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Originally published Friday, May 16, 2014 at 8:40 PM

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California Chrome is huge favorite for Preakness Stakes

California Chrome has run away from the competition in five consecutive victories, winning by an average of over five lengths.


The Associated Press

Scott Hanson’s picks

Here are Seattle Times handicapper Scott Hanson’s top-four picks for Saturday’s Preakness.

1, California Chrome: Beat 18 horses in the Derby; just has to beat nine in this race

2, Social Inclusion: Has only run in three races, but has the talent to contend.

3, Dynamic Impact: Looked good winning the Illinois Derby

4, Bayern: Never underestimate his trainer, Bob Baffert.

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BALTIMORE — California Chrome has run away from the competition in five consecutive victories, winning by an average of over five lengths.

The Kentucky Derby winner has had it his way ever since Victor Espinoza climbed aboard back in December, when the streak began.

Whether they do again in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness at Pimlico on Saturday depends on a good trip, the tactics used by the chestnut colt’s nine rivals and a little luck. California Chrome is the even-money favorite against nine rivals.

“When you run a 3-5 shot, you’ve got a lot more pressure on you knowing you’re going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it,” trainer Art Sherman said.

California Chrome galloped two miles in the rain Friday. A small blister in the colt’s throat that caused him to cough a day earlier was blown out of proportion, according to Alan Sherman, Art’s son and assistant trainer.

“California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle,” he said. “He is not scratching from the Preakness.”

The colt had a similar blister before his Derby win. He was being treated with a glycerin throat wash.

If the chestnut colt with four white feet can repeat his Derby success in the $1.5 million Preakness, he’ll set himself up for a Triple Crown try in three weeks in the Belmont Stakes.

It’s been 36 years since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become horse racing’s 11th Triple Crown winner.

“The Triple Crown means so much, but I’m old school,” Art Sherman said. “Let’s just go one race at a time.”

California Chrome will break from the No. 3 post, a spot that has seen 11 winners but none since Prairie Bayou in 1993.

Social Inclusion is the 5-1 second choice and is one of seven horses coming in fresh, having skipped the Kentucky Derby. Only two Derby horses — Ride On Curlin (seventh) and General a Rod (11th) — have returned to challenge California Chrome in the Preakness.

“You need a good trip, a good setup and to have everything go your way,” said Mike Maker, who trains General a Rod. “Obviously, California Chrome is head and shoulders above everybody so far. He’s proved it, and every race, he’s continued to do so.”

After heavy rain overnight Thursday and into Friday, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high around 70 degrees, ensuring Pimlico’s dirt track will be fast.

Notes

Stopchargingmaria pulled away from Vero Amore in a two-horse stretch duel to win the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by a neck at Pimlico in Baltimore. It was the fourth Black-Eyed Susan win for trainer Todd Pletcher, who also won this Grade II race for 3-year-old fillies in 2005, 2007 and 2012.

The filly paid $9.60, $5.60 and $4. Vero Amore paid $12.80 and $9.40, and third-place finisher Fortune Pearl returned $5.80.

The winning time was 1:51.79 over 11 / 8  miles on a good track.

• Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan had emergency colic surgery in Lexington, Ky., for a problem with his small intestine, but it’s not expected to end his career.



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