BALTIMORE California Chrome drew away from the field in the stretch and easily won the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes on Saturday to remain in the hunt to claim the elusive Tripe Crown.
The Kentucky Derby champion, ridden by Victor Espinoza, settled in nicely in third place before making his move on the far turn and grabbing the lead at the top of the stretch.
Finishing second, 1 1/2 lengths behind California Chrome, was hard-charging Ride On Curlin, while the third-place spot went to Social Inclusion.
"It's an awesome feeling to have a horse like California Chrome," Espinoza said. "It was a crazy race. I got more tired physically than mentally. It worked out well and he's an amazing horse."
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, a pair of small-time owners who created DAP Racing (Dumbass Partners), bought a mare named Love the Chase for $8,000 and paid a $2,500 stud fee to breed her with Lucky Pulpit, who won only three of his 22 starts.
The result of that modest mating was the chestnut California Chrome, who won $900,000 for Saturday's triumph to push his career earnings to nearly $3.5 million.
Trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, California Chrome has won all five of his starts in 2014 and over his 12-race career has eight wins and a second.
"It's quite a thrill," said Sherman. "I know he had to run harder in this race (than the Kentucky Derby). Just watching him perform, I was a little concerned coming back in two weeks.
"I'll tell you one thing: He's a real race horse ... I have a tear (in my eye) because we worked hard all year and Victor rode him perfect. It's a dream for any trainer to do this."
If California Chrome can win the mile-and-one-half Belmont Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park in New York, he will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
The winning time for the mile-and-three-16th race at Pimlico Race Course was a swift 1:54 4/5, though well off the Preakness record of 1:53 set in 1973 by Secretariat, who went on to win the Triple Crown.
California Chrome, the 1-2 favorite in the field of 10, returned $3.00, $3.00 and $2.40 for a $2 ticket.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)