California Chrome repelled one challenger and then put away another in the stretch to win the Preakness on Saturday, setting up a Triple Crown try in three weeks.
The chestnut colt with the four white feet will attempt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, something that hasn't been done since Affirmed in 1978. Since then, 12 horses have won the first two legs and failed to complete the sweep; the last was I'll Have Another two years ago.
Maybe the horse with the modest pedigree and average Joe owners is the one.
California Chrome defeated Ride On Curlin by 1 ½ lengths at Pimlico, covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84. He's now won six straight races by a combined 27 ½ lengths for 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman.
"It's quite a thrill," Sherman said. "I knew we had to run harder this race."
California Chrome bounced out of the gate running, with jockey Victor Espinoza moving the colt into the clear. Pablo Del Monte, a 34-1 shot, charged to the lead and was soon joined by filly Ria Antonia.
Espinoza tucked California Chrome into third, an ideal spot behind the leaders. They stayed there until making their move approaching the final turn.
California Chrome made a move for the lead, catching Pablo Del Monte while Social Inclusion joined the chase. Pablo Del Monte soon dropped back along the rail, and California Chrome sprinted away from Social Inclusion at the top of the stretch.
But there was one more challenge to come.
Ride On Curlin, next-to-last in the 10-horse field, ranged up and briefly appeared ready to overtake California Chrome. Once again showing his class, California Chrome denied the threat.
"It's an awesome feeling," Espinoza said. "Today it was just a crazy race. I got more tired mentally than physically. I see another horse go to the front. I was going to sit second. .. I sit back, as soon as the other horse got clear of me, it worked out perfect."
California Chrome paid $3, $3 and $2.40. Ride On Curlin returned $5.60 and $3.80, while Social Inclusion was another 6 ½ lengths back in third and paid $3.40 as the 5-1 second choice.
General a Rod was fourth, followed by Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.
California Chrome became the first California-bred to win the Preakness since Snow Chief in 1986.