Will 13 be a lucky number for California Chrome?
Since the last thoroughbred won the Triple Crown in 1978, 12 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, only to fall short in the Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome, conqueror of the Derby, is set to try Saturday to win the Preakness and keep his chance at history alive.
While the Valley-bred colt is the odds-on favorite, eight new horses he didn’t defeat two weeks ago at Churchill Downs are trying to knock him off at Pimlico in Baltimore. Heavy rains forecast for today could muddy the track and tighten the field.
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If he wins the Preakness, a longer test awaits on June 7 at Belmont Park in New York. During those three weeks, the hype and pressure would intensify on all involved – jockey Victor Espinoza, trainer Art Sherman and the owners, Denise and Perry Martin of Yuba City and Carolyn and Steve Coburn of Topaz Lake, Nev.
The spotlight is already wearing on the Martins. After their Derby experience, they’re skipping the Preakness, watching instead from “an undisclosed location.” Espinoza knows only too well how difficult the Triple Crown is. In 2002, he won the Derby and the Preakness aboard War Emblem, but his horse stumbled out of the gate at the Belmont and finished eighth.
California Chrome has already captured the imagination of many beyond the horse racing world. He has more than 21,000 “likes” on his own Facebook page, plus nearly 6,000 followers on Twitter.
If California Chrome can avoid a slip-up Saturday, his legion of fans – and his legend – will only grow.