By Steve Ginsburg
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - The chances of California Chrome extending his Triple Crown run received a boost on Wednesday when the Kentucky Derby champion was given the number three post for Saturday's Preakness Stakes.
Oddsmakers made the Art Sherman-trained colt, winner of all four of his races this year, an overwhelming 3-5 favorite in the 10-horse field at Pimlico Race Course.
"I thought 6-5 was probably more like it," said the 77-year-old Sherman. "I can understand being the favorite but 3-5 is a lot of weight on you."
At 5-1, the second choice in the early line is Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Wood Memorial last month under Luis Contreras. Trained by 85-year-old Manny Azpurua, the lightly raced bay will break from the eight hole.
Co-third choices at 10-1 are Ride On Curlin, who finished seventh in the Derby, and Bayern, runner-up of the Derby Trial last month with Rosie Napravnik in the saddle.
Ride On Curlin will start from the outside 10 post, while Bayern breaks from the five.
At 12-1 odds is Dynamic Impact, winner of the Grade III Illinois Derby last month and one of only three Preakness starters who raced in the May 3 Derby at Churchill Downs.
Social Inclusion owner Ron Sanchez was "a little concerned" about the eight post "but not now, with Ria Antonia and Kid Cruz inside with less speed and with two speed horses (Pablo Del Monte and Ride On Curlin) outside, that'll help us.
"Every owner here thinks they can beat California Chrome but obviously the oddsmaker didn't think so."
Sherman conceded that the numbers of his California-bred chestnut, ridden by Victor Espinoza, explain why he's the clear front-runner.
"He's got the record," said the 77-year-old Sherman, who two weeks ago became the oldest trainer ever to saddle a Kentucky Derby champion. "He's come off some beautiful races.
"It's fun to watch a horse win but he's never been under a drive to win, his last five races. He's been under hand and moved away from the opposition. When I look at the charts, I see he's won by 25 lengths. It blows my mind."
California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn said the five post would have been ideal for his modestly bred colt but was thrilled with number three.
"The three hole is a good spot," he said. "It's a tighter race (than the Derby). He'll be further away from the rail, if he holds his line I feel really confident about where we are.
"We wanted anywhere from three out. So we feel really good about it."
Sherman said his post "might actually be an advantage for me."
"They have all the speed on the outside," he said. "It gives us an idea of who will be sending (going to the front), we'll get into that first turn with a good position and then down the backside pick the spot where we want to be."
If California Chrome can win the Preakness, he will have a shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The third and final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 7.
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; editing by Julian Linden)