Hot List: Preakness Stakes wrap

May, 21, 2014

Last weekend's race

The Preakness Stakes

The debate leading up to last week's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course was a curious one to say the least. California Chrome had validated his Kentucky Derby preps with a visually impressive win at Churchill Downs. He got a perfect trip stalking a slow pace and made his customary winning move near the quarter pole. However, the numbers-crunchers and speed-figure gurus were quick to criticize when the Derby came back as one of the slowest in history and it was concluded that California Chrome was the best of a poor group of 3-year-olds.

As a horse with something to prove in Baltimore, California Chrome did just that as he stalked a faster pace than he saw in the Kentucky Derby, pulled even with the leaders on the far turn and showed that same turn of foot at the quarter pole pulling away by 3-4 lengths and then holding off the late-running Ride on Curlin to win by a length-and-a-half. That was his sixth consecutive win and sets up a chance at the Triple Crown for California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park.

The betting public didn't think 'Chrome' had anything to prove sending him off at 3-5, with only one other rival at odds below double digits. The Derby and Preakness winner is the classic 'push-button' horse who will do what he is asked without a fight and that was evident in the Preakness not only with his tactical speed, but also when jockey Victor Espinoza was able to guide him to the outside of the frontrunners prior to the first turn. California Chrome earns an 'A' for this performance which was better than his Derby win. Whether he can beat a tougher field in three weeks remains to be seen.

Ride on Curlin also earns an 'A' for this race as he closed from well back to make a run at the winner. We wonder if a better post would have made a difference as jockey Joel Rosario had to take back when the two horses to his immediate inside were sent to the lead from the gate. Ride on Curlin is bred for distance and will be heard from in the Belmont if he can get better early position.

No other horses earned a letter either on their performance alone or from late betting action. But two others to watch are Social Inclusion who ran with the leader for about 7 furlongs before giving way. I would look for him in a shorter race against softer company. Also, Ring Weekend was hammered trying to leave the gate or he may have had something to say about the early pace. He also merits some consideration in the right spot.

Hot List letters

A: California Chrome
A: Ride on Curlin

For daily Hot List selections, click here.

Hot List Key

A List: A preferred horse to watch
B List: Secondary horse to watch
*C List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 1st through 3rd
*D List: Went down 2 or more betting notches and finished 4th or worse
* minus-4 or more betting notches if 11-1 or more.

Do you have questions? Email Bob at

• Bob Ehalt grew up a few furlongs from Belmont Park and has followed horse racing as a fan, turf writer or owner since 1971.
• Has won three Associated Press Sports Editors awards and was the recipient of the '09 Breeders' Cup media award for outstanding social media.



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