Wednesday, June 04, 2014

The 146th Belmont Stakes

History is at hand on Saturday afternoon. California Chrome will be attempting to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in Thoroughbred racing history and the first since Affirmed in 1978. California Chrome has been a feel-good story from the lead up to the Kentucky Derby right through the current anxious moments of waiting for the Belmont Stakes. His connections, co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin and trainer Art Sherman, have captivated the racing world with their honest attitudes throughout their magical journey. Let's also not forget that jockey Victor Espinoza has been down this road before, having led War Emblem into the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown a dozen years ago. There will be ten competitors trying to deny California Chrome his moment on Saturday. Here is the analysis for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes:

While I am certainly rooting for California Chrome to get the job done on Saturday, my less emotional, more logical side says it just isn't going to happen. We have been here before and been denied in cruel (Real Quiet and Smarty Jones) and unusual (Charismatic and Big Brown) fashion. Therefore, I will be looking for a longshot to win the Test Of Champions this weekend. I'll select #1 Medal Count as my winner in the Belmont Stakes. He is a robust 20-1 on the morning line and seems to fit the pattern of recent Belmont winners. Run up the track in the Derby, take the Preakness off and come back fresh in the Belmont. Medal Count, to me, was the most visually impressive horse in the post parade of the Kentucky Derby. In fact, he looked so good to me, I made sure I got some money down on him before they went in the gate. He had a tough time of it once the gates opened, however, getting shuffled back early and finishing eighth. Medal Count did post a recent bullet workout on May 31, covering six furlongs in 1:10.3 at Churchill Downs. Robby Albarado will have the ride in the Belmont Stakes.

#11 Tonalist scored a win in the Grade 2 Peter Pan over the Belmont racetrack when it was a sloppy surface on May 10. This will be the second start off the most recent layoff for this colt. The Clement trainee has never been worse than second in four lifetime starts. He has gotten so much respect off that Peter Pan win that his morning line is 8-1, third-best in the field. It also remains to be seen if Tonalist will be just another in a long line of horses that have won the Peter Pan, but come up empty in the Belmont. In addition, did he just really enjoy the sloppy track and offer up a freaky performance in the Peter Pan? Joel Rosario will be aboard.

I will next list the horse everyone will be watching on Saturday, #2 California Chrome. As I stated earlier, I am rooting for this horse to get the job done, where so many before him have failed. His Kentucky Derby and Preakness performances were excellent. However, the question here is how much did they take out of him entering this weekend?  There were those in the aftermath of the Preakness that thought the horse looked spent and, on the other hand, there were those who felt that horse was geared down by Victor Espinoza once the issue was settled in Baltimore. He has won six in a row entering this race, all with Espinoza aboard, and a seventh straight would instantly link him into the fabric of the sport. I am rooting for him to win, I would love to see him win, I am just hard-pressed to see it happening.

 #4 Commanding Curve came running from the clouds to get second in the Kentucky Derby. He seemed to be the main beneficiary of the pacesetters backing up, as illustrated by the fact that he went from ninth in the stretch to second at the end. For everyone thinking the extra distance will aid his chances, keep in mind that closers rarely do big things at the Belmont. Usually, the ultimate winner is either first or second when they enter the never-ending Belmont stretch. This horse is still eligible to be entered into a non-winners of two race. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride.

TOP FOUR SELECTIONS: Medal Count, Tonalist, California Chrome, Commanding Curve

Keep in mind you can follow me on Twitter: @They_Are_Off. I want to remind you that the entire program on Saturday at Belmont will be incredible, it is essentially a mini-Breeders' Cup day. NYRA has done a great thing by setting up such a tremendous day of racing in support of their marquee event. For right now, I am Gone...GOODBYE!

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