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Features - RACING

Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome returns to the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course, where he will try to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)

by Tom Pedulla and Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt and Tom Pedulla became fast friends when they met on their first day at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1971. Bob soon introduced Tom to the joys of Thoroughbred racing.

They have endured some rough moments at the track, with Tom taking exception when Bob repeatedly smacks him on the back with a program as one of their horses launches an all-out drive. Much to Tom’s chagrin and the amusement of onlookers, Bob has been known to call for security as he proceeds to cash a $27 trifecta.

They have owned a number of horses together. They are often seen carrying on at the track as if they never left their teenage years.

Here is their take on the 139th Preakness Stakes:

PEDULLA: Bob, rarely do we land on the same horse and watch it win. But that is what happened before the Kentucky Derby and it should tell us – and everyone else – how good California Chrome is. I am not about to predict a Triple Crown, but I definitely see him taking the next step against nine opponents in the Preakness.

One of the biggest things he has going for him is that this field is not very good. Is Dynamic Impact, winner of the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, supposed to scare me? It took him five races to break his maiden. Ring Weekend? He also needed five starts to break his maiden before taking the Tampa Bay Derby. The filly, Ria Antonia? There is no way she belongs after running up the track in the Oaks.

With abundant speed in here, it sets up perfectly for Chrome to kick away at the top of the stretch, just as he did at Churchill Downs. Granted, there is not much to be made on a win wager. So we must hammer the exotics.

EHALT: A lot has been made of California Chrome’s relatively slow time in the Derby, but Tom, let’s face it, carrying the weight of our selections is one of the sport’s great handicaps.  If California Chrome was good enough to win the Derby with us on his back, I can’t see anyone stopping him now. Besides, he’s facing a weak array of rivals and can probably beat them with his “B” race. I really liked him in the Derby and now I absolutely love him in the Preakness, just like I did with Orb a year ago. … Err, wonder if I should rethink this?

PEDULLA: I know General a Rod did not run to my expectations in the first leg, but he and I have an excuse. He needed to be steadied as part of a tough trip and never really had the opportunity to show what he can do. I love the jockey change from Joel Rosario to Javier Castellano, who missed by a head in the Fountain of Youth the only time he teamed with the General. Castellano is riding brilliantly in big races these days.

GENERAL A ROD (left) WAS GAME IN FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH

FOY-Inside -Coglianese

Photo by Bob Coglianese/Gulfstream Park

EHALT: Sticking with your Derby longshot? What is getting into you? Well, I’ll continue with the role reversal by taking Social Inclusion for second. I’ll pass on pounding the exacta because of the lack of value in backing the two favorites, but if there’s one horse in this field that’s capable of beating California Chrome it’s him.  The bruised foot and some lost training time are worrisome but I just can’t make a serious case for anyone other than him as California Chrome’s main threat.

SOCIAL INCLUSION IS A TOP PREAKNESS THREAT

Ehalt Social Inclusion Inside

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

PEDULLA: Ride On Curlin was much better than he showed in the Derby. He did well to finish seventh after being angled nine wide by rail-hugging Calvin Borel, who gives way to Rosario. Ride On Curlin cracked the top three in five consecutive starts before that misadventure and is 8-for-10 in the money overall. He will be third best here.

EHALT:  Funny meeting you here. Yeah, I’ve also penciled in Ride On Curlin for third. Borel cost him any chance of being a factor in the Derby when he pulled him back to last. He’ll get a much better ride from Rosario, and you have to wonder if this is the spot where he atones for last year’s loss on Orb.

RIDE ON CURLIN

Ride -On -Curlin

Photo by Eclipse Sportswire

PEDULLA: The blistering speed of Social Inclusion would worry me a lot more if Bayern and Pablo Del Monte were not in here. While I see Social Inclusion winging on the lead, it will not be an easy lead. He withers after a speed duel to be fourth.

EHALT: I gave Dynamic Impact serious consideration to round out the superfecta, but in the end I’ll bow to your new-found wise guy insight and go with General a Rod. The bulk of the horses in this field belong in Grade 2 or 3 stakes, and he’s slightly better than that, so he should rebound from that 11th-place finish in the Derby. Besides, with Derby horses winning 27 of the last 30 editions of the Preakness, why not corner the market on Run for Roses alums?

Once we cash some tickets, I’ll see you at the Belmont, where we’ll find out if California Chrome is good enough to write a glorious new chapter in racing history – and carry us along for the ride one more time.

$1.5-million Preakness Stakes

Saturday, Pimlico, Race 12, Post Time 6:20p.m. ET.

1 3/16 miles, dirt, 3-year-olds

Television: NBC coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. ET

Post

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

Odds

1

Dynamic Impact

Miguel Mena

Mark Casse

12-1

2

General a Rod

Javier Castellano

Mike Maker

15-1

3

California Chrome

Victor Espinoza

Art Sherman

3-5

4

Ring Weekend

Alan Garcia

Graham Motion

20-1

5

Bayern

Rosie Napravnik

Bob Baffert

10-1

6

Ria Antonia

Calvin Borel

Tom Amoss

30-1

7

Kid Cruz

Julian Pimentel

Linda Rice

20-1

8

Social Inclusion

Luis Contreras

Manny Azpurua

5-1

9

Pablo Del Monte

Jeffrey Sanchez

Wesley Ward

20-1

10

Ride On Curlin

Joel Rosario

William Gowan

10-1


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