Espinoza. “I’m excited and looking forward. I had to start early because the outside horse was pushing me. I thought I had the perfect position, but when the outside horse attacked me, I had to open it up at that point. It was tough today. This race was a little complicated. I saw another horse take the lead, I’m second, then (Ria Antonia) wants to go. I have to steady, steady and I have to hope and make the right decision and hope for the best. Then, I’m sitting third and I think it’s perfect.”

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