Sports

Derby winner wins Preakness, eyes Triple Crown

CALIFORNIA CHROME won the US$1.5 million ($1.87 million) Preakness Stakes yesterday (Singapore time), following up his Kentucky Derby triumph to seize a chance at America's elusive Triple Crown.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, California Chrome held off Ride On Curlin down the stretch at Pimlico and will now head to the June 7 Belmont Stakes with the opportunity to become just the 12th horse to sweep the coveted treble.

The last horse to achieve the feat was Affirmed in 1978 and since then a dozen others have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to come up empty at Belmont in the 2,400m race dubbed The Test of the Champion.

Trainer Art Sherman admitted the three races in five weeks is a tall order, but he was delighted with what the chestnut three-year-old showed him in the 1,900m Preakness.

"I'll tell you, it's quite a thrill," the 77-year-old Sherman said.

"I knew he had to run harder this race. Just watching him perform, coming back in two weeks, I was a little concerned. But I'll tell you one thing, he's a real racehorse.

SIX IN A ROW

"I'm hoping the mile and a half (2,400m) is up his alley, too," he said.

"After watching him run today, I think he really can go a mile and a half."

The triumph was the sixth in a row for California Chrome, who justified his status as the odds-on favourite in the 10-horse field.

Mexico's Espinoza said it was mentally exhausting trying to decide how to position his mount in the early going.

California Chrome broke beautifully from the gate and Espinoza settled in behind the pace. But when Social Inclusion drew up on the outside, he had to press the issue.

"I knew they would want to get to the front, so I was going to sit second, but, the next time I looked, another one had gone past, and I had to do something different from that point," Espinoza said.

"But I got in the clear and it worked out fine."

"When the eight horse (Social Inclusion) moved in at the half-mile (800m), I thought it was a little bit soon, but I had to go with him, and it worked out," added Espinoza, who never doubted his horse would have plenty of speed at the end. - AFP.