A Chrome Kinda Morning

Everything seemed to sparkle and shine Friday morning. Sun-drenched Belmont Park was abuzz with camera and news crews from TV and radio, both local and national. There were interviews being conducted non-stop. And nothing shined and sparkled more than the star of the show himself, California Chrome, who went out for his final gallop before Saturday’s big show, where most people are expecting history to be made.

Many experienced horse people who have been here before are taking the fatalist approach. If it’s meant to be it will happen.

There are three ways to approach the Belmont Stakes – you can simply root for California Chrome and keep your wallet in your pocket or you can root for him, but still place a few bob on another horse, hoping to get tremendous value, or you honestly feel he is vulnerable and will try to beat him, Triple Crown or no Triple Crown.

Despite the deep field, some feel Chrome will win by a pole, and that wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest. Others feel the mile and a half will catch up to him and will prove to once again be the obstacle that no Derby and Preakness winner is able to clear.

If Chrome is to be beat, the likely suspects are Ride On Curlin, Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, and Tonalist; all of whom have been training and looking in peak form. There will be respect for Samraat and Commissioner, both hard-knocking horses, with the latter bred to win the Belmont Stakes.

But what of the two late arrivals, Medal Count and General a Rod, who didn’t take up residence at Belmont until 8:30 Thursday night and have had one only one gallop over the track?

The feeling here is that if you’re going to try to upset California Chrome, you might as well go for the big bucks and try to catch a couple of top-class horses way off their market value, both of whom are coming off nightmarish trips – Medal Count in the Derby and General a Rod in the Preakness.

Why go for the bombs when you can get great value on Ride On Curlin, Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, and Tonalist? Or even Samraat and Commissioner?

Because in four of the last five failed Triple Crown attempts, the Belmont winner paid $142.50 (Sarava), $79 (Da’ Tara), $74 (Birdstone), and $61.50 (Lemon Drop Kid).

It is difficult to come up with an upsetter based on looks and works, because everyone looks great and has been working lights out. I do have to say, however, that Wicked Strong appears to have made as much, or more, physical progress as any of the participants. He has put on muscle and his coat is more radiant than it was at Churchill Downs. And his works over the training track have been strong.

I could rave about several of the others, but for the purpose of finding that monster price, I will say that Medal Count and General a Rod both look terrific and both had smooth gallops in their first spin around the Belmont oval.

I wrote an entire column this week about Medal Count’s horrible trip in the Kentucky Derby and other factor to support him.

General a Rod was a relative latecomer to the Belmont field, but all you have to do is watch the Preakness and see him moving up to challenge the leaders on his own, on a nice loose rein, nearing the half-mile, and then watch Ria Antonia back right up into him, forcing him to stop his run. Just like that, he went from third to the back of the pack. To his credit, he came with another run late and just missed getting up for third.

This is a horse who likes to duke it out for as long as he has to, and he and Medal Count both have the stamina (mainly through Dynaformer) to get the distance. Not only can General a Rod look you in the eye and not back down, he is a steady galloper with brilliant speed who will keep coming at you, as he showed in the major Gulfstream stakes this year. He could have drawn better and will have to break cleanly and rush up a bit from post 10, with Tonalist likely to be a presence on his outside. But he is also capable of possibly putting California Chrome in a box if he can seal off the outside. Another scenario is for him to take just go for the lead and try to grind everyone into the ground.

Medal Count is another who is best as a grinder, but he does possess a good turn of foot if needed, and actually was moving strongly on the far turn of the Derby and closing in on the leaders when he eventually got clobbered by a veering out Danza just as he was finding a second gear in midstretch. And the beginning of the race was no picnic for him either.

So, these are two longshot possibilities and either or both could spruce up any exotic with California Chrome.

Wicked Strong is another to root for, mainly because of the comebacks by Jimmy Jerkens and Centennial Farm, and you have great stories surrounding Bill Gowan and his family, Robert Evans and Pleasant Colony, New Yor-bred Samraat losing his sire the week of the Belmont, and A.P. Indy’s possible final hurrah.

But it all boils down to California Chrome. Everything has gone perfectly for him throughout the entire Triple Crown and it’s his race to lose. If he doesn’t and ends the 36-year drought, oh, what a party there will be.

California Chrome emerges from the tunnel. Just another quiet morning, right?

Uh, not quite. Chrome eyes the frenzy of photographers.

California Chrome's final gallop.

California Chrome stretches out second time around.

Tonalist looks grand in the early morning sun.

Tonalist galloping.

Medal Count getting used to his new home.

Medal Count's post gallop stroll in the paddock.

Samraat didn't take long to get used to the change of scenery from Aqueduct to Belmont.


Leave a Comment:


There is a fourth approach you didn't mention Steve. Bet AND root for California Chrome. Sure, that approach won't result in anyone getting rich, but there will be other good opportunities to do that on the under card.

06 Jun 2014 3:04 PM

Thanks Steve for the insights.  I became a Chromie after the San Felipe and made sure to add him to my Winstar Farm Fantasy Stable when he was listed in the "add on" field the next week.  Can't say it any simpler than "it's his race to lose", so many "if this and if that happens".  Praying safe trip for all horses and jockeys.  BRING IT HOME CHROME!

06 Jun 2014 3:06 PM
Jean Requa Lubin equine artist


    So much appreciate you insight, great writing and

candid photos.

    Can hardly wait for tomorrow.

    Go Chrome!


06 Jun 2014 3:41 PM
Proud Acres

Ohhh, the time is almost upon us.  Once again Steve you have given us a lot to think about but I've said it before so I'll say it again.  Chrome is where its at!  Let them all come home safe and may the racing Gods be with our Chrome!

06 Jun 2014 6:38 PM

I just can't see California Chrome getting beat.

He has run most of these into the ground and will

do it again even easier over the Belmonts 1m 4f

06 Jun 2014 6:46 PM

Enjoyed the pictures.  California Chrome looks the fittest with good weight. Racing luck to all.

06 Jun 2014 7:31 PM
Jean Requa Lubin equine artist

Steve, thanks for your insight,clever writing and candid photographs.

Can hardly wait for tomorrow.  As everyone has said, may all have

a good start, safe trip and good luck to all, but especially

California Chrome!

06 Jun 2014 9:29 PM
Mister Frisky

Greetings from Cabo San Lucas.As a homegrown Southern Californian I'm pulling for CC to get it done.Thankfully there is a Caliente Race Book here where I take a stand against him and just maybe cash.Commissioner the only one who without a doubt will love the distance to win,Medal Count Commish exacta box.If history wins out its one wager I wouldn't mind losing.Good luck to everyone.

06 Jun 2014 9:29 PM

This is it! What we've been waiting for and the word "frenzy" is perfect - that "sun" just beams upon him everywhere he goes - and so be it will be upon him Saturday ~  

06 Jun 2014 11:40 PM

The circumstances that led to the victories of Da'Tara(2008) and that of Sarava(2002) were the result of an unpredictable mishap. Given that Big Brown was only horse chosen to win by every DRF selector and then if that only choice offered to the public fails then expect that kind of a result. Sarava, however, received at least one mention by a DRF selector(4th).

The model for this race is the '98 Belmont(Victory Gallop) because it presents the question, namely, can Ride On Curlin duplicate the effort of Victory Gallop and overtake The Derby-Preakness winner with the added distance. Victory Gallop, unlike Ride On Curlin, ran second in the Derby to Real Quiet. In this case the Derby second place finisher is Commanding Curve, leading us to the secondary question: which second place finisher has the best chance of defeating California Chrome?

My pace analysis suggests that it is Ride On Curlin because he ran a better race against Chrome in The Preakness than did Victory Gallop against Real Quiet in their Preakness. Victory Gallop lost ground in the Preakness stretch to Real Quiet, whereas, Ride on Curlin gained ever so slightly against Chrome in the Preakness.

Real Quiets Preakness was a better race on a performance measurement basis than that of California Chrome ,even when both races are indexed to 100. On a an indexed analytical basis Ride On Curlin's finish in the Preakness was better than that of Victory Gallop. Thus,the nod goes Ride On Curlin, particularly, with Velazquez up.

In my view both Commanding Curve and Ride On Curlin are in a class by themselves as closers and are the only horses capable of beating Chrome if that is possible.

By the way in '98 you chose Parade Ground in Derby. In the Preakness you wrote that the race was a contest between Real Quiet and Victory Gallop and it was, but, then in Belmont you picked Parade Ground again with Real Quiet for third. Did you dismiss Victory Gallop because he lost ground in the stretch in the Preakness? The question is rhetorical, however, when you revisit that 'spot on' Preakness analysis you must shake your head at yourself as all of us have done too often.

07 Jun 2014 2:28 AM

California Chrome is in the Big Apple now. Since he is America's horse how about a fitting play on lyrics.

Sung to tune of the song made famous by Frank Sinatra,

                 New York New York

"Start spreading the news, I'm at Belmont today.

I'm gonna be a part of it, New York, New York

These glue on shoes, are longing to run

Right down the stretch of it, New York, New York

I'll wear my nasal strip in a city, that doesn't snore

I'll finish in front of the rest, be first to the wire

These triple crown blues, I'll melt em away

I'll win my triple crown in it, in old New York

If I can't win it here, I can't win it anywhere

It's up to me, New York, New York

New York, New York

I'll wear my nasal strip in a city, that never snores

I'll finish in front of the rest, be first to the wire

These triple crown blues, I'll melt em away

I'll win my triple crown in it, in old New York

If I can't win it here, I can't win it anywhere

It's up to me, New York, New York"

07 Jun 2014 7:38 AM

There is certainly validity to the arguments from the naysayers against Chrome, but I'm firm in my belief that he is special enough to overcome the hurdles and odds against him.

I'm drinking the Kool-Aid on Medal Count running strong and hitting the exotics.

General a Rod may be this year's Palace Malice for me; a horse I used in bets in the first 2 legs and bailed out on in the 3rd, only to have it burn me.  So I will reluctantly include him, just so I'm not kicking myself.

Thanks once again, Steve, for faithfully steering us down this Triple Crown road, and for bringing CC to our attention early on in the year so that I and countless others could truly enjoy this fantastic ride!

07 Jun 2014 8:51 AM

A fun parody to "New York New York" can be found on You tube at California Chrome Belmont racetrack. The "cringe" factor is a little high-sounds a bit like a Labrador with laryngitis but it is a song for California Chrome.

Have a great Belmont day!

07 Jun 2014 8:54 AM
Pedigree Ann

Arnold, if Chrome was full out at the end of the Preakness, your analysis might have some credence. But Victor was keeping him going only enough to hold the other horse safe. Going by charts and PPs without re-watching the race can leave you without the whole picture.

07 Jun 2014 9:21 AM

Is this the day? We'll see! I'm high on ROC - but do think Chrome has what it takes! We are due a Triple Crown and all the hulpa going with it! Exciting day!

May all horses and jockeys be safe and the best horse win in all races! I will applaud whoever wins each race and celebrate if Chrome does it! We're due! I still love ROC!!! Good luck to all!

07 Jun 2014 10:05 AM
Sail On

My son is going, he will put my money on Samraat for me.

Here is how I see this race...

Three horses break fast, but most speed is on the outside. Chrome up front with Samraat on his heels, and Ride On Curlin right behind. Two speedsters coming over fast. These five lead into the turn, with another group of six closers hunting lead pack from a length back.

Have fun everyone!

07 Jun 2014 12:59 PM
Pedigree Ann

Curlinlover, what is 'hulpa?' Were you trying to write 'hooplah?' <grin>

And for everyone, I believe that Chrome is the fittest and fastest horse in the field. A lot of people are talking up horses whose credentials look like n1x or n2x or turf or miler-type horses because they are trying to keep from being too optimistic about him winning - they have been burned too many times. Let's just let this all unfold as the racing gods decree.

07 Jun 2014 1:14 PM
Old Timer

Yeah Steve, why wasn't there the option of betting on CC and rooting him home? I'd have to agree that there won't be a lot of value betting wise on that option. 1-2 when he has never gone that far and with the 0-12 since '78 seems like a thin payoff. But there is always the possibility of a nice tri or super if a couple of longshots hit the board. Good luck to all.

07 Jun 2014 1:50 PM

Lol Quinnbit..love your song!

07 Jun 2014 5:49 PM

What a disgrace! The absolute no class owner of cali chrome.......they hit gold on their first horse, end up disgracing racing on one of the biggest days.......what a baby!.........have another beer!

07 Jun 2014 10:12 PM


Not so fast. I grasp your point, but I can also see where Coburn is coming from. I wouldn't label him a no-class owner by any means. He's actually rather articulate, and there is some logic to his protestations. I'll bet that those who know him well consider him a quite intelligent man. Unlike what had been perceived, by most, years ago, it is now widely acknowledged that the spacing of those races places those that compete in all three at a disadvantage. For example, when given the choice, notice the race spacing for most that compete in Breeders' Cup races. It's easy to say-that's why it's the Triple Crown-, but I don't think it was initially conceived with durability as a major feature/a test of durability.    

08 Jun 2014 12:27 AM

the owner Steve needs to stop whining and go back to his little townn and act like a man not a whinning baby. It\s a friggen business. Did he enter his horse in these races to see him run or was he iterested i the money. If he says to watch him rum tell him to send me the purse money. The guys a jerk oh ask him if he owned Tonelist and due to injuries couldn't get enough points to get into Derby would he have run him ion the Belmont if he knew the horse was now healthy.

08 Jun 2014 9:29 AM

I'm sorry Chrome lost too but hey, he can still rest up and run in the fall races leading up to the BCC. I can't understand why everyone is so dissapointed in his loss. Yes, it would have been great to have a Triple Crown winner this year but I've come to realize it's not ever going to happen. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!! GET USED TO IT!!!. Chrome can still pull in a HOTY. That's for sure but he'll need to run in some more races and the BCC. I know he can pull it off if Sherman gets him back on track with a rest and a good training up til then with a race or two in between.  Chrome is not finished yet. IT's no disgrace in losing the TC. It's not like it's something like a walkover to do. DAP has a great horse and they need to keep up the good work with him.

08 Jun 2014 10:36 AM

 I have always thought that Steve after the running of the Belmont S. should give us his thoughts as to a real final ‘dozen’ for us bettors to determine how we should play this year’s three year old crop in the future. My thoughts are these. After his victories in the $2mil. Gr. I Peter Pan and the $1.5mil. Gr. I Belmont S. that “Tonalist” may now have passed “California Chrome” with his victories in the $2mil. Gr. I Kty. Derby  and the $1.5mil. Gr. I Preakness S. Hard to determine who might be 3rd, but honestly, I think that “Commissioner” has also come a long way and maybe he would be 3rd on my own list. So, maybe it would be fun if Steve would list his own mock final ‘dozen’, and then list say 20 3 yr. old horses and let the bloggers vote on a true final ‘dozen’. My list would look something like the following, although the 7 through 12 spots, or so, are actually quite tough to determine:  

(1.) “Tonalist”; (2) California Chrome”; (3) “Commissioner;

(4.) “Wicked Strong”; (5) “Commanding Curve”;

(6.) “Medal Count”; (7.) “Danza”; (8.)  “Conquest Titan”;

(9.) “Bayern”; (10.) “Social Inclusion”; (11.). “Samraat”;

(12a.)  “Ride on Curlin”; (12b.) “General A Rod”; and, or etc.

 So how about it Steve, do you have a final ‘dozens’ listing? Can you list a top 20 and let the bloggers vote so we can see a consensus?

 I am sorry for “Cal Chrome” and the connections and the many on his bandwagon and for the history of horse racing, where we again had a chance at a ‘triple crown winner’. Needless to say, outside of getting the exacta that I lost money betting the Belmont S. race itself, but that’s horse racing and I never put all my eggs in one basket. However, like others, this year’s crop will likely appear in other future events.

 So anyway, who are your own final personal ‘dozen’?

08 Jun 2014 2:41 PM

Losing gracefully, or faking it, is a learned thing.

But this was a bad show even for neophytes. Imagine the hand-wringing if they'd drawn post position 11!

08 Jun 2014 3:40 PM

What a day Joel Rosario had! 11/4-1-3-1: this was the day to do that. He won Grade 1s with Tonalist and Close Hatches, a G2 with Norumbega, was third in two with Seek Again and Unbridled Forever.

But really amazing: he came back after winning the Belmont and finished 2nd and 1st in the two wrap-up allowances.

Talk about staying the distance!

08 Jun 2014 5:18 PM


Thank you for the comment regarding the song. Frank Jr. is okay but dad was the one and only for the song. Perhaps someday Belmont would entertain the thought of having Harry Connick Jr sing the song to the same music Frank sang it to.

09 Jun 2014 10:23 PM

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