Wanting to Believe in California Chrome - Belmont Stakes Fans Hoped for Overdue Triple Crown in 2014
Janill Gilbert stashed this in California
Twelve horses have pulled in to Belmont with a shot at history since Affirmed, but none of them have passed the Test of the Champion, as the Belmont is known, and run himself into immortality. Some were unlucky: In 1979, Spectacular Bid stepped on a safety pin the morning of the race. Some were beaten by gallant rivals: Easy Goer denied Sunday Silence in 1989. Others just were not good enough on Belmont day, like Funny Cide in 2003.
But horse racing is a game for confirmed optimists, and the expectation is higher than ever that California Chrome will run off with the 146th Belmont Stakes and into the history books as only the 12th Triple Crown winner. The colt looks the part: he is a chiseled chestnut with a white blaze on a head that he holds still and high in the mornings no matter what is going on around him.
California Chrome has drawn a crowd since he arrived here. The newspapermen have been replaced by blogging, microphone-wielding, camera-and-iPhone-toting news media members of both sexes. They followed the colt to the paddock and the racetrack Friday, as they have every morning, with the air of expectancy that has been misplaced on 12 previous bids.
But California Chrome is different, right?
I don’t know exactly how to answer that: Like the racetrack announcer Tom Durkin, I am 0 for 7 with a scratch when it comes to Triple Crown bids. It is hard to be a neutral observer when you have a horse in the race, and anyone who is invested in the sport in any way cannot watch that many failed bids and not somehow fear that your opinion jinxed the horse.
It is the reverse of the Mig’s boyhood feelings that he helped history along with Seattle Slew and Affirmed. I wonder how many Triple Crown bids I doomed by believing in Real Quiet, Silver Charm and all the rest.
What is different this time, however, is that some longtime racetrackers who should — and usually do — know better have fallen hard enough for California Chrome to like his chances.
The Mig feels good about him.
“He’s so balanced and such a good mover,” he said.
Ralph Theroux Jr., a son of a jockey’s agent, a former jockey agent himself and now a placing judge for the New York Racing Association, ticked off the colt’s virtues as if he was bragging about one of his children.
He likes Chrome’s demeanor.
“He’s a laid-back horse and just stands there and watches everything go by,” he said. “A bomb can go off and he doesn’t flinch, so you know he’s not going to leave his race in the paddock or get spooked by the crowds. He’s seen 100,000 people before.”
He likes Chrome’s work ethic, how he goes about his daily two-mile gallops and how effortless he looked in his only timed workout here last Saturday, when he went a half-mile in 47.69 seconds and five furlongs in 59.93 before galloping out in 1:12.95.
“That’s a video-game workout, it was so perfect,” Theroux said. “He did it easily and he came out of it without even breathing hard.”
Even those trying to beat California Chrome hope they don’t. No one has ever claimed that logic rules the racetrack. Terry Finley is the managing partner of West Point Thoroughbred, which is running Commanding Curve, the Derby runner-up, in the Belmont.
His colt has trained well, and Finley believes Commanding Curve can get past California Chrome this time. Does he really want it to happen? He hesitated.
“I wouldn’t be disappointed to see a Triple Crown,” he said.
Ron Anderson is a jockey’s agent, one of the best in the nation. His rider, Joel Rosario, finished second on Ride On Curlin in the Preakness, and won the Peter Pan on Tonalist. Anderson chose Tonalist to ride on Saturday because he believes that colt has the best chance to upset California Chrome.
It would be a big payday — $80,000 for Rosario, and 20 percent of that for Anderson.
Even those trying to beat California Chrome hope they don't. Wow.
I hope for a California Chrome victory, but Ride on Curlin has been a nagging thought. Get it - "nagging"? ;-)
Haha, yes. What about Wicked Strong??
I love that horse, and his name, and his odds, but I am drawn to Curlin.
How could you not be drawn to Curlin given that photo??
Tonalist took Curlin's jockey!!
Wow, Chrome's camp is bitter.
I am convinced Bob Costas is a vampire. He's not aging!
He's a vampire but he still got pinkeye during the Olympics.
Chrome's camp has goo treason to be bitter, no?
What were Tonalin's odds?
Even poor Wicked Strong came in fourth.
Great insight Geege ;) Chrome's camp did come off bitter, but I think there's some truth to what Steve Coburn said as well, something only an outsider would bring up.
That's a good point about outsiders. Unfortunately their angry outbursts and accusations will tarnish Chrome's story. That's unfortunate.
Tonalist's odds were 8:1
That's true Geege, it will tarnish the story.
I think everyone can understand how emotional they are about this.
Wow, 8-1 odds. Someone made a fortune.
Interesting fact: Both Commanding Curve and California Chrome come from Seattle Slew's line, down from A.P. Indy. Slew is Curve's Great-Grandfather, and Chrome's Great-Great-Grandfather.
Chrome's Great-Great-Grandfather on his mothers side was Northern Dancer who in 1964 won the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness, but placed 2nd in the Belmont. Check out the derby film at the link.
Is Chrome the first California horse to have a shot at the Triple Crown?
I don't know about first to have a shot, but I believe he would be the first California horse to win. I think one Texas bred horse won, maybe a New York horse, and all the rest are from Kentucky.
And the Kentucky folks seem like snobs about this too. They don't want a California winner!!
Fingers crossed, 1st thing I just hope it's a safe ride for all ;)
That's part of why I adore you Janill: you think of Safety first!
We should have hoped for him to win! Damn!!
Chrome will still go down as a great horse :)
Truth. It goes to show just how hard a Triple Crown is to get!
And Chrome's owner Steve saying there will never be another Triple crown winner because of the races being too close together might be true, especially when new fresh horses get added to the mix. I don't know how much time is adequate to truly rest a horse between big stakes races.
I'm not sure either -- will keep an eye open for insights.
But yeah, racing fresh horses seems tough!
I can see their point though, if your horse didn't do good in the derby, let them rest through the Preakness, because you're not in the running for the triple crown anymore, then come back for another go at the Belmont.
There was at least 2 weeks between races though, you would think that would be enough?
I would think so, but I'm not a professional racer.
Chrome won six races in row. That shows he has the ability to recover.
Also, the *jockey* should be considered in post-race analysis.
Wow, Chrome won six in a row!
What happened to the jockey in this race?
Oh. Dammit, he had ONE job!
Interesting fact: Secretariat holds the track records for all 3 triple crown tracks! Still holding from 1973!
And possibly might never be broken, right?
Maybe, that must have been some horse ;)
Cool footage :)
Here's something else I found:
In the fall of 1989, Secretariat was afflicted with laminitis—a painful and often incurable hoof condition. When his condition failed to improve after a month of treatment, he was euthanized on October 4 at the age of 19. Secretariat was buried at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, given the rare honor of being buried whole (usually only the head, heart, and hooves of a winning race horse are buried, and the rest of the body is cremated).
A necropsy revealed his heart was significantly larger than that of an ordinary horse. An extremely large heart is a trait that occasionally occurs in Thoroughbreds, linked to a genetic condition passed down via the dam line, known as the "x-factor".    The x-factor can be traced to the historic racehorse Eclipse, which was necropsied after his death in 1789. Because Eclipse's heart appeared to be much larger than other horses, it was weighed, and found to be 14 pounds (6.4 kg), almost twice the normal weight. Eclipse is believed to have passed the trait on via his daughters, and pedigree research verified that Secretariat traces in his dam line to a daughter of Eclipse. In the 20th century, the heart of Phar Lap was weighed and also documented to be 6.35 kilograms (14.0 lb), or essentially the same size as that of Eclipse.
At the time of Secretariat's death, the veterinarian who performed the necropsy, Dr. Thomas Swerczek, head pathologist at the University of Kentucky, did not weigh Secretariat's heart, but stated, "We just stood there in stunned silence. We couldn’t believe it. The heart was perfect. There were no problems with it. It was just this huge engine." Later, Swerczek also performed a necropsy on Sham, who died in 1993. Swerczek did weigh Sham's heart, and it was 18 pounds (8.2 kg). Based on Sham's measurement, and having necropsied both horses, he estimated Secretariat's heart probably weighed 22 pounds (10.0 kg), or about two-and-three-quarters times as large as that of the average horse.
2 3/4 larger heart! No wonder that horse had phenomenal power! Maybe the answer is to try to find some horses with Eclipse's bloodline, and breed them for a super horse!