Cameraphones catch the start of the 139th Preakness.

Cameraphones catch the start of the 139th Preakness.

If you had a distinct sense of deja vu during the just-completed Preakness, well, you’re probably not alone.

California Chrome opened a clear lead heading into the stretch.  A rival made a strong run but never really threatened, and soon all that was left between Chrome and the second leg of the Triple Crown was a diminishing landscape of sandy dirt.

“It’s quite a thrill,” said winning trainer Art Sherman.

“It’s an awesome feeling to have a horse like California Chrome,” said rider Victor Espinoza.

Yet it wasn’t as easy as all that.  “It was a crazy race,” admitted Espinoza.  “I got more tired mentally than physically.”

That’s because the just-outside-the-leader position Chrome seemed likely to secure after Pablo Del Monte gunned for the lead disappeared when the filly, Ria Antonia under Calvin Borel, suddenly came up outside of the pair.  At that point, Espinoza took back off the speed to sit comfortably in third through a half mile in 46 4/5 seconds.

“I saw a horse get to the front and I said, ‘I’ll sit behind him,'” Espinoza said.  “Then I saw another one come, and I had to use my brakes.”

From there, however, the race was pretty as a picture for the flashy son of Lucky Pulpit.  He sat behind the speed horses and then moved outside of them as Ria Antonia fell away.

Social Inclusion moved in tandem with California Chrome as the two passed Pablo Del Monte but could not stay with the Derby winner.

“I couldn’t tell how much horse he had,” said Sherman.  “When I looked up on the board, I saw him moving away, I felt really good.”

Ride on Curlin made a stout late run — not unlike that of Commanding Curve in the Kentucky Derby — but was never a threat.  The final margin was one-and-a-half lengths, and it was another six back to Social Inclusion, who emptied out in the lane.  Running time for 1 3/16 miles was 1:54 4/5.

It was a popular victory both at the windows — California Chrome paid $3.00 to win after being sent off at 1-2 odds — and in the stands, where a monster crowd shouted, hollered, and high-fived.

“It worked out well, and he’s an amazing horse,” said Espinoza.  “It worked out perfect.”

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(All photos by Nick Hahn unless otherwise noted.)