With only six days to go before the 2014 Preakness, it looks like a sure thing that California Chrome will be odds-on to extend his winning streak to six. Not only has the son of Lucky Pulpit been impressive in each of his four wins in 2014, including last week's Kentucky Derby, but many of his most dangerous opposition will be sitting this one out, awaiting their chance to test the current division leader at 12 furlongs in the Belmont Stakes. Because of this, I'm expecting, following a victory in the Preakness, for his odds to actually rise for the Belmont.
Due to the specter of 12 furlongs, three races in five weeks, and most importantly, fresh tigers like; Danza, Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, and Tonalist awaiting him in the Big Apple, I believe that no matter how impressively California Chrome wins in Baltimore, bettors will be ready to take their chances that he will become the 12th horse in a row to lose the Belmont after having won the Derby and Preakness. It would be an unusual circumstance for a Triple Crown chaser to have higher odds in the Belmont than the Preakness, but there is precedence.
Since 1970, 15 horses have run in the Belmont after having won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Of those 15, three were bet down lower in the Preakness than the Belmont. Below is a chart of each of the 15, with their odds throughout their Triple Crown run...
1978 - Affirmed and Alydar. Alydar and Affirmed. It's hard to say one's name without including the other. After defeating Alydar in the Kentucky Derby, it was assumed that Affirmed would have an easier time beating his top rival at the shorter distance in the Preakness as compared to the 12 furlongs, wide sweeping turns, and home field advantage to be enjoyed by Alydar in the Belmont. Sure enough, even after repeating the Derby result in the Preakness, the pair's odds were quite a bit closer together in the Belmont.
1979 - In the Preakness, Spectacular Bid towered over only four others. His odds of 1-10 accurately reflected his chances to win the Middle Jewel. He did win in Baltimore, and did so easily, but in the Belmont, he faced a bigger field that included the 13-length Peter Pan winner, Coastal. If bettors knew about his safety pin punctured hoof, or the overeager ride he would receive from Ron Franklin, they would have bet him less than the 3-10 odds of his biggest upset.
2008 - As dominant as Big Brown was in the Derby and the Preakness, it would have seemed that his odds against a weak field in the Belmont would be as low as odds go, but questions of a quarter crack, not to mention the announcement of the discontinued use of steroids, put just enough doubt in bettors' minds to see his odds actually rise a bit for the Belmont. Those with doubt were proved right, as the Rick Dutrow charge came up completely empty on Belmont Day.
Of course, this article will become a moot point if California Chrome is upset in the Preakness, but how many of us really expect anyone to knock him off at Pimlico?