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Jun 13, 2014

AMERICAN TURF CLUB LEAD-BELMONT STAKES 2014

By: JOE GIRARDI


               Another try for the Triple Crown has come and gone and yet again there is disappointment. Not since 1978 when the great Affirmed won the 3 races over his bitter rival Alydar has a three year old won all three races in the Triple Crown Series, the most recent chance for a Triple Crown came with California Chrome, a California bred who took the nation by storm by winning the Kentucky Derby as the slight 5-2 favorite and then going on to take the Preakness as the heavy 1-2 favorite. This three year old colt by Lucky Pulpit out of a cheap dam who was bred by Perry Martin and Steven Coburn, “the dumbass partners” was on the cusp of winning the Triple Crown, there were only 11 horses that were able to complete this task; some of the greatest horses of all time in the history of racing.

               Despite the fact that California Chrome was coming off six straight wins and had easily handled the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he didn’t scare away other runners as 10 more would enter the gate bringing the field total to 11. When the gates opened, California Chrome broke outward just a bit and moved towards the lead with 28-1 longshot Commissioner moving to take over while General A Rod also gained ground and moved alongside. As they moved around the clubhouse turn and up the long backstretch at Belmont Park, Commissioner held the lead through fractions of 24, 48:2, 1:12:4, with General A Rod lapped right on him, Tonalist, who broke from the outside post 11 was right off the top two in third while California Chrome was right in behind those leaders in fourth. Moving up the backside and into the clubhouse turn those positions remained unchanged with the mile time coming in 1:37 and the 1 and ¼ miles time coming in 2:02:2. Around the far turn and into the lane Commissioner still held the lead with Tonalist right up on the leaders while General A Rod began to tire. California Chrome, moved off the rail by this time, moved outside to the four path and began his final ¼ mile to history. As they moved down the stretch, Commissioner and Tonalist were battling for the lead with California Chrome not far off of those two, Medal Count was coming in between horses and Wicked Strong, the second choice in the race was on the far outside trying to gain late.

               In the final 1/16th of a mile, Tonalist and Commissioner were still battling to the wire, California Chrome couldn’t sustain his bid and flattened out late to finish in a dead-heat for fourth with Wicked Strong. Tonalist and jockey Joel Rosario got up to score by a head over the long time leader Commissioner who was a length clear off the show horse, Medal Count, it was another ¾’s of a length back to the dead-heat for fourth between California Chrome and Wicked Strong. The final time of the race was 2:28:2, a decent time but faster than its four previous runnings of the Belmont Stakes. Tonalist, who only had four starts coming into the Belmont, has now run his record to three wins from five starts, a Grade II win in the Peter Pan and a Grade I win in the Belmont Stakes. Christophe Clement got his first win in a Triple Crown race with Tonalist. Clement, mostly known as his expertise with turf horses proved he could train a dirt horse and a very good one at that. Commissioner, who finished second to Tonalist in the Peter Pan stakes four weeks earlier finished a solid second to Tonalist again. Commissioner was going to be pointed to the major Summer stakes for three year olds off that huge race in the Belmont but it was found he had a chip in his ankle that would have to be removed there by missing the top Summer races.

               California Chrome on the other hand came out of the race with a grabbed quarter, basically a foot injury when he stepped on himself. He is healing now and will be pointed to races in the fall. His owner on the other hand made big news when after the race he spouted off about how unfair it was that horses who didn’t run in the Derby were allowed to run in the Preakness and Belmont stakes. He came off as a sore losing owner who couldn’t handle the fact that his horse lost. Now he is not a long time owner, not one who is very horse racing savvy clearly by how he was talking after the race. His idea which caught on some in social media, many non-horse racing fans agreed with Steven Coburn. The reason there is a points system for the Derby is that the race overfills, you need to limit the field to 20 so the points system comes into the play. After that, the Preakness and Belmont don’t overfill so if you are eligible, you enter. If we went by Coburn’s system and only took horses from the Derby and Preakness there would have been three horses in the Belmont. To call the horses cowards that didn’t run in the Derby and Preakness and to not congratulate the winning connections instead he came off as a sore loser who thought he should have the Triple Crown handed to him. The horses that won the Triple Crown before him were all time greats, California Chrome is good, certainly not an all time great at least not now. Let’s hope he comes back good in the fall and gets to run against the top handicap horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and let’s hope his owner, Steven Coburn learns that this is a tough game, one in which you need to be humble, and show some class, especially on a national stage.



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