Medal Count 'Live' Longshot

So, it’s California Chrome against the world in the Belmont Stakes. Well, not quite the entire world; just the entities that will challenge him on June 7. As much as his human opponents would love to see a Triple Crown, they still must go out and try their darndest to spoil the party.
 
If you are hardened enough to try to beat him, you certainly have a number of options, as Ride On Curlin, Commanding Curve, likely wise guy horse Tonalist, and Wicked Strong all look strong and all look pretty similar, having either run big in the Derby and Preakness or, as in the case of Tonalist, are fresh, in top form, and have a victory over the track.
 
But there is also Samraat and Commissioner, and possibly Social Inclusion if he runs. However, it is the newest addition to the field, Medal Count, that should have trip handicappers and those who implore other strong angles fairly excited about nailing a big score.
 
First off, in all the years I’ve known Dale Romans, I have never seen him as confident in a horse as he was before the Derby. And just for the record, he is still confident his horse is going to run big, although he admits to having a lot more respect for California Chrome now than he did before the Derby.
 
In dissecting the Derby, Medal Count got the old squeeze put on him going past the stands the first time, as Wildcat Red, on his inside, and Tapiture, on his outside, tightened things up and put the colt in a vice grip. Robby Albarado had the choice to try to bull his way out of there at the risk of getting leaned on from both sides even more or ease back and give him at least a clear run going into the first turn. He chose the latter, and while he did lose position, he still was in a good spot.
 
Medal Count raced in midpack down the backstretch without any traffic problems, while staying in releative striking distance of the leaders.
 
Around the far turn, Albarado let out a notch and Medal Count began passing horses, closing to within about five or six lengths of California Chrome, who was already off to the races. Albarado did not attempt to circle the field, as Dance With Fate did, and as a result had a swarm of horses in front of him. He kept grinding, waiting for lanes to open up. Just when he found his best stride and was accelerating through an opening, Danza came out abruptly and clobbered him, forcing Albarado to take up sharply and duck to the inside.
 
With no shot to win, Albarado gave him one little right-hand smack and didn’t persevere after that, letting him finish on his own. Medal Count still had some run in him and was moving with authority under no urging and still missed fourth by only 1 3/4 lengths.
 
It is important to remember that the Derby was Medal Count’s third race in five weeks, as Romans had to do a rush job getting him ready for the race. After winning the Transylvania Stakes, he came back in only eight days and ran a new top figure on the Ragozin Sheets. Now with a five-week freshening, he should be in top form, as indicated by his bullet six-furlong work in 1:10 3/5.
 
“That was one of the best I’ve ever had a horse work,” Romans said. “This horse is just a machine and he’s on a major uptick; he just keeps on improving. He did it galloping along; it was so easy for him. He was fully recovered by the time he walked off the racetrack. We didn’t ask him to do any running, but if they’re good and they’re on their game they do it. He likes to work and he likes to run.”
 
Romans said he’ll run Medal Count pretty much off the plane, arriving at Belmont on the Thursday before the race. He feels the horse is not surface sensitive at all and runs equally well on all kinds of tracks. He realizes Belmont can be a different experience for many horses and take some getting used to, but he doesn’t feel that applies to this horse.
 
Romans said he has never been able to get Medal Count tired and hasn’t even come close to getting to the bottom of him. He also has that grinding, in your face style of running that should be conducive to Belmont and a mile and a half, especially being a son of major stamina influence Dynaformer. He just keeps coming and coming and should appreciate the galloping nature of the Belmont Stakes.
 
In Medal Count’s tail-female family, his great-grandsire, Pirate’s Bounty, is the broodmare sire of Belmont Stakes winner Da’ Tara, and he also traces to Cohoes, sire of Belmont Stakes winner Quadrangle.
 
Some still feel he is best on synthetic, but Dynaformers as a whole are dirt horses, as are the Unbridled’s Songs (his broodmare sire), and he definitely showed enough in the Kentucky Derby to suggest that dirt is not a problem for him. If you look at his works at Gulfstream Park this winter, he breezed five furlongs in under 1:00 five times (:59 4/5, :59 4/5, :59 1/5, and :59 flat). He also worked a pair of half-miles in :47 flat and :47 1/5.
 
On paper, there certainly are several others who look better than him, but at the odds he’s going to be, he could provide as much, or more, value, especially in the exotics.

33 Comments

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Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin,

Medal Count begs the obvious comparison to Dullahan, who didn't seem to like Belmont at all.

03 Jun 2014 10:31 AM
BadSaddle

Steve,  20-1 ?

03 Jun 2014 12:33 PM
Pedigree Ann

I realize we all do the same thing at times, but cherry-picking data for a pedigree analysis can lead to distortions. Yes, Dynaformer is a marvelous stamina influence, most of the time. And if Medal Count takes after only him, there is no doubt that he will stay 12f. I must, however, take issue with the statement that "Dynaformers as a whole are dirt horses." Looking at his G1 winners, I find 4 dirt horses - Perfect Drift, Starrer, Critical Eye, and Barbaro. His list of G1 winners on turf includes Vergennes, Ocean Silk, Collect the Cash, Film Maker, Wiener Walzer, Rainbow

View, Harmonious, White Moonstone, Americain, Blue Bunting, and Riskaverse, a much longer list. Not to mention his two Colonial Cup winners McDynamo and Tax Ruling.

But the dam's side is a bit more sketchy for distance than you imply. Medal Count's dam Briquette was a sprinter, dirt or turf, pure and simple. Her dam, Pirate's Glow, was nice at 2 up to 1 1/16 (she actually beat Lady's Secret twice at 2), but didn't repeat that form at 3. And her sire, Unbridled's Song hasn't been a prolific sire of 10f or longer sorts of horses, either. And that Cohoes mare you mentioned, MC's fourth dam? She was a 3/4-sister to Quadrangle, as her name Three Quarter Girl indicated, yet her best performances were in sprints. Who would have guessed it? But such divergence in abilities is not unknown,  even with full siblings.

03 Jun 2014 12:45 PM
classic go go

Steve - You have been right on the money with chrome and this writing appeals as it depicts the merits of a worthy competitor That shows good sportmanship

03 Jun 2014 1:06 PM
sceptre

Steve,

I, too, am an admirer of Medal Count, but my gut tells me that he won't relish the 1 1/2 Ms. Granted the typical Dynaformer wants to go long, but this horse displays more "zip' than most Dynaformers, and his female line looks a bit speedy to me. Lastly, I disagree that the Dynaformers, or the whole, are dirt horses. The poster boy dirt performing Dynaformer, for me, was Dynever, but even his connections felt that he would have performed better on the turf...With Candy Boy opting out of the Belmont, I feel no conviction toward any of CC's opponents.  

03 Jun 2014 1:40 PM
Pedigree Ann

Oops. I misread the symbol for the Lupe S as that for the Prix Lupin (G1) in my cardfile. Delete Ocean Silk from list of G1 SWs for Dynaformer.

03 Jun 2014 1:42 PM
Lawton

I think Medal Count could be dangerous here. He definitely would have had a chance for 2nd in the Derby if not for Danza.

03 Jun 2014 2:01 PM
Melissa P

How much would I love to see a son of Dynaformer win another classic? Just not this one! We bred to Dynaformer his first two years at stud when he was absolutely unheralded. One look at that massive, magnificent, snorting stallion and it was clear to me that he was going to be something. Now, how do I reconcile my love for Dynaformers and my immense respect for Dale Romans with my absolute, and complete desire to see California Chrome clinch his Triple Crown? It's going to have to be that I'll continue to pray for a Chrome win and a rapidly charging Medal Count place. I'm probably not alone in thinking that a Dynaformer had every shot at being a Triple Crown winner in 2006, if only...

03 Jun 2014 2:02 PM
predict

Interesting article, it might take a heroic effort from California Chrome to beat the likes of Medal Count, Commanding Curve, Ride on Curlin, Samraat, Wicked Strong and Matterhorn. This possible field, to me looks like California Chrome will have his work cut out for him, and if he wins, then there should be no doubt that this guy is the real thing.

On the subject of Medal Count it is interesting to see he has Lucky Spell in his pedigree, as does California Chrome. Maybe there is something to that.

03 Jun 2014 2:26 PM
Coldfacts

"Unbridled's Song hasn't been a prolific sire of 10f or longer sorts of horses, either”

Which are the stallions that have been prolific at siring 10F or longer sorts? Unbridled's Song was sired by a Derby and BCC winner. His dam sire Caro was 4th in the Arc.

Caro was the sire of Derby winner Winning Colors and dams sire of Preakness winner Red Bullet. He was also dam sire of two champion 2YO i.e., Unbridled's Song and Maria Mon.

Unbridled's Song sired Derby runner up, Eghts Belles and Belmont runner up Dunkirk. The 2013 Champion 3YO Will take Charge was sired by Unbridled's Song. He just missed winning the BCC and won the Travers.

Included in Unbridled's Song 100 plus stakes are many winner of G1 races over 9F. There are not enough 10F& 12F races in the US to evaluate a stallion’s capacity to sire 10F & 12F sorts. Unbridled Elaine won the Distaff over 9F but could easily have won at 10F.

03 Jun 2014 2:30 PM
Coldfacts

I liked Medal Count going into the Derby and will include him in my wager in the Belmont.

The Derby was such a strangely run race where only CC1 performed up to expectation. All three Derby starters that contested the Preakness recorded improved performances.

This leads me to believe that CC2 improved significantly off his LA Derby effort. I am also led to believe that Wicked Strong and Medal Count will produce significantly improved performances and this spells trouble for CC1 as they are fresher horses traing exceptionally well.

03 Jun 2014 2:38 PM
food fight

Steve i love your angle with Medal Count he got a terrible trip in Kentucky derby and was still finishing even but more so than that i like his numbers he is coming up to a big effort and he is another durable colt in this field as 3 races in 5 weeks suggests.If he were not interfered with in the derby he may have been second that day. Coming off an 8 day rest and running another top Rag figure is a tell this colt has the talent to compete at the highest levels . The only knock i have here is Romans not working the colt over the track this is a massive oval and can be confusing to a horse and his rider especially when racing at the mile and a half distance.As far as his pedigree goes he looks like a horse that is designed to get 10 furlongs and perhaps further.There are not so many in the field that look to be bred to get 12 furlongs with the exception of Commissioner.Its been 36 years since the last triple crown winner and this is shaping up to be a very competitive Belmont. I was there when Sarava win it so i know anything is possible.    

03 Jun 2014 2:57 PM
Rusty Weisner

Steve Haskin,

I'm going planning on making a big bet on Wicked Strong and am interested to hear your impressions of him at Belmont so far.

03 Jun 2014 3:01 PM
threedog

After watching Palace Malices Belmont, I feel that Chrome will probably duplicate it - only a little faster pace. Those running with Chrome early won't be around late and those laying back won't be able to catch him late.

03 Jun 2014 4:21 PM
tjconway

The post position draw is important in this race. Nobody's gonna want 10 or 11. I'll wait, as I'm still on the fence about every horse in this race. It'll probably get down to "value". If Cal. Chrome is 6-5, I'm all over him......but, I'm Dreamin'!

03 Jun 2014 6:09 PM
tjconway

Medal Count has a cool tongue; My pug dog's tongue sticks out too much just like Medal Counts.....maybe I'll buy my pug a "tongue tie" too!

Medal Count does have Northern Dancer in his bottom female line....take note folks!

03 Jun 2014 6:14 PM
Coldfacts

I am considering Matuszack as a live longshot. He has puzzled me for some time He was bred to have good tactical speed and stamina. His sire Bernardini has good tactical to complement his stamina. His dam sire Mr. Prospector needs no introduction. He has shown the stamina but not the tactical speed as he is always amongst the back markers in every start.

Matuszack reminds me a lot of Stay Thirsty who was also sired by Bernardini. Stay Thirsty came into his own with a 2nd place finish in the Belmont after a dull 12th place finish in the Derby. Matuszack seems to be a changed horse heading into the Belmont. His recent exercise spins  must have left his trainer asking, Who is that horse? He breezed 59 plus twice. In his last work over 5F he came home in 23 for recoded time of 1:00 and a bit.

It appears the speed that was absent is suddenly present time to complement his stamina heading in the Belmont. Bernardini was a class act. He sired consecutive Travers winners. Mr. Prospector tail descendants have won the Belmont 14 times.

Bill Mott won the Belmont at 13-1 with the oddly name Drosselmeyer. I think the oddly named Matuszack has all the credentials to spring a big upset

He will be the freshest horse in the field with 7 weeks between starts.

03 Jun 2014 8:41 PM
Paula Higgins

It's nice to see Steve talking about the other horses. They are not getting a lot of print elsewhere and I certainly understand why. But as others here have noted, California Chrome could be up against it in the Belmont. It won't be as easy as the Derby and Preakness. Wicked Strong, Ride On Curlin and Commanding Curve worry me especially. But I do think CC will win. As threedog said, the ones running with him won't be able to keep up at the end and the ones in the back won't be able to catch up. I think misjudging the track is a real problem at Belmont. It has been noted on another site that the Belmont track turns don't feel like turns when they're racing. Interesting. Victor is going out early I heard and I am glad.

03 Jun 2014 8:49 PM
BelmontBarb

Thank you for interesting recall on Medal Counts' ability and Dale Romans confidence in him without losing respect for California Chrome but mostly for the confirmation of looking "on paper" for it does give a whole different interpretation and scenarios (one may call) of The Belmont Stakes as does pedigree of each of these contenders and their trainers and jockeys ~ and according to all these factors and then some, it does not appear that 1 1/2m Belmont Stakes has gotten any easier to predict or conclude before "Riders Up" and they head to the track.  It is that moment that will be the challenge and every decision made will be in the hands of that rider and whats under him.  It certainly will not be an easy task and toughness will have to support ability here to prevail. I like that we still are supporting California Chrome and that we have not become "hardened" to see him beaten.  Sure there is Romans and let us not forget Clement and Tonalist - it's been quite some time since Christophe Clement has been in the Belmont and he never enters a horse if he hasn't got one ~ but this is The Belmont Stakes for them and a Triple Crown for California Chrome and all of us too.  

Steve, so glad you wrote this up because it opened up so many variants that are not of the track but of possibilities that can be part of a California Chrome victory.  

Thanks so much!

03 Jun 2014 10:40 PM
acerra

Dale Romans always talks up his horses. Dullahan he talked up like once then once and even after bad showings....Romans is a pretender

03 Jun 2014 11:03 PM
acerra

Steve,

I watched the Derby again just now, as I said B4 Romans always says he's got Horse, he cried wolf with Dullahan, even after he lost, same with Little Mike going to Dubai. Metal Count was getting tired when Danza cut him off, no way he was getting up for 3rd.

04 Jun 2014 12:27 AM
Saratoga AJ

After Wicked Strong's workout this week, I am more convinced than ever he poses the biggest threat to CC. Ride on Curlin will also be heard from. Will bet those two in all wagers, but won't be disappointed if CC wins the Crown.

04 Jun 2014 9:33 AM
Saratoga AJ
04 Jun 2014 9:39 AM
Daniel Jividen

"If you are hardened enough to try to beat [California Chrome], you certainly have a number of options ..."

When did betting against an odds on favorite become "hardened"?  "Sensible" or "fiscally prudent" might be better descriptive terms,  Steve.

04 Jun 2014 9:54 AM
Giddyup

Steve picked Palace Malice to win last years Belmont at a nice price when most of the experts had given up on that colt. They would do well to pay closer attention to Steve's analysis this time around.

04 Jun 2014 10:57 AM
English Pete

Steve, looking back at your Derby previews you seemed sure that Medal Count was more suited to synthetic or turf. I appreciate he showed well in the Derby, but that track is synthetic-friendly. honest question for you: do you really think he'll handle the Belmont surface?

04 Jun 2014 1:13 PM
Pedigree Ann

TJConway - They ALL have Northern Dancer somewhere in the pedigree, most of them more than one time. Having Northern Dancer in the pedigree is the default these days; it would be rare NOT to have him somewhere back in the 4th, 5th and/or 6th generation.

04 Jun 2014 1:41 PM
The Deacon

Well written Steve, I suppose a case can be made for every horse in the field. Fresh horses tend to do well in the Belmont Stakes especially if they are highly regarded. Having 5 weeks between races compared to 3 weeks is a big deal for a young horse.

Counting the Santa Anita Derby,  C. Chrome has been on an incredible run. Very similar to the I'll Have Another campaign 2 years ago.

This year feels different, this isn't Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Smarty Jones, War Emblem, Funny Cide, or Big Brown. This just feels right this time.

I read Pat Forde's article on Yahoo sports discussing the modest breeding of Chrome. It's how regal this bloodline is once you get past the sire and dam.

If he wins Saturday this may change the entire way horsemen look at breeding their horses.......

Should be interesting............go Chrome.....

04 Jun 2014 2:14 PM
doc holt

Mr. Haskins,

Do you know if new York rack tracks will allow a trainer to use the drug sildenafil(Viagra)? It is used for pulmonary hypertension and a lot of Olympic runners use it. The side effects are that you will get an erection and you will need a nasal patch for nasal congestion. Kinda sounds like Cal Chrome in the Preakness?  

04 Jun 2014 10:03 PM
doc holt

Mr. Haskins,

I have been trying to get info on someone's opinion of the work. The fractions were :34 1/5, :57 4/5 1:24, and 1:39 for the mile.

does anyone know if he worked in company?

04 Jun 2014 10:13 PM
Linda in Texas

The Deacon - Amen Brother.

Thank you Steve.

05 Jun 2014 11:57 AM
Alex'sBigFan

Deacon,

That was very well stated.  I agree with you, this feels different than Smarty, Big Brown, etc.  There is something intangible about it this time.

I like your breeding philosophy as well.  Yeah after this breeders may start looking at what is in the 2X or 3X, 4X out spots in the pedigrees first, look at what is farther out past the sires and dams.  And I still think there is the factor of some of them being products of their environments and the learned human experience early in life, as in CC.  

As far as the fresh horse thing goes I agree in general but in this case I think CC has been building stamina and there is something to be said for his continual momentum.  I think CC's foundation will prevail over fresh in this case.

1.  California Chrome

2.  Ride On Curlin

3.  Wicked Strong

Go Chrome!!!!  All the way Chrome!!!  

05 Jun 2014 10:13 PM
The Deacon

Alex's Big Fan:

Linda in Texas:

The 5 weeks break between races vs. the 3 weeks applies if all things are equal. C. Chrome does look fresh, he has held his flesh well and I believe he is one smart colt. I love the throw back way he has been trained and raced. This isn't a race I want to wager money on, but only to enjoy and take in the moment. Many of us don't have 36 more years to wait for a Triple Crown winner (me included). Maybe if a nobody from nowhere wins the Triple Crown all of these so called brilliant breeders and owners will take note and do their respective future homework.

It's always been about the horses for me, always will be.

T

06 Jun 2014 4:02 AM

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