by Jim Freer
June 6 - It seems like it will be downright un-American to root against
California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
also might be downright foolish to bet
against the colt and his colorful owners as he attempts to become
the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Chrome by all accounts still appears fresh following his wins in the Kentucky
Derby and Preakness, which earned him a bandwagon of followers and accolades as
the latest “America’s Horse.” In those
two victories, Victor Espinoza had him
geared down near the finish. He should
have gas in his tank for the 1 ½ mile distance, and should get another trip
that would enable him to hold off any
will post our Belmont Stakes predictions and suggested bets on Saturday
starting point for our handicapping is that California Chrome will again
control the race, but in a slightly
different way. Unlike
the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the Belmont does not have entrants
that will likely stage a speed duel that
California Chrome will stalk for the
first mile or so.
the versatile California Chrome could
take an early lead and with his tactical speed prove difficult to
and Samraat are the other horses
that could inherit the early lead by default. We
are among those who expect that neither will be able to stay with California Chrome after the
field comes out of the final turn.
joined California Chrome in tracking the pace in the Derby, and held on to finish fifth.
lightly-raced Tonalist was a fast winner of the 1-1/8 mile Peter Pan at
Belmont on May 10. He did
that on a sloppy track that
apparently didn’t suit some rivals. On
Saturday, the sandy and deep Belmont track will be fast and the competition
will be tougher.
with California Chrome almost certain to
be less than even money, we are planning a strategy of exotic bets with him on top - and then determining the order
of finish underneath him in the trifecta and superfecta wagers.
also would be wise to bet some exacta boxes - including one with California
Chrome and three other horses that would pay off well if two of the others
finish first and second.
are leaning toward the closers Commanding Curve, Ride on Curlin and Wicked Strong who have all
had one strong Triple Crown race. Medal Count, Tonalist, General a Rod and Samraat also should be considered for the
trifecta and superfecta.
are pros and cons of several contenders:
* Commanding Curve - He finished second in the Kentucky Derby at 37-1, running a fast closing quarter
mile as he surged past tiring horses
without posing a threat to California
Chrome. He did not run in the Preakness,
and thus will be fresh in the Belmont. There are still plenty of doubters - thus presenting another betting
Wicked Strong - He finished fourth in
the Kentucky Derby despite a troubled trip. This aptly named high - strung colt has big upside potential, or could run a clunker.
Ride on Curlin - His second place run
in the Preakness was as impressive as
Commanding Curve in the Derby. One concern is that the Belmont will be
his fourth race since April 12. But he reportedly is looking strong, and might have the best chance to upset
California Chrome. He will have his fifth jockey in as many races in John
Velazquez. Joel Rosario, who rode
him in the Preakness, is staying on
Note - In our combined Kentucky
Derby / Preakness selections we wagered $88 for a return of $235.60. As part
of a hedging strategy, we hit the $1 exacta for $170 in
the Derby and
the $1 trifecta for a $38 payoff in the
Chrome is the ninth horse since 1997
that has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Seven of the eight other horses
lost the Belmont - with six of them
leading or in contention as the field came out of the final turn.
2008, Big Brown was boxed in early and
then was unable to make his expected move around the final turn. Jockey Kent Desormeaux then pulled Big Brown up for a Did Not Finish
that was unpopular and is still controversial.
2012, I’ll Have Another did not run in
the Belmont because of a
career-ending injury that his
connections discovered the day before
Park’s dirt track is 1 ½ miles. It is 1,097 feet (about 360 yards) from the end
of the far turn to the finish line. The
Belmont Stakes is one lap.
the math, and you’ll find that the horses will have run 1 ¼ miles - the Kentucky Derby distance, when they
are coming out of the turn.
Chrome and the other horses will be entering
some un-chartered waters; or make that dirt.
For various reasons, these recent Kentucky Derby-Preakness winners came up
short in the Belmont: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic
(1999), War Emblem (2002), Funny Cide
(2003) and Smarty Jones (2004).
that California Chrome will “outrun his pedigree,” handle the added distance
and end the 36-year Triple Crown drought.