Gary Mihoces / USA Today Sports
California Chrome is now 2-for-2 and a triple is in his sight after he won Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
The Derby winner got a great start and only had to fend off Ride On Curlin in the stretch to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown by 1 1/2 lengths.
Social Inclusion was third.
California Chrome finished the 1 3/16 mile race in 1:54 4/5, the fastest time since Curlin won in 2007.
"He's such an amazing horse," said winning jockey Victor Espinoza who rode the first California bred horse to win the Preakness since Snow Chief in 1986.
Said 77-year-old trainer Art Sherman: "He's a very good horse. We worked hard all year, and Victor rode him perfect. It's a dream for any trainer to do this."
Sherman said when he watched the brief stretch duel he "couldn't tell how much horse he really had. But when I looked up at the board and seen him pulling away, I felt good."
Once California Chrome got a good start he was put in perfect position just behind the leaders. He did have a little jostling with Social Inclusion to get into that spot.
"I was on a dead run, then I seen another horse go to the front, and I was going to sit second," said Espinoza. "Next thing I know, I see another one, it moved too early. I had to use my brains too much at that point. I sat back and saw that the other horse got clear of him and it worked out perfectly. "
There were 10 horses in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness field, only three of which ran in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
The last Triple Crown race is the June 7 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. At a mile-and-a-half, it's the longest of the Triple Crown races and is known as "The Test of a Champion."
On going for the Triple Crown, Sherman said "wow, It's quite a thrill. I know we had to run harder this race for me, just watching him perform, coming back in two weeks, I was concerned., But I'll tell you one thing, he's a real horse. The mile and a half is up his alley too because he's a very good horse."
Affirmed was the last Triple Crown winner in 1978. Since Affirmed swept the three races there have been 12 horses to win the first two legs but fail in the Belmont.
The dozen who missed since 1978: I'll Have Another (2012); Big Brown (2008); Smarty Jones (2004); Funny Cide (2003); War Emblem (2002); Charismatic (1999); Real Quiet (1998); Silver Charm (1997); Sunday Silence (1989); Alysheba (1987); Pleasant Colony (1981) and Spectacular Bid (1979).
Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Smarty Jones all finished second at Belmont Park.
Espinoza, who ride War Emblem, was asked after Saturday's race how California Chrome would handle the Belmont distance.
"I hope OK. You never know until he runs but it seems like he's going to be all right. A little bit more time, he's going to get back his energy. And you know what? We'll get it done."
The order of finish in the Preakness: California Chrome, Ride On Curlin, Social Intrusion, General A Rod, Ring Weekend, Pablo Del Monte, Dynamic Impact, Kid Cruz, Bayern and Ria Antonia.
The 11 Triple Crown winners: Sir Barton (1919; Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935); War Admiral (1937); Whirlaway (1941); Count Fleet (1943); Asault (1946); Citation (1948); Secretariat (1973); Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).
Eddie Arcaro is the only jockey with two Triple Crowns (Whirlaway and Citation). Gallant Fox, the sire of Omaha, is the only Triple Crown winner to sire another.