Ahead of the Preakness, it’s a similar story – just multiplied.  It’s California Chrome, a Grand Canyon sized hole, then the rest.

That’s not to say the colt won’t be challenged on Saturday, or that he’s a “sure thing” – which anyone who’s lost their shoes when some jockey inexplicably took his speed-favoring horse to the back of the pack will tell you doesn’t exist anyway.  It is to say, though, that on talent alone – and paying no mind to a sore throat that has erroneously dominated the headlines the past few days – California Chrome is easily better than this lackluster field (for a look at said lackluster field, you can check out yesterday’s part one of this preview).

The only question, really, is whether the race’s setup will keep him from winning – whether the expected pace will allow him the legs needed to run on when the field turns for home.

The Race: Out of the gate, expect California Chrome to jump to an early lead, trying, as he did successfully in the Derby, to clear the field and escape any traffic trouble that could be presented by an inside post.  Quickly, though, Bayern and Social Inclusion will usurp the favorite on the lead – a welcomed development for the Derby champion, who will be happy to shift to their outside and rate.  Pablo Del Monte will move up toward the front as well, with Dynamic Impact, General a Rod, and Ring Weekend also close, pushing the engaging leaders toward very quick early fractions.

Filly Ria Antonia will follow in a second group of contenders hoping to tread water until the race’s late stages and capitalize on the grueling pace.  Kid Cruz and Ride on Curlin will follow her to round out the field of ten as they head around the clubhouse turn and onto the backstretch.

Down the track’s far side, the speed duel at the pack’s front will become the story.  Bayern and Social Inclusion will be battling for the lead, with Pablo Del Monte challenging as well, and others at the front pushing them along – including California Chrome looming large just behind and to the outside of those mentioned three.

For the rest of my thoughts, including winner predictions and betting advice, head to NoTicketSports.com.