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Jun 20, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Superficial look at the racing season

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - The thoroughbred season can basically be divided into two parts: the Triple Crown and the rest of the year.

We have concluded the Triple Crown series and for the 36th straight year no 3-year-old was able to complete the sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. California Chrome won the first two legs but could do no better than fourth in the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion" at Belmont Park.

California Chrome took control of the 3-year-old division of 2014 and will be very difficult to overtake through the remainder of the year. The final NTRA Poll of 3-year-olds had Belmont Stakes champ Tonalist second with filly Untapable third.

The summer offers several stakes for 3-year-olds, most notably the Travers, Haskell and Pennsylvania Derby along with the West Virginia Derby, Iowa Derby and Super Derby.

"The Travers is very much under consideration, I'm sure," said Christophe Clement, trainer of Tonalist. "I do believe there is more to come. I really do. I think physically and mentally there is more to come."

California Chrome, trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, will stay in California to recover from his Triple Crown ordeal and get ready for the Breeders' Cup.

"I think I'm going to keep him in California and get him ready for the Breeders' Cup," Sherman said. "He loves the Santa Anita track, he runs his best races down there. It is home for us. I'm sure he'll enjoy that."

The one 3-year-old everyone is anxious to see is Eclipse Award winner Shared Belief. The gelding missed the entire first part of the year but came out with a solid victory recently at Golden Gate Fields to begin his campaign.

Untapable will make her next start in the Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park on June 28 and is in the same position as California Chrome, she has a strangle hold on the 3-year-old filly division.

Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan is recovering from surgery and is not expected back competing until the Saratoga season begins. His absence opens the turf division to among others Real Solution, winner of the Manhattan at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day.

The older female division is wide open with several top-notch runners vying for the crown. Double Eclipse Award winner Beholder suffered a minor injury during the running of the Ogden Phipps and is unlikely to start in the Delaware Handicap in July.

The Del 'Cap, however, should feature the first two from the Phipps, Close Hatches and Princess of Sylmar. Eventually, Untapable will meet up with her older rivals as the season approaches the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Older male thoroughbreds are as deep in quality as they are in quantity.

Mucho Macho Man, Palace Malice, Game On Dude, Will Take Charge and Revolutionary are some of the older males racing this year toward the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

Mucho Macho Man is rehabbing from a minor injury and should be ready in time for the Classic.

Palace Malice is tops in the national poll and is the best miler in the country.

"He can do so many different things effectively," Palace Malice's trainer Todd Pletcher said after his 4-year-old won the Met Mile one year after winning the Belmont Stakes. "I was very, very concerned when he drew the No. 1 post. That can be difficult to overcome. What can you say about the quality of a horse that's able to do that one year after winning a mile-and-a-half Classic?"

Game On Dude has been consistent throughout each season, at least until the Breeders' Cup. This year he won the Santa Anita Handicap for the second straight year and will go for a third straight Gold Cup win at Santa Anita on June 28.

Last week, Will Take Charge finished second in the Stephen Foster Handicap behind Moonshine Mullin at Churchill Downs with Revolutionary finishing sixth.

Major stakes on the way to the Breeders' Cup Classic include the Whitney, Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup.

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