California Chrome is in with a shot at America’s Triple Crown after landing the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
The Art Sherman-trained colt claimed the Kentucky Derby at the start of the month and supplemented that with victory in the nine-and-a-half-furlong contest at Pimlico, Baltimore, two weeks later.
Victor Espinoza settled the colt just off the early pace but had to make an early move for home as Social Inclusion tried to kick on at the far turn.
California Chrome dealt with that challenge but then had to repel the late thrust of Ride On Curlin, eventually winning by a length and a half with Social Inclusion a further six and a half lengths back in third.
The Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on 7 June is now the intended target and if California Chrome can triumph in that 12-furlong test, he will become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Sherman, 77, whose cheaply bred colt’s winning run has inspired a Seabiscuit-style following, said: “I’m never crazy about running back in two weeks, now there’s three weeks [to the Belmont]. It’ll be quite a challenge. You’ve got to have a very good horse. I’m hoping I have one.
“We’re running on a high right now but when we get to Belmont I think he’ll run big. I knew he’d have to run harder in this race. I’m hoping the mile and a half is up his alley.”