BALTIMORE -- California Chrome has run away from the competition in five consecutive victories, winning by an average of more than five lengths.
The Kentucky Derby winner has had it his way ever since Victor Espinoza climbed aboard in December when the streak began.
Whether they do again in the 13/16-mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse on Saturday depends on a good trip, the tactics used by his nine rivals and a little luck. California Chrome is the better-than-even-money favorite.
"When you run a 3-to-5 shot, you've got a lot more pressure on you knowing you're going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it," trainer Art Sherman said.
California Chrome galloped two miles in the rain Friday. A small blister in the colt's throat that caused him to cough Thursday was blown out of proportion, according to Alan Sherman, Art's son and assistant trainer.
"California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle," he said. "He is not scratching from the Preakness."
The colt had a similar blister before the Derby on May 3. He was being treated with a glycerin throat wash.
If the 3-year-old colt can repeat his Derby success in the Preakness, he'll set himself up for a Triple Crown try in three weeks at the Belmont Stakes. It has been 36 years since Affirmed became the 11th Triple Crown winner.
California Chrome extended his win streak to five with a thrilling victory in the Derby, when Espinoza kept him no worse than third in the 19-horse fray before accelerating in the stretch to win by 13/4 lengths.
"If he runs his race, and he's come back good from the Kentucky Derby, he should be tough in there," Espinoza said.
Social Inclusion is the 5-1 second choice and is one of seven horses coming in fresh, having skipped the Derby. Only two other Derby horses -- Ride On Curlin (seventh) and General a Rod (11th) -- are challenging California Chrome in the Preakness.
"You need a good trip, a good setup to have everything go your way," said Mike Maker, who trains General a Rod. "Obviously, California Chrome is head and shoulders above everybody so far. He's proved it, and every race, he's continued to do so."
In the Preakness, the speed horses will break from the gate on the outside of California Chrome, who starts from the No. 3 post. Social Inclusion and Ride On Curlin could try to box in California Chrome in an attempt to put the pressure on early.
"My biggest concern is the first 70 yards leaving the gate," Sherman said. "I don't want him to get impeded behind horses with no place to go."
Six of the past eight Derby winners did not win the Preakness, and there is a posse of horses trying to extend that history.
One is Social Inclusion, who will be making his fourth career start and first since placing third in the Wood Memorial. Another is Ria Antonia, the first filly to run the Preakness since Rachel Alexandra won in 2009. She is on a streak of her own, having lost six consecutive races. Calvin Borel, who rode Ride On Curlin in the Derby, is aboard.
After heavy rain overnight Thursday and into Friday, the forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high around 70 degrees, ensuring Pimlico's dirt track will be fast.