By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t change horses in mid-stream. Leave with the one who brought you.
Those are the proverbs or cliches that seem apropos for betting this week’s 146th Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome has proven he’s the best 3-year-old in the nation with his eye-popping victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He got great starts in both races and excellent rides from Victor Espinoza on his way to wins of 1 3/4 and 1 1/2 lengths, respectively.
Unfortunately, no 3-year-old has won the Triple Crown since 1978, although 12 earlier thoroughbreds have come into the Belmont Stakes off victories in the first two legs, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
This year should be different.
California Chrome has been impossible to run with and was much the best in all five starts this year with the other 3-year-olds competing for second place. The racing gods also are working to have the colt placed among the immortals of the sport.
“Well, Secretariat was No. 5 in the Derby, No. 3 in the Preakness and No. 2 in the Belmont,” noted assistant trainer Alan Sherman, son of Art Sherman, about the coincidence of California Chrome having the same post positions as those of the 1973 Triple Crown champion.
Things have been going extremely well for California Chrome, Espinoza, trainer Art Sherman, and owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin.
“It’s been a tremendous ride, it’s all because of this horse,” said Coburn. “And our trainer and his son, assistant trainer, jockey and especially the groom, Raul, he takes pretty damn good care of this horse. It’s all coming to the point, it’s all coming to the top of the pyramid right now.”
Now that the Belmont Stakes is upon us, there’s no reason to think California Chrome won’t be able to finish off the quest his connections have so meticulously worked to accomplish.
The colt has proven he has tactical speed which allows Espinoza to easily maneuver him into great racing position. The starts in both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown enabled California Chrome to get proper slots from which to stalk the pacesetters and stay away from trouble on the inside.
Maybe the most important attribute California Chrome has is his ability to relax during a race and not expend undue energy during the early portions of races. That proved beneficial in the Preakness.
“They took pretty good shots at him and he was in a longer drive than I’ve ever seen him,” Sherman said. “Victor said he had to ask him at the half-mile pole to stay in there when that horse (Social Inclusion) wheeled up alongside of him. He could see that he was trying to push him down there a little bit, so he let him run a little earlier than he usually does. He kept up a half-mile run. Usually he just runs the last quarter of a mile. That impressed me a lot, coming back in two weeks. I said, ‘Man, this horse has got to have a big heart. He really does.”
General a Rod and Ride On Curlin are the only other 3-year-olds set start in all three Triple Crown races. While none of the 11 Belmont Stakes horses have raced 1 1/2 miles, California Chrome is by far the best horse to get the job done.