Haskin: Morning at Belmont

If the first two mornings at Belmont Park are any indication, we should see a top-class field of horses in Saturday's Belmont Stakes who are all looking great and working sensationally. California Chrome, of course, is the center of attention, and he, like fellow Kentucky Derby and Preakness starter Ride On Curlin, has held his weight extremely well and has been full of life since arriving in New York, showing no signs at all of fatigue. Ride On Curlin, as usual, has been on the muscle, and one never knows what to expect from him. Two of the more handsome colts, Commissioner and Tonalist, one-two, respectively, in the Peter Pan, both had excellent works, making the task of finding horses to play in the exotics all the more challenging. 

California Chrome has plenty of security, as Alan Sherman has a light moment with NYRA security officer Juan Dominguez, whose uncle, Laz Barrera, trained the last Triple Crown winner Affirmed.

California Chrome is set aglow by the morning sun as he checks out his surroundings, which has become a daily routine.

You can always expect the perfect pose from Chrome.

Chrome heading on to the track.

A view of what it's like to be on California Chrome's back...well, sort of.

Tonalist was a perfect gentleman schooling, as he heads to the gate under the careful eye of trainer Chris Clement.

Tonalist stands quietly in the gate. This colt does everything right...great temperament.

A tender moment between Social Inclusion and trainer, 85-year-old Manny Azpurua.

Whether he's rearing, on the muscle, or acting ornery around his handlers, Ride On Curlin is never boring. You gotta love him.

The handsome head of Tonalist.

Unlike Tonalist, Social Inclusion had his blood up at his gate schooling session and must return on Wednesday at the request of the assistant starter.

One thing you can count on is Jimmy Jerkens grazing Wicked Strong at around 3 o'clock every afternoon. The colt is looking fantastic and is really holding his flesh and coat.


Leave a Comment:


Thanks for the great pictures! Keep them coming!

02 Jun 2014 12:51 PM


Thank you for another wonerful article. It is noce to see all of these guys in one article. I agree Tonalist is a looker, but I am still a Chrome fan. Wicked Strong is looking good also. I am suprised that as many of them have hel their weight and are not tired. Here's hoping to a safe trip and a fantastic race for all. Go Chrome.

02 Jun 2014 1:14 PM

Even though my heart belongs to Chrome to win and Curly and Curve to come in 2nd and third, I am delighted that all the colts are training well and looking great. Thank you for these up close and personal pictures. The excitement must be starting to be electrifying at the track. Oh how I would love to be there. You have a job that many of us can only day dream about!

02 Jun 2014 1:19 PM

Nice pics Steve.

Agree,biggest question for me is who to play underneath..

02 Jun 2014 1:28 PM

Such great pictures as always, Steve! I log on to bloodhorse.com every day to check if you've uploaded articles/photos/columns.

- perhaps your biggest fan from India by a long way :)

02 Jun 2014 2:03 PM

Beautiful as always, thank you Mr. Haskin, I especially like the one of Tonalist looking out of his stall, he's quite striking.

02 Jun 2014 2:27 PM
Soldier Course

Yesterday I stopped by my neighborhood yoga studio and noticed a basket of Tibetan prayer flags on display. Last year when the Dalai Lama spoke at my alma mater Tulane, people in New Orleans put up prayer flags in their yards. They were so beautiful. So I thought about prayer flags and California Chrome.

Before purchasing them, I wanted to learn about their purpose and meaning. I didn't want to do anything disrespectful in displaying them. So I went to Starbucks and spent a while reading about Tibetan prayer flags. Among other things, they can be used for general blessings and are not directed to any particular deities.

I kept reading and learned that each Tibetan prayer flag bears this image: a "Lung ta", which is a strong, powerful horse, and on his back are three "ratna", which are three flaming jewels. This took my breath away.

I hurried back to the yoga shop and bought the prayer flags. They'll be up in our yard next Saturday morning.

02 Jun 2014 2:31 PM

these tell a pretty good story

02 Jun 2014 2:44 PM
Bethany Loftis

Thanks for the great update and accompanying photos! They all look great and ready to go! Saturday seems so close, yet so far away! Go Junior!!!

02 Jun 2014 3:25 PM
NY bred

I'm taking a bus down with a buddy from Albany, N.Y. for the Belmont Stakes.  Price included transportation and a grand stand seat.  Bought them three days after the Kentucky Derby.  By the end of that week, they were sold out.  I heard it was standing room only down there now.  My wife and I were at the Smarty Jones TC attempt in 2004 when there were 120,000 plus fans.  They could break an attendance record this Saturday.  Go Chrome!

02 Jun 2014 4:55 PM
dance with fate

So appreciate all the insider photos - awesome!  Chrome, you "sure do shine" - such a gallant colt. All are beautiful and thankfully in good form and feeling their oats.  "Love 'em all" - I do too.  The prayer flags story from "Soldier Course" is very cool.

02 Jun 2014 5:39 PM

Thanks for the great news synopsis and the wonderful pics of all of them. Great picture of Chrome shining in the sun. I still a Chrome fan, but am grateful to hear the other horses are healthy and doing fine.

02 Jun 2014 6:11 PM

Steve thanks for these great photos!  I am so happy you are there at Belmont.  I feel like I am going to jump out of my own skin until I am there on Saturday.  All the horses look great and Chrome looks spectacular.  He just glistens in the sun and knows when to pose.  This is one smart horse.  Steve I hope to catch a glimpse of you Saturday or be able to say hello at some point.  All I know is I am going dressed for a long overdue coronation of a racing king.  The weather reports so far are about 80 and sunny and perfect.  Steve your keen eye was on this horse in January and just look at him shining now! Just accomplishing the Derby and Preakness wins alone is amazing for a horse who never has set foot out of California before.  He's on a magical journey a long way from home, a long way from Los Al, and he's going to have a lot to tell his quarter horse buddy when he gets back.

Soldier Course, nice to see you here again.  There may be something to the Churchill hospitality to owners or lack thereof because now Wildcat Red's owners had terrible issues there at Derby as well as noted here in Bloodhorse.  So please reconsider your initial impressions of Mr. Cochran's speech at the Preakness, although perhaps not the proper venue to address the issue, apparently the issue was so glaring that it does need addressing.  I like these owners a lot, all of the connections right down to the beloved Raul, I think they are owners who truly love their horse and do right by him.

02 Jun 2014 7:54 PM

Soldier Course,

I forgot to mention the flags sound great!  A flag with a horse with 3 jewels on his back, if that is not an omen I don't know what is!  That's great and thanks for the story about it.

02 Jun 2014 7:58 PM
Ms. Mary

Hi Steve,

Love your articles and am a huge admirer of the sport for way many years.  What are your thoughts on the triple crown when it comes to the third leg of the races?  My thoughts are that if you want a match race then show up for all the races. So I say go Chrome and Ride on Curlin.  Only two who have gone the distance.

02 Jun 2014 8:01 PM

Love Love Love the photo.  Also, Love the Chase.  

02 Jun 2014 8:09 PM

Love all your photos Steve. You are so lucky to be on the backside soaking up the vibes.  

02 Jun 2014 8:10 PM

*Morning at Belmont" has just been made even more special by this lovely chapter and fabulous shots of extraordinary horses.  It has touched me personally and because I know well the mornings (and eves) here it is just so pleasant and refreshing to set aside all the noise of the crowd, the press and predictions, critics and their critique, clockers, watchers, fans and figures and settle into the peaceful green of Belmont. It gives one the opportunity to think and form insight as they begin to see things differently in the serene world of these handsome  thoroughbred athletes that will take charge and take on the task of 1 1/2m ,  suddenly pick up the tempo and show their ability to conquer the track and their expertise to regain their composure after they have cross the finish line - simply to return to another beautiful"Belmont Morning" ~ Steve, a picture is worth a thousand words and these are priceless...Thanks and

Thanks again!

02 Jun 2014 10:04 PM
Paula Higgins

Soldier Course, what a great story! I am praying the old fashioned way since I don't have any of the prayer flags. But I think altogether we might get him there. Steve, these pictures make me smile ear to ear! They are just gorgeous and they show the personalities of all the horses so well. Really fantastic. They all look like they are in top form. California Chrome is a very intelligent horse. He reminds me of Zenyatta the way he surveys the scene.

02 Jun 2014 10:34 PM

Thanks for the beautiful pictures!  When are you going to tell us if you think Chrome will win the Belmont?  I am dying to hear your opinion....  Also, since you have seen him, can you tell us if he looks as good as his connections are saying?  I read on another blog that he looks to have lost weight but I am not seeing that in the pictures.... Thanks!

02 Jun 2014 11:26 PM
Bethany Loftis

Have you ever considered publishing your photos in a "Haskin's Favorite Candids" book? I have a feeling stores would have a hard time keeping copies in stock.

02 Jun 2014 11:57 PM
Steel Dragon

Yesterday I participated in the 5k charity run around Belmont Park, which concludes on the track itself with a run down the stretch.  I can report first hand that the main track is like quicksand and incredibly tiring. I suspect it will take its toll on CC somewhere inside the 1\8 pole.

03 Jun 2014 12:03 AM

If Chrome wins the Belmont, I don't want to hear anyone saying he didn't beat anything or it's a poor crop.  His competition looks awesome, and if Chrome wins, he'll be a deserving champion.

03 Jun 2014 1:37 AM

Tonalist is a beautiful blend of Tapit and Pleasant Colony - wait until he starts to fill out. Commissioner is one of the more massive A. P. Indys, both could spoil the dream.

03 Jun 2014 3:24 AM
Pedigree Ann

Secretariat never saw a camera he wouldn't pose for, either. Just sayin'. Some are aware of and eat up the adulation, some aren't and/or don't.

Poor Social Inclusion. He needs a quiet atmosphere to relearn his lessons about being a racehorse, not the media circus the backstretch at Belmont is these days. Do you think he will get his gate-card in time?

03 Jun 2014 4:24 AM
Don from PA/DE

OMG Steve, amazing photos ...."kings of Corona, down by the schoolyard"...can be tough in a NY playground sometimes.....this actually makes me miss LI for the moment...what a cast of players here....two and four legs....enjoy

03 Jun 2014 6:24 AM
El Kabong

Great shot of ROC. He apparently did not like getting soap in his eyes. He sure looks pissed. I'm sure he's gentleman when he needs to be. Enjoy this week Steve, I think we're finally going to get our Triple Crown Champion, so savor the moment. Wicked looks terrific, but can he keep focused on the race and never mind the smell hot dogs wafting from the grandstands? Still like Commanding Curve to provide the most excitement at the finish. He looked awfully good going 10F's in Louisville. I don't think will mind 12 at all. Can't wait for the draw. Keep those snap shots coming.

03 Jun 2014 6:39 AM

Great photos Steve. Everything is coming together nicely for what should be an all-time classic race. I will hold off making my exotic picks until you and Lenny provide your usual insightful race analysis in the next "And They're Off" segment.

03 Jun 2014 8:45 AM
Bill Rinker

Thanks for the great pictures Steve!!

03 Jun 2014 9:38 AM
Carlos Blanco

Strangely enough it seems that Social Inclusion is going to be entered in the big race. But this super horse is totally off-distance. Perhaps in the Woody S and a later shot at the BC mile. Anyway, best of luck from Caracas, Venezuela. CHARLIE WHITE.

03 Jun 2014 9:59 AM
Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin,

Any word on Wicked Strong? I see his put in his two scheduled works.  Did you see them or have any comments?

03 Jun 2014 10:29 AM

What great photos. This one brings back some absolutely wonderful memories "view of what it's like to be on California Chrome's back...well, sort of." The understanding of knowing that these majestic animals allow you to be a part of their world is indescribable. For me it was always getting on my first horse, sometimes when the sun was just bidding it's hello to the day. You can feel through every part of the horse, that they feel the peace and contentment that you feel. Thank you for sharing all your photos, and especially that one.

Good fortune to all in The Belmont, but I sure am hoping for many reasons that Chrome gives us all A Triple Crown Champion this year. It is great to see your photos, and read your creative artistry through your words, AND also to read what all your followers here on Hangin' With Haskin have to say. Now..."This is horsey entertainment"

03 Jun 2014 1:24 PM
Melissa P

Pedigree Ann is absolutely correct about Secretariat. He looked for cameras! I see the same kind of temperament in California Chrome. Some horses just instinctively know they are above the rest. Soldier Course, thanks for telling us about the prayer towels. I certainly hope that it is a good omen, indeed. I'm praying for a safe trip for all and, if it's meant to be, the first ever Triple CHROME!

03 Jun 2014 1:37 PM
Soldier Course


I posted a comment to you about an hour ago, but I think my connection crashed before the submission went through, so here's a repeat:

While I continue to believe that Steve Coburn should not have criticized CD in the Winner's Circle at CD, I realize that there is much to admire about him as an owner of California Chrome. I mellowed when I saw footage of him weeping in the stands at Pimlico right after CC crossed the finish line at the Preakness. Mr. Coburn was overcome, and he was being comforted by a young lady, who appeared to be his granddaughter or other family member. All of us have said things in public that we'd love to take back, and so it goes.

Glad you enjoyed The Omen. The Tibetan prayer flags. When I read the references to the Lung ta and ratna, less than 30 minutes after I found the flags, I told myself that Fate had to be at work here.

Paula Higgins:

I too will be saying prayers for California Chrome's Triple Crown the old-fashioned way on Saturday. In fact I started days ago. But isn't it wonderful that I came upon this other tradition at just the right time, another way to send blessings, hopes, and goodwill to all involved in this extraordinary endeavor.

03 Jun 2014 2:28 PM
Soldier Course

Dance With Fate and Melissa P:

Glad you enjoyed the Tibetan prayer flags. The name of the yoga studio where I found them is "Holy Cow". Holy Cow, indeed!

03 Jun 2014 3:16 PM
Soldier Course

I strongly urge everyone here to view a YouTube video titled "California Chrome - Rocky Theme". It is the best racing video montage I have ever seen. When I first noticed the title I thought, "Oh this will probably be hokey. Yeah, Rocky's so overdone."  But I am so very glad I found this. It is extraordinary. Footage you've never seen from Derby and Preakness, and more. The music turned out to be perfect - Bill Conti version.

03 Jun 2014 3:25 PM

I love your pictures, Steve.  You not only capture their beauty, you reveal their personalities.  Chrome is glorious.  Ride on Curlin!  Now that's a colt with attitude.  Tonalist looks so peaceful and serene.  I feel very badly for Social Inclusion.  He seems so stressed and, in my experience, a stressed horse is a danger to himself and everyone else.  I wish he wouldn't run in the Belmont.

I can't wait til Saturday.  In all the years we've come close to a TC winner, I have never been so excited.  He can do this.  We have a real shot.  

Soldier Course, your prayer flags sound lovely and a good omen with the horses and jewels.  Hang one for me.

We should all have buttons that say "I'm a Haskin fan" so we can recognize each other at Belmont.  You don't need one, Steve, we know what you look like.  GO CHROME!!!!!!

03 Jun 2014 7:54 PM

Soldier Course,

Thank you for informing us of the YouTube video of California Chrome and the Rocky theme song!  I loved it.  It showcases what a real warrior California Chrome really is.  What a trooper he is, so far from home, never having left it before all of this, and excelling all the way.  The Rocky theme is perfect, agreed.

I hope Mr. Cochran's family is surrounding him on Saturday and NYRA has folks around him there too for support.  I may just break down crying if CC wins so I can imagine how overcome Mr. Cochran will be and he'll need his loved ones around to lean on and lend support.  I can't even get my head around the magnitude of the possibility of a TC winner happening Saturday.  We've come so close in the past, but for some reason, this all just feels so right.  

Good Luck Chrome!  I'm a Chromey!  

03 Jun 2014 9:48 PM
Soldier Course

In addition to reading about Tibetan prayer flags this week, I've been reading about the Pulitzer Prizes. Because no matter what happens on Saturday, someone we all love here certainly deserves one for his articles on this year's Triple Crown season. And he shoots his own photographs! I think the category would be Pulitzer Prize: Commentary. There doesn't seem to be a separate category for sports writing per se.

04 Jun 2014 4:52 PM

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