BALTIMORE — It gets even harder from here on out for California Chrome.
He won easily in his home state of California, he dazzled in the Kentucky Derby and he dug deep to win the Preakness on Saturday.
Now comes the toughest test of all, the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.
The chestnut colt with four white feet will attempt to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, 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 in the 1 ½-mile Belmont; the last was I’ll Have Another, who was scratched on the eve of the Belmont two years ago.
“You have to have a very good horse to win these three races,” said Art Sherman, the winning 77-year-old trainer. “I’m hoping I’ve got one right now.”
Maybe the horse with the modest pedigree and average-Joe owners is the one.
California Chrome defeated Ride On Curlin by 1 ½ lengths in the Preakness, covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:54.84 on a sunny and cool day at Pimlico.
He’s now won six straight races. The streak started with four in a row in California by a combined 24 ¼ lengths. Then California Chrome coasted home in the Derby by 1 ¾ lengths after opening a big lead in the stretch. The margin dwindled in the Preakness as he fought off multiple challengers.
California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn shed tears after his colt crossed the finish line, dabbing them away with a blue-and-white bandanna.
“I don’t mean to be bold or cocky or arrogant,” Coburn said. “I saw this baby when he was a day old, I told my wife, ‘Carolyn, this horse is going to do something big. I don’t know what it is, but we’re going to stay in the game to make sure this colt gets to be the best that he can be.’”
Quite a statement from a guy with a one-horse stable.