Wait Before You Make the Movie

Preakness-Stakes-Logo-2014California Chrome

by Art Parker

California Chrome’s victory in the Kentucky Derby is a great story. Unusual owners, questionable or unfashionable breeding, and a trainer way up in years have brought gossip about making a movie. If Chrome cannot win the Preakness, the story will probably stop there and it will always be a good memory for the American Turf community.

But the chestnut from California that could turn out to be a movie star should continue the underdog tale in Baltimore. Hardly any from Louisville will be in Baltimore for the second leg of the Triple Crown.  The seventh and eleventh place Derby finishers, Ride On Curlin and General a Rod respectively, will be the only ones from the Derby Dance to participate in the Preakness. Neither of these horses have won a graded stakes.

Five of the top six finishers and eight of the top ten finishers in the Derby are graded stakes winners. But the only graded stakes winner from the Derby to show up will be the Derby winner himself. Normally that would probably mean that others are scared, but in reality, the Derby field was very weak.

The official split times of the 2014 Kentucky Derby are: 23.04, 47.37, 1.11.80, 1:37.45 and the final time for the 1 ¼ is 2:03.66.

The quarter mile intervals, after the initial quarter, are: 24.33, 24.43, 25.65 and 26.21.

The track at Churchill Downs, after looking at all the races on the main track, appeared to be fast and offers no excuses for the slow Derby time(s).

California Chrome had a picture-perfect trip. He won by a couple of lengths and was getting a little tired at the end. On a track that fast with a perfect trip, the final time and the final two quarters are very dismal for a horse that is supposed to be the best in the nation.

The only other real contenders before the race were Wicked Strong and Danza (my opinion). Wicked Strong stumbled from the gate closest to the parking lot and had a pretty rough trip while Danza was bounced around like a ping pong ball early and encountered more trouble late. Danza ran third and Wicked Strong finished fourth. Commanding Curve finished second courtesy of the all new “Stewart Second place Syndrome” (Trainer Dallas Stewart finished second in 2013 and 2014 with big longshots considered outsiders).

Those that gave the best account of themselves, despite trouble, will be absent in Baltimore.

California Chrome won the Derby (again, my opinion) because the best of the three year old crop missed the Derby. That’s not to say that this crop is all that good. It doesn’t appear to be. So, my final analysis is that Chrome won the Derby because of a weak field that comes from a weak crop.

Back to the Preakness. Chrome should win it.  If the field at the Derby was weak then he gets an even better group of lightweights to slap around at Pimlico.

As of today, a few days out from Preakness Saturday, the entire race probably depends upon a colt named Social Inclusion, another who has yet to win a graded stakes, but does bring some good history into the Preakness. The son of Pioneerof The Nile has the breeding to go a long distance with grandsires Empire Maker and Saint Ballado being major contributors to stamina breeding. But what makes this colt different is that he can really turn the engine on from the gate, which is what he is expected to do. If he gets away he may be hard to catch. If California Chrome gets too close he may get caught up in a fast pace, and remember, if Chrome’s last two quarters at Churchill are indicative of his distance ability then going to fast too early will be a problem for the Derby winner.

Who can come get the pieces? General a Rod, if he is intentionally ridden from off the pace could be a nice late running surprise and he has the breeding to do that. The other is Dynamic Impact, winner of the Illinois Derby, who didn’t beat much in Chicago but certainly has the genes to relish a route of ground.

The other option for Social Inclusion is to rate off the pace, if possible, and try to let other speed set the pace then try to get first run before California Chrome.

I’m not crazy about California Chrome and certainly won’t wager on his nose in the Preakness. There is a part of me that is cheering for him simply because a win will bring much needed attention to horse racing and I’m all for that.

And I’m pulling for him so that he can go to the Belmont and run for the Triple Crown. And that is when all the monsters will show up, fresh and ready. Also present will be all the demons any three year old could ever have. And if Chrome conquers at Baltimore and manages to overcome the greatest challenge of all in New York over ‘Big Sandy,’ then I guess I will eat my words and say, “Let’s make a movie.”

But not until then.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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