California Chrome hopes for Triple Crown
June 10, 2014
California Chrome is one race away from taking the Triple Crown. June 7 he will have an opportunity to be the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to take home horse racing's highest honor.
California Chrome—nicknamed "Junior"—is something of a rags-to-riches success story. His owners and breeders, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, bought his dam, Love the Chase, for $8,000. In 2010 they bred her to Lucky Pulpit, descended from Triple Crown-winner Seattle Slew, and ended up with the first horse from California to win both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
The chestnut horse's earnings in 2014 are just past the $2.5 million mark, which could increase by $800,000 should he take first in the Belmont Stakes.
According to a press release from Horse Race Insider, the colt's trainer, Art Sherman, said he thinks California Chrome has what it takes to make it the mile and a half in the Belmont Stakes. "I have a good feeling about it. I'm really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks (between races) and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don't care how many fresh shooters they've got there; he's the real McCoy."
Sherman said California Chrome, a winner of six straight races, should be able to handle the Belmont distance.
"I really think a mile and a half is no problem at all for this horse," he said. "I know when I was at Los Alamitos he galloped two miles every day and the second time around there he was in another gear. He looked better to me the second time around than the first."
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However, he said jockey Victor Espinoza will have to be careful in the Belmont.
"To last that long you're going to have to take a hold of your horse the first part of it," Sherman said. "He's an easy horse to rate. If you want him to go in :48, he goes in :48. If you want him to go in :46, he'll go in :46. I don't think he needs to carry his race with him. Whatever the pace is, perfect, he can ride him that way."
One of the topics of discussion following the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes was whether California Chrome would be allowed to run with a nasal strip at the Belmont Stakes, in New York. The New York State Gaming Commission rule reads, "Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race." In May, Sherman petitioned the Gaming Commission to change the rule to allow the nasal strips. Upon the recommendation of New York State Gaming Commission equine medical director Scott E. Palmer, nasal strips are now allowed at all New York racetracks. In his recommendation Palmer wrote, "Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health or safety and as such do not need to be regulated."
There was some question of whether California Chrome's owners would allow him to run in the Belmont if nasal strips were not allowed.
California Chrome is in New York now, working out at Belmont Park. It comes as no surprise that California Chrome is the favorite for the upcoming Belmont Stakes. According to a press release, his exercise rider, Willie Delgado, said, "Fitness wise, he's fit. Come the day of the race, like I always said, it's all up to him and God. I can't say enough. He's really, really improving. Like I've always said, after each race he got better."
The Belmont Stakes field – already a formidable bunch – got a little deeper in the past week with the additions of Matterhorn, Matuszak, and Medal Count, but Alan Sherman, California Chrome's trainer's son, who is in charge of his care in New York, remained unfazed.
"It's going to be a tough race; they're all good horses," said Alan Sherman. "All we have to do is just do our thing and have him run his race and I think we'll be all right."
The Belmont Stakes, first run in 1867, is the oldest of the Triple Crown events. It predates the Preakness Stakes (first run in 1873) by six years and the Kentucky Derby (first run in 1875) by eight.
The purse for the first running of the Belmont was $1,500-added with a total purse of $2,500; the winner's share of $1,850 was taken by the filly Ruthless. The 1992 edition of the Belmont was the richest running with a total purse of $1,764,800; A.P. Indy won.
Twelve horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness but failed to win the Belmont.
Past triple crown winners are:
1919 – Sir Barton
1930 – Gallant Fox
1935 – Omaha
1937 – War Admiral
1941 – Whirlaway
1943 – Count Fleet
1946 – Assault
1948 – Citation
1973 – Secretariat
1977 – Seattle Slew
1978 – Affirmed