Tag Archive | "Belmont Stakes"

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New York horsemen like Chrome’s chances to win Triple Crown

Posted on 06 June 2014 by WNST Staff

  • California Chrome schools in paddock, has final gallop before G1 Belmont Stakes
  • General a Rod gets first taste of local surface
  • Samraat, Ortiz ready for Belmont Stakes
  • Finley has high hopes for Commanding Curve
  • Romans trying to catch lightning in a bottle with Medal Count
  • Kid Cruz skips Belmont, finds ‘easier’ spot on undercard for Rice
  • Zito reflects on Triple Crowns past, Chrome’s chances
  • New York trainers, former jockeys backing ‘Chrome’ in the Belmont Stakes

Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome had his final gallop around the Belmont Park oval Friday morning, traveling two miles under exercise rider Willie Delgado after schooling in the paddock around 6 a.m. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will jog tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m., a little more than 13 hours in advance of his bid to break a 36-year Triple Crown drought in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

The handsome chestnut colt stood quietly in the saddling area’s stall No. 2 – his post position for the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” – before walking through the tunnel toward the track, pausing several times as if to pose for the photographers who lined the fence. Upon entering the track, he jogged halfway around the oval, then turned and galloped two miles.

“The horse is doing great, I couldn’t ask anything more from him,” said Alan Sherman, son of and assistant to trainer Art Sherman. “I’m looking forward to the race. I think if he runs his race, he’s going to be pretty solid.”

As the Belmont draws closer, Sherman reflected on the ride the California-bred colt, winner of six straight races, has taken his connections, including co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin.

“It’s been awesome,” said Sherman. “These kinds of horses don’t come around very often, if at all. I think it’s great for the game, and I hope it will get new owners into the game.”

Belmont Stakes contender General a Rod galloped over the main track at 5:45 this morning, his time over the Belmont Park course since arriving from trainer Mike Maker’s Louisville, Ky. base Thursday evening.

Assistant trainer Joe Sharp said the Gulfstream Park Derby winner joined the rest of Maker’s New York string around 8 p.m.

“The plane was a little late getting in, but he ate up well and settled right in, and galloped nice this morning,” Sharp said. “He looks great. He came in and didn’t have a hair turned.”

Today was the first look at Belmont’s unique 1 ½-mile surface for General a Rod, who has raced at Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream and Pimlico in his seven-race career. He was second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, and fourth in the Preakness.

“He took it all in stride. It was just an ordinary day for him, and he seemed real happy,” Sharp said. “It seems like good horses just seem to get it. We just want to bubble-wrap him and keep everything on track for tomorrow.”

Maker arrived in New York early this afternoon for his second shot at the Belmont, having finished seventh with Stately Victor in 2007. He was an assistant to D. Wayne Lukas when the Hall of Fame trainer won each of his four Belmonts: Tabasco Cat (1994), Thunder Gulch (1995), Editor’s Note (1996) and Commendable (2000).

“You never know until you try it,” Maker said. “The pace will be slower, so I don’t forsee any trouble with the extra distance. In the Derby and the Preakness, he had no problem. He had a strong gallop-out in the Preakness, so I’m not too concerned about it.”

Purchased prior to the Kentucky Derby from original owner J. Armando Rodriguez, for whom the horse is named, General a Rod was a troubled 11th at Churchill Downs and got shuffled back again at Pimlico, beaten just a head for third.

Maker said the Belmont didn’t come into focus until about 10 days after the Preakness, after he watched the horse and discussed options with the owners, Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing.

“My theory was that the horse couldn’t be doing any better,” he said. “He had a bad go of it in the Preakness, and I kind of passed the ball to them. I said, ‘I can’t give you any reason not to run,’ and here we are. They came out and saw what I saw, and they were excited to have the opportunity to run. We have a happy, healthy horse, and they were on board to give it a shot.”

General a Rod joins Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome and Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin, who was seventh in the Derby, as the only horses to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown. On May 31, General a Rod had a bullet five-furlong work in 1:00.20 at the Churchill Downs training center.

“It’s a tribute to his soundness, I guess,” Maker said. “We have a lot of confidence going into this race. I’d love to be the spoiler, that’s for sure.”

Though a New York-bred hasn’t won the state’s signature race in 132 years, Samraat has recent history in his favor heading into Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Since 2000, seven horses have run in the Kentucky Derby, skipped the Preakness and passed the “Test of the Champion,” including last year’s winner, Palace Malice.

A homebred of Leonard Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm, Samraat will also have the comfort of familiar rider Jose Ortiz on his back. The 20-year-old native of Puerto Rico has been aboard the Noble Causeway colt in each of his seven career starts.

“He has all kinds of confidence that he can do anything he wants on him, and he’s a very responsive horse,” trainer Rick Violette said. “He’s a rider’s dream, because you can move a couple times and go into neutral. They’re a good match. He rode a terrific race in the Derby, no question. We’re very confident we’ll get a good trip.”

Samraat has not raced since finishing a creditable fifth in the Derby, beaten a nose for fourth by Wicked Strong after running near the early pace. Violette, who was third in the Belmont with Citadeed in 1995 and 10th with High Finance in 2006, opted to skip the Preakness and point for the Belmont.

It will be the Belmont debut for Ortiz, who entered today’s card third in the local jockey standings with 21 wins – just four behind leader Javier Castellano – and fourth with more than $1.3 million in purses.

Of modern-day jockeys, 12 have won in their Belmont debut including Hall of Famers Braulio Baeza (1961), Steve Cauthen (1978), Bill Hartack (1960), Craig Perret (1987) and Bill Shoemaker (1957). The most recent to do it was Jose Valdivia with Ruler On Ice in 2011.

Cauthen’s victory came with Affirmed, the 11th and last horse to sweep racing’s Triple Crown, an exclusive club California Chrome is looking to join on Saturday.

“There’s a lot of good horses in the race. It’s not going to be an easy race for California Chrome,” Ortiz said. “We’ve got a good chance. I like my horse. He always tries, and he has a big heart. I know he can do it.”

Ortiz has seen a steady progression in Samraat, who opened his career with five straight wins including the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham before finishing second in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial on April 5 prior to his Derby effort.

“He has matured every race, a little more each time,” Ortiz said. “In the Derby, he got a beautiful trip. He got a lot out of that race, hopefully. He’s been relaxing pretty good. He’s going to have to relax going a mile and a half. If he breaks good, he’ll be OK. I think he can win.”

For a brief moment on the first Saturday in May, as Commanding Curve came thundering down the stretch at Churchill Downs, Terry Finley allowed himself to get excited.

A former U.S. Army Ranger who founded West Point Thoroughbreds in 1991 and serves as its president, Finley watched as Commanding Curve rallied from well back to beat 17 other horses in the Kentucky Derby, finishing just 1 ¾ lengths behind winner California Chrome.

“It was incredible. Really, we had about six or eight seconds where I thought we were going to win the Kentucky Derby,” Finley said this morning. “A good buddy of mine told me in most years, that move wins the Kentucky Derby. It was a pretty special feeling to know that we were in the running. All the credit to California Chrome; he got the job done. He outran us, no ifs, ands or buts.”

After skipping the Preakness, Commanding Curve will get another shot at California Chrome in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. It is the second straight year West Point will be represented in the final leg of the Triple Crown, and fourth overall. Its best finish came with Macho Again, fifth in 2008.

“We could not be happier. You’re not going to run in the Belmont Stakes if you’re not really happy with the way the horse is doing,” Finley said. “We know we have to run a mile and a half. That’s a really tough test, and we wouldn’t do that if we didn’t think he was doing very well. All systems are ‘go.’ We’re not going to have any excuses. We’ve had a good break, five weeks. We hope that is a little bit of a difference-maker, and that the difference puts us in front of California Chrome.”

Finley said the Preakness was never really considered for Commanding Curve, third in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 29 for trainer Dallas Stewart, who also brought the Derby runner-up to last year’s Belmont, finishing ninth with Golden Soul.

“Certainly with the euphoria and all the hoopla surrounding the Derby, you very quickly start thinking about the Preakness because it’s only two weeks,” he said. “The very next day we put a circle around the Belmont. We really wanted to take [the Preakness] off the table so we didn’t get tempted and say, ‘Let’s just go to Pimlico.'”

Instead, Commanding Curve continued to train at Churchill Downs until his May 29 arrival in New York, where he had a sharp half-mile breeze in 47.38 seconds on Sunday. Seven Belmont winners since 2000 have won the race after running in the Derby and sitting out the Preakness.

“Sure we’d love to win,” Finley said. “We know if we don’t win, we’re like most of the other connections; we want California Chrome to win if we don’t. What I’m hoping for and wishing for and asking for, in my mind, is just to have a shot at the quarter pole. If we get there or not, that would be a really, really cool thing to have a shot at the quarter pole, so we have a rooting interest for the last 26 seconds.”

Trainer Dale Romans considers the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes on April 12 the best race of his Belmont Stakes entrant Medal Count‘s life. Eight days prior to the Blue Grass, in which Medal Count made a huge sweeping move six wide to finish second, the Dynaformer colt won the Grade 3 Transylvania, also at Keeneland.

With the success on short rest in mind, Romans worked Medal Count six furlongs in a bullet 1:10.60 on May 31 at Churchill Downs before shipping to New York.

“I never had a horse in my career that went three quarters in 1:10,” Romans said. “The last was [Whitney Handicap and Dubai World Cup winner] Roses in May. I wanted a good stiff work. His best race was the Blue Grass, and I wanted to simulate that [short rest].”

Romans was relatively quiet for a while after Medal Count finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby and didn’t commit to the Belmont until May 27. The race, however, “wasn’t a late decision at all,” he said. “I didn’t talk a lot about it, but I knew what I was doing. I trained him like he was running here starting the day after the Derby.”

For much of this past week, multiple stakes winner Kid Cruz was listed as a possible entrant for the Belmont Stakes, but Linda Rice said that, in the end, skipping the race in favor of the $150,000 Easy Goer on the undercard was the right move.

“It was not that tough,” Rice said of the decision. “We figured off that race in Maryland [an eighth-place finish behind California Chrome in the Preakness Stakes], he should be in against something other than the toughest horses in America.”

Kid Cruz, who won the Private Terms and Federico Tesio this spring before trying the Preakness, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds for the 1 1/16-mile Easy Goer.

The race came up tough, with a promising group of horses looking to have an impact in the division in the second half of the year. Second choice at 3-1 is Legend, a James Bond-trained son of Tiznow who broke his maiden May 4, earning at Beyer Speed Figure of 97 going at mile at Belmont Park.
Rice hopes the Easy Goer is a springboard to greater things for Kid Cruz down the road.

“The Belmont would be a thrill to be a part of, and I know from experience it’s better when you’re competitive,” Rice said. “Right now, we’re pointing to run [in the Easy Goer], and we’ll look forward to the Jim Dandy and Travers and hope we have a horse good enough to run then.”

A day before California Chrome attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito reflected on two Triple Crown bids spoiled by his horses, and what it might take to finally end the drought.

Zito first won the Belmont Stakes in 2004 with Birdstone, who thwarted Smarty Jones’ bid for the Triple Crown in the waning stages of the race. In 2008, Zito won again with Da’ Tara, while Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown was pulled up on the far turn.

“Our stable is different,” said Zito. “You might say, ‘What do you mean?’ At the time of our first one, we had five seconds. Five seconds in the Belmont. Our stats are two wins, seven seconds, couple of thirds. Our stable is different. Were we confident? Just about every time we run a mile and a half, in our head, we know we’ve got a little bit of a chance. It’s the way we run our stable and the way we prepare them.”

Zito’s outstanding record in the Belmont Stakes puts him in rarefied air. In the case of California Chrome, he believes racing fans may witness something special on Saturday.

“It’s a very interesting scenario with that horse, the way he trains,” Zito said. “They say that’s the way he goes, the way he trains. Boy, those workouts are tremendous. I don’t care what anybody tells me. That horse is smooth as can be, when he works, when he gallops, whatever.”

How California Chrome handles the additional two furlongs he’s asked to run in the “Test of the Champion” is pivotal to his chances, according to the trainer.

“It’s just that last quarter of a mile because if you look, Smarty Jones was in front going a mile and a quarter, and that last quarter of a mile got him,” said Zito. “It’s different. Mile and a half, mile and a quarter. It’s different. It’s a different race. It’s just longer, that’s all it comes down to.”

A survey of NYRA horsemen and former jockeys suggests that New York racing participants are firmly behind California Chrome in his quest to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.

NYRA television analyst and former jockey Richard Migliore said he finds no flaws in California Chrome headed into the Belmont Stakes tomorrow.

“I really like California Chrome,” said Migliore. “I came out to watch him train at Belmont Park after the Preakness, looking for some weakness, some chink in his armor. I haven’t been able to find it. I think he has really thrived and flourished on the workload, and he may be coming into the Belmont better than he did the Derby and the Preakness.”

Migliore said California Chrome’s ability to adapt makes him difficult to beat.

“California Chrome looks like a jockey’s dream,” said Migliore. “He doesn’t get rank, you can ask him to run to get position, when you put your hands down he settles, when you ask him again there’s instant response. He looks like he’d be a blast to ride.”

Jean-Luc Samyn, another former New York jockey, also is backing California Chrome.

“We have to go with California Chrome,” said Samyn. “He sure looked like the best horse. It probably took a little out of him in the Preakness, but I sure think he recovered well and he sure looks like the horse who is going to do it.”

Trainer Al Stall, in town to run Central Banker in Saturday’s Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile, raved about California Chrome’s physical condition, coming just short of guaranteeing a victory.

“I’m not going to go against the grain. I love California Chrome,” said Stall. “I like the way he’s coming up to the race. That picture I saw this week of the size of his neck compared to a few months ago was amazing to me. That tells you the horse is in such great physical form, and obviously, his numbers are great. A clean break, and it is all over.”

Trainer John Kimmel went as far to give out a cold exacta.

“I like The Chrome,” said Kimmel. “I like The Chrome coupled with Wicked Strong in a straight exacta.”

Hall of Fame conditioner Shug McGaughey, who ended Sunday Silence’s Triple Crown bid when he sent out Easy Goer to a dominant victory in the Belmont Stakes, also made California Chrome and Wicked Strong his top two selections.

“[My pick is] California Chrome,” said McGaughey. “He’s training good here, last three races have been great. The percentages say ‘no.’ I think Wicked Strong has trained awfully well. That’s who my picks are.”

Nick Zito likes California Chrome but isn’t comfortable playing him exclusively on top in his superfecta. Zito, a member of the Hall of Fame, won the 2004 Belmont with Birdstone, who narrowly beat Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, and four years later posted a huge upset with Da’ Tara when Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown was eased.

“I want to take the superfecta: California Chrome, Samraat. Wicked Strong, and Ride On Curlin,” said Zito. “And that’s a wrap. A box, of course.”

The only outlier in the survey was trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who took the 2006 Belmont with Jazil.

“[My pick is] Tonalist,” said McLaughlin. “I just think he’s fresh, a very nice, talented horse.”


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Trainer Sherman says winning Triple Crown would be “just a bonus”

Posted on 05 June 2014 by WNST Staff

  • California Chrome schools at starting gate, gallops 1 ¼ miles
  • Tonalist draws far outside, continues preparations for Belmont Stakes
  • Wicked Strong gallops on the Belmont training track
  • Ride On Curlin braves storm, tunes up for “Test of the Champion”
  • Samraat arrives at Belmont, tests local surface
  • Pletcher reflects on brief stint training Lucky Pulpit, sire of California Chrome

California Chrome schooled at the starting gate for the second and final time Thursday at Belmont Park in the lead-up to the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

At 6:30 a.m., California Chrome set foot on Belmont’s main track and jogged approximately 1 3/8 miles clockwise before arriving at the starting gate in the 1 1/8-mile chute on the backstretch. There he stood in the gate, backed out, and began an easy 1 ¼-mile gallop outside the cones that had been placed on the muddy main track.

“He was perfect in there,” said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman.

California Chrome has won six straight races, including the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Preakness. He is attempting to become the 12th thoroughbred in history to win the Triple Crown and first since Affirmed in 1978.

Sherman said California Chrome, who is owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, will school in the paddock and gallop tomorrow. He’ll jog on Saturday, the morning of the Belmont Stakes.

“He’s got his lead changes down and everything,” said Sherman. “He’s doing really good on this track.”

Sherman took a moment to analyze the impact of California Chrome’s post position. The colt drew post 2 of 11 at yesterday’s draw.

“It helps that [jockey] Victor [Espinoza] has been riding here all week,” said Sherman. “I’m sure they’ll take a few different runs at him, like they did at Pimlico. As long as he doesn’t get in any traffic problems, I don’t think it will be a problem for him. You can’t move too early on him; you just have to sit as long as you can.”

Sherman continued to stress how California Chrome’s connections will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to win the Triple Crown, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s race.

“Everything from here on out is a bonus,” said Sherman. “He already has exceeded our expectations. It just has been an amazing ride; I just thank God we get to train a horse like that.”

Yesterday, 45 year-old Alan Sherman became a grandfather when his daughter, Brianne, gave birth to a boy. The baby, named Logan, weighs six pounds and was born in Temecula, Calif.

“I’m so excited,” said Sherman. “It’s great.”

Belmont Stakes contender Tonalist, trained by Christophe Clement for Robert Evans, had the misfortune of drawing the outermost post in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, as the Tapit colt will break from post 11 with Joel Rosario aboard.

“I don’t let myself worry about [the post],” said Clement. “I’ve just got to worry about the horse. Rosario will come tomorrow and we’ll discuss it, and we’ll deal with it. The plus is you’re in the gate last. He’s a really, really big horse with a long stride, so he can basically run his own race without worrying about anybody else.”

The addition of blinkers in the Peter Pan helped Tonalist find a little extra zip, which Clement believes could result in him being on the lead in the Belmont Stakes, though exactly where he finds himself in the early stages depends on what Rosario feels is best for his mount.

“Why not? He did show the pace in the Peter Pan,” said Clement. “The great thing is he’s versatile. Rosario can break and, judging by the way he breaks, ride accordingly. It’s a wonderful luxury.”

The 3-year-old colt continued his regular preparations on Thursday morning, narrowly missing a morning rainstorm that rolled through the area.

“He trained today and looked well; he galloped a mile and a quarter,” said Clement. “He schooled by the paddock, as well, on his way to the track. We’ll probably do the same tomorrow. We got lucky today because I trained just before the rain, so the track was still OK at the time he trained.”

Tonalist – four-length winner of the Peter Pan – likely will vie with Wicked Strong to be second choice in the wagering, and is 8-1 on the morning line.

Looking to beat the worst of the weather, trainer Jimmy Jerkens sent Belmont Stakes contender Wicked Strong out with his first set of horses shortly after 6 this morning.
Second choice in the program at 6-1 behind heavily favored Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome (3-5), Wicked Strong galloped 1 ½ miles over the training track in a misty rain.

“It was just coming down lightly; the track was sealed and it wasn’t muddy at all,” Jerkens said. “It had a lot of moisture in it, naturally, but it was good. It doesn’t really pay to go out in the cold rain for a variety of reasons, especially for a horse like him. The noise of the horses hitting the slop, he reacts to stuff like that. It just paid to come out early.”

Stabled near the training track in Barn 57, Jerkens has kept Wicked Strong primarily close to home for his preparations rather than bring the Hard Spun colt to Belmont’s main track.

“Sometimes, it gets a little rough coming home. The long walk home gets him a little nervous,” Jerkens said. “A couple of times last week it got real hairy where he almost got loose, so we just figured we’d be a little safer and keep him closer to the barn.”

The trainer has gone so far as to take precautions in Wicked Strong’s training that he may carry over to the Belmont Stakes, which is expected to be run before a near-record crowd.

Run at 1 ½ miles, the Belmont starting gate will be positioned directly front of the grandstand for the race. Wicked Strong drew post nine of 11.

“He reacts to a lot of noise and stuff like that, so we’ve been galloping him and breezed the other day with little bits of cotton stuck in his ears,” Jerkens said. “It seemed to help him a little bit, so maybe we’ll do that for the race.”

This will be the third Belmont for Jerkens, who was ninth with Thomas Jo in 1998 and fifth with Oh So Awesome in 2006.

“It’s a mixture of exciting and nerve-wracking. I’ll be glad when it’s over,” Jerkens said. “He’s doing well. I don’t see anything that I don’t like.”

Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin enjoyed his trip around Belmont Park’s main track on Thursday, which came during some of the morning’s heaviest rain.

“It started raining as soon as we got out there, but it was all right. The track was good,” trainer Billy Gowan said. “I thought he looked super. It was a little nasty out, but he loves that kind of track.”

Ride On Curlin enters Saturday’s Belmont Stakes off a 1 ½-length loss to California Chrome in the Preakness, the closest any horse has come to the Kentucky Derby winner during his six-race win streak.

A son of 2007 Belmont runner-up and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, Ride On Curlin drew post five of 11 in the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion,” three spots outside of California Chrome.

“I like my post. We’re right in the middle, so we just hope we get a clean break and a clean trip,” Gowan said. “Everything is right on ‘go.’ I think he’s perfect. I think he’s got a heckuva shot, and he’s going to love the distance.”

A Lousiana native now based in Kentucky, Gowan, 48, has enjoyed the moment with Ride On Curlin, a $25,000 yearling purchase who has earned $714,687 in 11 starts. In 20 years as a trainer, Gowan has 80 wins and more than $1.5 million in purses, mostly with hard-knocking claiming horses.

“This horse has meant everything. A lot of people are talking to me now that never talked to me before,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of nice people and gotten a lot of compliments, so it’s been great.”

Multiple Grade 3 winner Samraat jogged around the main track today in his first morning at Belmont Park since arriving from trainer Rick Violette’s base at Aqueduct Racetrack on Wednesday afternoon.

Bred and owned by Leonard Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm, Samraat had not been at Belmont since breezing a mile in 1:41.28 on May 25. His last work, a mile in 1:47.55, came May 31 at Aqueduct.

Violette and jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard for all seven of Samraat’s career starts, watched from the box seats as the Noble Causeway colt made his way through the rain shortly after 9 a.m.

“It was just to blow off a little steam. He was pretty full of himself,” Violette said. “Today’s a try-not-to-mess-things-up day, let him jog and lope a little bit. We’ll have a decent gallop tomorrow and go from there. All the hard work’s done.”

Samraat reeled off five straight wins to open his career, including the Damon Runyon in mid-December to cap his juvenile season. This year, he captured both the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham before running a valiant second in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial on April 5.

Most recently, Samraat finished fifth by 5 ¾ lengths in the Kentucky Derby on May 3, where he was just a head behind leader and eventual winner California Chrome through six furlongs and sitting third turning for home.

“We were pretty much in the clear in the Derby. He got beat a lip for fourth money,” Violette said. “He’s been very manageable, and he always is. The Gotham was his big educational race. The Derby, with the intense pressure and the intensity of the paddock and the 150,000 people, that didn’t affect him. He was very cool in the paddock and in the post parade. All those intangibles he has, and he has them in spades.”

Though the Belmont Stakes is the biggest and most important race in New York, only three horses born in the state have ever won its signature event: Forester (1882), Fenian (1869) and the filly Ruthless (1867).

“He’s not just a good New York-bred; he’s a good horse, period,” Violette said. “California Chrome is a horse that’s going for history, and we’re all trying to throw something in his way.”

Lucky Pulpit wasn’t particularly memorable as a racehorse, but he has recently gained renown as the sire of California Chrome. Although Todd Pletcher trained Lucky Pulpit for just one start in the horse’s 22-race career, the trainer recently reflected on his experience conditioning the son of Pulpit who would go on to sire a Triple Crown hopeful.

“We didn’t have him that long, and we kind of got him at the tail end of things,” said Pletcher. “The one thing we really remember about him is that he didn’t really want to train anymore. He was very stubborn.”

Lucky Pulpit began his career in California with trainer Clifford Sise, placing in four stakes, including a second in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina on the dirt and a third in the Grade 3 Generous on the turf. He later was transferred to Grant Forster at Arlington Park, where he won the $47,000 Smile Stakes, a five-furlong turf sprint.

His final trainer was Pletcher, for whom he raced once, a runner-up performance in the $61,000 Sneak Box, a 5 ½-furlong turf dash at Monmouth Park.

“We worked him three consecutive times from the gate before the Sneak Box. He broke well and ran well,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher jokingly took credit for Lucky Pulpit’s success as a sire.

“That second in the Sneak Box was probably what made his stud career take off,” he quipped.

Pletcher will attempt to upset Lucky Pulpit’s most famous progeny as he will send out WinStar Farm’s Commissioner and Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Matterhorn on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the Triple Crown.

Commissioner and Matterhorn were second and fourth, respectively, in the Grade 2 Peter Pan on May 10 at Belmont.

On Thursday, Commissioner galloped 1 3/8 miles and Matterhorn galloped 1 ¼ miles, according to Pletcher. Both colts galloped on the training track.

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California Chrome made heavy Belmont favorite, draws second post

Posted on 04 June 2014 by WNST Staff

NEW YORK (AP) – California Chrome became the 3-5 early favorite on Wednesday to win the Belmont Stakes and become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will break from the No. 2 post under Victor Espinoza on Saturday at Belmont Park. Eleven Belmont winners have come out of that post, the last being Tabasco Cat in 1994.

California Chrome will be listed No. 2 in the betting program, the same number as 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths while setting a track record for the 1 ½-mile race that still stands.

Wicked Strong was the 6-1 second choice and drew post No. 9. The colt finished fourth after an unlucky trip in the Derby, sat out the Preakness and comes into the Belmont off a five-week rest.

Tonalist was made the third betting choice at 8-1 odds and will break from the No. 11 post. The colt has experienced on the track, having won the Peter Pan Stakes, although he is new to the Triple Crown trail.

Ride On Curlin, the 12-1 fourth choice, and 20-1 shot General a Rod are the only other horses besides California Chrome who will have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

Eleven horses were entered to take on California Chrome in his bid to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.

Commanding Curve, second in the Derby, was listed at 15-1. Four horses were at 20-1: Commissioner, General a Rod, Medal Count (eighth in the Derby) and Samraat (fifth in the Derby).

Matterhorn and Matuszak, both new to the Triple Crown series, were listed at 30-1.

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California Chrome in good shape after final Belmont Stakes prep

Posted on 02 June 2014 by WNST Staff

  • Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome emerges from final Belmont Stakes breeze in fine fettle
  • Belmont contender Ride On Curlin has first work since runner-up finish in Preakness
  • Wicked Strong turns in quick work over training track
  • Commanding Curve pleases Stewart with main track breeze
  • Commissioner, Matterhorn breeze in company for Belmont Stakes; Palace Malice, Princess of Sylmar among other workers for Pletcher
  • Hall of Famer Bill Mott sends Matuszak out for five-furlong Belmont tune-upTonalist emerges from Saturday breeze in good shape

Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome walked the shed row this morning after logging his final breeze before the June 7 Belmont Stakes yesterday in front of a crowd of adoring spectators at Belmont Park.

The son of Lucky Pulpit went four furlongs in 47.69 seconds under regular rider Victor Espinoza, and galloped out monstrously. He was caught in 59.93 for five furlongs by NYRA clockers, 1:12.95 for six, and 1:26.28 for seven over a tightly packed Belmont oval.

“Chrome came out of the work in great shape,” said Alan Sherman, son of California Chrome’s trainer Art Sherman. “He was pulling [exercise rider] Willie [Delgado] around the shed row this morning. Everything is cold and tight and we’re ready for Saturday.”

Should he become the first horse in 36 years to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, California Chrome would join Count Fleet (1943) and Citation (1948) as Triple Crown winners whose name begins with the letter “C.” However, the letter “C” is the most popular first initial for Belmont Stakes winners, having taken 20 editions, beginning with Calvin in 1875 and most recently Commendable in 2000.

Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin put in his first timed breeze since arriving at Belmont Park on May 20, a seven-furlong work in 1:28.03 this morning under regular exercise rider Bryan Beccia.

Trained by Billy Gowan for owner Daniel J. Dougherty, the Belmont Stakes contender also went seven-eighths in his final tune-up prior to the Kentucky Derby, where he finished seventh behind California Chrome following a rough trip.

“I thought he went super,” Gowan said. “He went just like I told him. I told him to go slow the first quarter, and he went in 27 [seconds]. He went the last quarter in 24. It was just what we wanted, mainly to just get some air into him. If I work him a half-mile, he may get too speed crazy. As long as he was going slow, that’s all we needed.”

Watching the work with Gowan was Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who will be aboard Ride On Curlin for the first time in the Belmont. Velazquez has ridden two Belmont winners: the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and Union Rags in 2012.

“One good thing about the horse is that he’s easy to ride. He relaxes when he gets around horses, and he doesn’t get speed crazy or anything,” Gowan said. “He can pretty much ride him any way he wants to. I’ve told all his riders that. He’s probably the easiest horse you’ve ever ridden in your life. He showed that today. He was nice and relaxed. He doesn’t get too worked up about anything, but when you ask him he’s still full of run.”

Gowan said Ride On Curlin will walk the shed row on Monday morning and go back to the track on Tuesday. His sire, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, was second to Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont.

“We’ll just gallop him easy. He doesn’t need much,” Gowan said. “We’ll probably take him slow every day, and just keep him happy. I’m just happy with the way my horse is going. We come in every morning, and he’s hollering for his feed. He’s just a tough horse.”

With 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice in front of him, Wicked Strong
breezed five furlongs in 59.10 seconds, the quickest of 12 workouts at the distance over the Belmont training track on Sunday.

Wicked Strong began his work several lengths behind Palace Malice and his workmate Celebrator and was eager to catch the Pletcher pair, but exercise rider Kelvin Pahal kept Wicked Strong in check.

“I thought he went real good,” said Jimmy Jerkens, who trains Wicked Strong for Centennial Farm. “It was a little fast, but [Pahal] saw me put my hand up to slow down, and he did. He didn’t pull him back, but he didn’t urge him any. It looked like he saw [Palace Malice and Celebrator] ahead of him and really got into gear around the turn and was approaching them fast, which is why I slowed him down. Sometimes they [catch horses ahead of them]. You don’t mind them doing it if [the other horses] are only a few lengths in front, but when they are six lengths in front it’s a different story. But it was good. I’m happy with it.”

Wicked Strong, who won the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in May, finished fourth, 5 ¾ lengths behind California Chrome, in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 3. The son of Hard Spun had blowout workouts before the Wood and the Derby but will not have a blowout before the Belmont Stakes, according to Jerkens.

“He’ll probably just gallop into the race,” said Jerkens. “He gallops pretty steadily. I blew him out at Churchill because he wasn’t really getting into the bridle when he galloped. He was really distracted, which is why we gave him a little something.”

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve had his first and only breeze over the Belmont main track before the Belmont Stakes, covering four furlongs in 47.38 seconds on Sunday. It was the third quickest of 25 moves at the distance.

Going in company with Cost Effective from the barn of Tom Albertrani, Commanding Curve was kept under a hold as he finished approximately one length in front of his workmate.

“I thought he worked great,” said trainer Dallas Stewart. “I’ve never seen him work any better. It was easy, and he was calm and perfect. He came back not blowing. That’s the thing about him: he never gets tired. It was just a great day for him. We’ll take it.”

Commanding Curve, who has one win in seven starts, enters the Belmont Stakes off a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby. After lagging 12 lengths behind the leader in 18th, Commanding Curve made a steady run to finish 1 ¾ lengths behind California Chrome.

Also on the worktab for Stewart were Unbridled Forever (four furlongs in 48.59 seconds), aiming for the Grade 1 TVG Acorn, and Golden Soul (four furlongs in 47.15 seconds), who is targeting the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational. Both the TVG Acorn and Brooklyn Invitational will be contested on Belmont Stakes Day.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out a string of stakes-bound horses to work on Sunday morning, most notably Palace MalicePrincess of Sylmar, and Belmont Stakes probables Commissioner and Matterhorn.

Palace Malice, who is targeting the Grade 1, $1.25 million Met Mile, nearly had his work disrupted when a horse got loose just as he was beginning his run on the Belmont training track.

“It’s one of the benefits of having radio on your riders,” said Pletcher, “because if that work gets underway there’s no way to undo it. Fortunately, we were able to stop it before it really got started. Had we not had the radios, at least the gallop out would have been compromised.”

After the horse was successfully corralled by an outrider and escorted off the track, Palace Malice was able to work successfully, going four furlongs in 47.38 seconds in company with Celebrator.

“Typical impressive breeze from him; he’s doing unbelievable,” said Pletcher.

Last year’s Kentucky Oaks winner, Princess of Sylmar, went five furlongs in 1:01.31 in preparation of the Grade 1, $1 million Ogden Phipps, that will feature 2013 Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Beholder, as well as the abundantly talented Close Hatches.

“It was a very good breeze,” said Pletcher. “She was very relaxed and happy and moving well, so we’re excited about the race. I have a lot of respect for how good Beholder and Close Hatches are, so I’m excited about the race and how our filly is doing, but it’s going to be a very difficult task.”

Commissioner and Matterhorn, Pletcher’s Belmont Stakes hopefuls, went in company on the Belmont training track. The former was clocked in 49.86 seconds for four furlongs, while the latter turned in a move of 49.90 for a half-mile.

“I thought they worked very well; it was a good, well-executed breeze. Both horses seemed very comfortable and relaxed and galloped out well. I thought [Matterhorn] breezed well enough to continue to consider it; we’ll see how he comes out of it and make a final decision, but I did like the breeze.”

The Pletcher brigade also saw some action on the turf, as Unlimited Budget and
Boisterous took to the grass in advance of the Grade 1, $750,000 Longines Just A Game and the Grade 1, $1 million Knob Creek Manhattan, respectively.

“[Unlimited Budget] handled it well,” said Pletcher. “She went :47 and 4/5 and seemed to be excited about being [on the turf]. She went with a Grade 1 winner and handled her own.”

Boisterous was timed in 47.91 for a half-mile, equaling Unlimited Budget’s time for the distance.

George J. Prussin’s Matuszak breezed five furlongs in 1:00.94 over the main track this morning in his final serious work for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

The son of Bernardini went in company with fellow 3-year-old colt Maximus Mike for Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. A maiden winner in April at Aqueduct, Maximus Mike was clocked in 1:02.14.

“He just needed some company, that’s all; anything to get him started,” Mott said. “It was great. He came home very well. I might be wrong, but I got him coming home in under 23 seconds. He went very well.”

Sunday marked the fourth straight five-eighths work around Belmont’s 1 ½-mile oval for Matuszak, who fired bullets of 59.88 on May 12 and 59.70 on May 19. He was also timed in 1:01.56 on May 26.

Mott has been thrilled with the late spring development of Matuszak, who the trainer said is not ordinarily an eye-catching work horse.

“He’s been working quite well. The last three works have been pretty good,” Mott said. “I realize we’re kind of a long shot and we’re reaching, but the horse is actually coming around at the right time, whatever that may mean.”

Mott captured the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer at odds of 13-1 and has had five previous starters in the race, including Vision and Verse, who finished sixth behind Lemon Drop Kid in 1999 when Charismatic was vying for a Triple Crown.

Stabled in the barn next to Mott is Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome, who will try to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first since 1978 on Saturday.

“If California Chrome wins, I’ll be excited just because we’ll have another Triple Crown winner,” Mott said. “In the meantime, we’ll do our best to try and beat every horse in the race that we can.”

Belmont Stakes contender Tonalist put in his final serious work before the June 7 “Test of the Champion” on Saturday morning at Belmont Park. The bay colt was clocked in 1:00.11 for five furlongs, working in company with stablemate Life In Shambles.

“He came out of his work in good order,” said Tonalist’s trainer, Christophe Clement. “He looked great this morning. He jogged a mile and a half and went to the gate, standing in it and going back out, just regular schooling that we always do the day after the work. He will be back tomorrow and be back to his normal routine.”

The likely second or third choice in the betting behind California Chrome, Tonalist enters the Belmont Stakes off a four-length score in the Grade 2 Peter Pan. He has made only four starts in his career, with two wins and a second-place finish to his credit.



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General a Rod will try again to take down California Chrome in Belmont

Posted on 31 May 2014 by WNST Staff

  • Tonalist puts in final work before Belmont Stakes
  • Belmont Stakes hopeful Samraat tunes up at Aqueduct Racetrack
  • Social Inclusion turns in fast three-furlong breeze on Saturday; final decision on Belmont Stakes or Woody Stephens to be announced tomorrow
  • General a Rod joins Belmont Stakes field following Saturday workout at Churchill Downs
  • Medal Count breezes at Churchill Downs, arrives for Belmont Thursday

Belmont Stakes contender Tonalist, trained by Christophe Clement for Robert Evans, put in his final work before the June 7 “Test of the Champion” on Saturday morning at Belmont Park. The son of Tapit was clocked in 1:00.11 for five furlongs, working in company with stablemate Life in Shambles.

“We are excited about the work and excited about the horse,” said Clement. “I got him in a minute and am very happy about everything. He went in company with Life in Shambles and it was a good work.”

Tonalist won the Grade 2 Peter Pan by four lengths on May 10 at Belmont Park over a sloppy, sealed main track. Prior to his Peter Pan score, the 3-year-old colt took a maiden race at Gulfstream Park during the winter, and finished second in an optional claimer, 3 ¼ lengths behind eventual Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Constitution.

Away from the commotion at Belmont Park, where California Chrome and Tonalist logged their final works before the Belmont Stakes on Saturday morning, Samraat geared up for the final leg of the Triple Crown at Aqueduct Racetrack. The son of
Noble Causeway went an easy mile in 1:47.55 seconds.

“It was very, very good,” said Samraat’s trainer, Rick Violette, who trains the colt for Len Riggio’s My Meadowview Farm. “He went the last quarter in :24, which was just what we were looking for. He didn’t break any stop watches, but it was pretty cool.”

Samraat has not raced since the May 3 Kentucky Derby, in which he finished fifth after contesting the early pace. The 3-year-old colt started his career with five consecutive victories before finishing second behind Wicked Strong in the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Social Inclusion, third in the Preakness, sizzled in a Saturday workout at Belmont Park, with his owner, Ronald Sanchez, saying a final decision on whether he competes in the Belmont Stakes or Grade 2 Woody Stephens to be made later today and announced tomorrow.

NYRA clockers credited Social Inclusion with a three-furlong breeze in 33.55 seconds and caught him galloping out a half-mile in :45 2/5, five-eighths in :58, and six furlongs in 1:09 4/5.

“We weren’t expecting him to go that fast,” said Sanchez. “The horse was real good. The track was lightning fast, and that was the best gallop out he’s ever had. He showed them this morning how good he is feeling.”

Social Inclusion, who is trained by Manuel Azpurua, easily won his first two races before finishing third in both the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial in April and in the Preakness.

General a Rod, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness, has joined the list of contenders for the Belmont Stakes after breezing five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 on Saturday at Churchill Downs. He’ll join California Chrome and Ride On Curlin in the group of horses who are set to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

“His workout was nothing out of character,” said Mike Maker, who trains General a Rod for Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing. “He’s always been a good work horse, and he had good energy this morning.”

Rosie Napravnik will ride General a Rod in the Belmont Stakes, Maker said.

General a Rod won the Gulfstream Park Derby in January before finishing second in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth in February and third in the Grade 1 Florida Derby in March. He was steadied on the first turn and in the stretch when beaten 9 ¼ lengths in the Derby and was shuffled back when beaten eight lengths in the Preakness.

“Sooner or later we’ll have a good trip,” said Maker.

General a Rod will fly to New York on Thursday, Maker said.

Trainer Dale Romans today sent out Belmont contender Medal Count for a second straight bullet work at Churchill Downs, where the bay son of Dynaformer covered six furlongs in a brisk 1:10 3/5, fastest of eight at the distance. Last week, Medal Count – who had an eventful trip when eighth in the Kentucky Derby in his most recent start – breezed five furlongs in 59 2/5.

“I thought he worked great and I was really happy with the way he galloped out,” said Romans of the Spendthrift Farm color-bearer. “Belmont Park should suit him well and I don’t think the mile-and-a-half will be an issue for him.”

Medal Count, who counts the Grade 3 Transylvania among his three career victories, will arrive at Belmont Park on Thursday on a flight from Kentucky along with the Mike Maker-trained General a Rod.

Medal Count will be the fifth Belmont starter for Romans, who was third in 2005 with Nolan’s Count, third in 2010 with First Dude, fifth in 2011 with Preakness winner Shackleford, and seventh in 2012 with favored Dullahan.

“Like I said two years ago [before I’ll Have Another scratched], I’m not out to spoil a Triple Crown, I want to win the Belmont Stakes,” said Romans. “I wouldn’t be coming if I didn’t think the horse could do it.”



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Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome arrives at Belmont Park

Posted on 20 May 2014 by WNST Staff

California Chrome, who on June 7 will attempt to become thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner when he competes in the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, arrived at Belmont Park at approximately 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was led into barn 26 by assistant trainer Alan Sherman, walked the shed row briefly, and posed for the media on the lawn before settling in his stall.

“He likes to stand out here and pose,” said Alan Sherman. “He loves to get his picture taken. He’s a very inquisitive horse. He’s always checking out what’s going on around him. He actually been so straightforward to train, he’s made our jobs easy.”

California Chrome, a 3-year-old son of Lucky Pulpit, is trained by Art Sherman for Steven Coburn and Perry Martin. He has won six straight races, including the Derby by 1 ¾ lengths and the Preakness by 1 ½ lengths. No horse has swept the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

“This means the world to all of us,” said Alan Sherman. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s been an unbelievable ride for us. It’s hard to describe. It’s just been so much fun. This horse has taken us on the ride of our lives. This is the first time we’ve had a horse in any of these types of races. We’ve run a horse in the Breeders’ Cup but none of the Triple Crown races. I’m so proud of my dad for him to be able to do this towards the end of his career. He’s very deserving.”

“I think the industry could really use a Triple Crown winner right now, especially with a story like this,” the assistant trainer added. “This horse didn’t cost a ton of money to buy him or breed him. It’s kind of a feel-good story. This goes to show you never know what can happen in this game. This is what makes us get up every morning. You get the young horses every year and every year you hope you get a horse like this. It’s finally come our way. We’re enjoying it.”

California Chrome is tentatively scheduled to train on the main track at 6:45 a.m. daily. Alan Sherman then will be available at 8:15 a.m. at a special press briefing area next to the Belmont Café at the east end of the grandstand by the clubhouse entrance.

“We’ll gallop him up to the Saturday before the Belmont and then probably breeze him an easy half-mile and then just jog and gallop into the race,” said Alan Sherman.


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California Chrome departs Pimlico for Belmont

Posted on 20 May 2014 by WNST Staff


BALTIMORE, 05-20-14—Dual classic winner California Chrome left Pimlico Race Course at 6:14 a.m. for what is expected to be a 4-hour van ride to Elmont, NY. Trained by 77-year-old Art Sherman, California Chrome is eligible to become Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion in the 146th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) June 7 at Belmont Park.

“He looks great,” assistant trainer Alan Sherman said 45 minutes before the California Chrome boarded the Brook Ledge van. “I just went in there checking on him and he was biting me and pushing me around. He licked the bottom of his feed tub clean, so he ready to go.”

The modestly bred California-bred colt will seek to join the company of Triple Crown champions Affirmed (1978), Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), Citation (1948), Assault (1946), Count Fleet (1943),Whirlaway (1941), War Admiral (1937), Omaha (1935), Gallant Fox (1930) and Sir Barton (1919).

California Chrome followed up his May 3 Kentucky Derby (G1) victory with a 1 ½ length score in the Preakness Stakes (G1)Saturday afternoon.

“It is just an amazing experience,” added Sherman. “Every time I watch the Preakness replay I darn near cry. It has been a great experience. None of these horses have run a mile and a half so it is an unknown for everybody. This horse has a high cruising speed and I think he’ll be fine but the track at Belmont is completely different than it is here at Pimlico or Churchill. I know one thing, he will try hard.”

California Chrome was led out of the Preakness stakes barn by exercise rider Willie Delgado. After posing for pictures, he boarded without incident at 6:04 a.m.

“I think he enjoyed the couple days of relaxation,” Sherman said. “I probably don’t realize how big of a zoo it is going to be up there in New York. I have never gone through anything like this.”

Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin accompanied California Chrome on the trip leaving Social Inclusion as the only remaining Preakness runner left on the grounds. He is expected to depart for New York Sunday.


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Ride On Curlin will take another shot at California Chrome in Belmont

Posted on 18 May 2014 by WNST Staff




CALIFORNIA CHROME – Trainer Art Sherman widened his smile and nodded at the question of the morning Sunday after California Chrome added Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) to his win in the Kentucky Derby : Have you been thinking about the Triple Crown?

“I sure have,” Sherman said. “I’m thinking what the journey is, one more shot. I’m going to have a lot of fresh shooters waiting for me in New York.  He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. He really doesn’t have a lot to prove. He’s been a super horse for us. He’s one of those horses that you’re going to have to outrun to beat him. Maybe they won’t be able to beat him. I’m looking forward to that race.”

California Chrome will try to become the 12th Triple Crown winner – the first since Affirmed swept the series in 1978 – in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 7. The colt will walk the shedrow Pimlico at 7 a.m. Monday and ship from the Preakness Stakes Barn at Pimlico to Belmont Park at 6 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Sherman said he thinks his colt can complete the sweep in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, which has stopped 11 horses that won the Derby and Preakness since Affirmed. A 12th Derby-Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another in 2012, was found to be injured the day before the Belmont Stakes and was scratched.

“I do,” he said. “I have a good feeling about it. I’m really confident going into this race. After watching him run yesterday with two weeks (between races) and showing the courage that he had, they better have their running shoes on. I don’t care how many fresh shooters they’ve got there;  he’s the real McCoy.”

Sherman said California Chrome, a winner of six straight races, should be able to handle the Belmont distance.

“I really think a mile and a half is no problem at all for this horse,” he said.  “I know when I was at Los Alamitos he galloped two miles every day and the second time around there he was in another gear. He looked better to me the second time around than the first.”

However, he said jockey Victor Espinoza will have to be careful in the Belmont.

“To last that long you’re going to have to take a hold of your horse the first part of it,” Sherman said. “He’s an easy horse to rate. If you want him to go in :48, he goes in :48. If you want him to go in :46, he’ll go in :46. I don’t think he needs to carry his race with him. Whatever the pace is, perfect, he can ride him that way.”

Much like he did after the Derby, Sherman, 77, said he will return to his California home Monday to tend to his stable based at Los Alamitos, while his son and assistant trainer, Alan, manages California Chrome for the next two weeks. Art Sherman said he expects to travel to New York about a week before the Belmont Stakes.

During a meeting with the media outside the stakes barn, Sherman said the horse came out of the race well, that he is in favor of lengthening the time between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes from five to nine weeks, and that he expects the colt’s owners, Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, to question New York’s rule against the use of nasal strips used to improve breathing by opening the nasal passages.

Sherman was surprised to learn that New York State does not allow nasal strips and said it might present a problem.

“Now that’s going to be interesting,” Sherman said. “This guy, Perry Martin, he might not run if they say you can’t run with a nasal strip. He’s very funny about things like that. The horse has been on a six-race winning streak with nasal strips. I don’t know why they would ban you from wearing one, but we’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.”

By late morning, the New York State Gaming Commission issued a statement saying that it is up to the stewards to approve the use to nasal strips.

The statement from New York’s racing regulators:

“Neither the New York State Gaming Commission nor the Stewards at the New York Racing Association have received a request to use nasal strips in the June 7 Belmont Stakes.

“If a request to use nasal strips is made, the decision on whether to permit them or not will be fully evaluated and determined by the Stewards.

“This is in accordance with the Commission’s Thoroughbred Rule 4033.8, which states: “Only equipment specifically approved by the stewards shall be worn or carried by a jockey or a horse in a race.”

California Chrome’s chestnut coat shone in the morning sun a dozen or so hours after he posted a 1 1/2-length victory over Ride On Curlin in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Sherman said the horse seemed fine and was pulling Alan as they walked the shedrow.

Under Espinoza, California Chrome stalked the pace for six furlongs, moved to the front in the second turn and scooted away from the others at the top of the stretch.

“They took pretty good shots at him and he was in a longer drive than I’ve ever seen him,” Sherman said.  “Victor said he had to ask him at the half-mile pole to stay in there when that horse (Social Inclusion) wheeled up alongside of him. He could see that he was trying to push him down there a little bit so he let him run a little earlier than he usually does. He kept up a half-mile run. Usually he just runs the last quarter of a mile. That impressed me a lot, coming back in two weeks. I said, ‘Man, this horse has got to have a big heart. He really does.”

The gap between the Preakness and the Belmont is three weeks and Sherman said it’s time that the Triple Crown schedule is adjusted.

“I think they should change that rule and make it to where it’s about a nine-week program,” he said. “I think you’d have a lot more shooters in that race (the Preakness). You’d have a lot more Derby horses that would try it. Now you only get two or three Derby horses that go.

And Sherman said he is favor of prohibiting fresh horses from entering the series after the Derby. It’s now quite common for horses that were beaten in the Derby to skip the Preakness and run in the Belmont.

“To me, if you’re going to the Triple Crown, go for the Triple Crown. Don’t pick your spots,” he said.  “Let everybody be in the same situation and do it.  The Triple Crown is the Triple Crown. If you’re good enough horse to do it, let’s go. Make it fair where you don’t have to pick and choose your spots. I think that shows what kind of horse you’ve got.”


RIDE ON CURLIN – Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin walked the shedrow for 40 minutes in the Preakness Stakes Barn with trainer Billy Gowan Sunday morning following his solid second-place performance behind California Chrome in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“He came out of the race unbelievably good,” said the 48-year-old Louisiana native, affectionately known as ‘Bronco Billy.’ “He ate everything in his feed tub; he’s bouncing around here and his legs are ice-cold. I like getting a little frostbite on my hands when I feel them legs. I couldn’t ask for it any better.”

Gowan said he will continue his Triple Crown tour at Belmont Park to try Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome one more time in the Belmont Stakes. He will attempt to accomplish the same feat his dam’s (Magical Ride) grandsire, Victory Gallop achieved in 1998 when he upset Real Quiet’s Triple Crown bid.

The son of Curlin will remain at Pimlico until Tuesday, when he is scheduled to board a van bound for Belmont Park, along with the Derby and Preakness winner. Under new rider Joel Rosario, Ride On Curlin came from last out of the 10-post and passed the entire field except California Chrome. The losing margin was a diminishing 1 ½ lengths.

“I thought he ran huge,” Gowan said. “He trained great all week and he ran just like I thought he would, if you want to know the truth. He gave him a great ride. At the eighth-pole I thought, heck, we might have a shot. But you have to give a lot of credit to (California Chrome). He doesn’t ever quit. Ours didn’t either; he just couldn’t get to him.”

The Preakness was the 11th career start for Ride On Curlin, a bargain basement buy at $25,000 for former Louisville furniture chain store dealer Daniel Dougherty.  Still seeking his first stakes victory, Ride On Curlin is Dougherty’s only horse in training and the star of Gowan’s four-horse stable. Gowan picked out the colt in the 2012 Keeneland September Sale.

“I’ve been excited about that pedigree since the day I looked at the page myself,” Gowan said. It’s a lot of self satisfaction just knowing we could do this – just pick one out, train him, get him up here and make it all the way from the sale ring to here. It’s very gratifying.”

Gowan said it’s been “great fun” being part of this entire Triple Crown scenario.

“Hey, I’m a racing fan, too,” he said. “If I can’t win the Belmont, I dang sure want to see a Triple Crown.”


SOCIAL INCLUSION:  Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion emerged from his third-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) in good order.

“He ate everything and he’s happy. He didn’t show that he was tired at all,” Rontos Racing’s Ron Sanchez said Sundaymorning.

Social Inclusion is scheduled to remain at Pimlico until Friday before shipping to Belmont Park for a probable start in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 7.

“The Belmont is in the picture, but we’ll see what’s good for the horse. We’ll look at all the options we have,” said Sanchez, who mentioned the Met Mile (G1) and the Woody Stephens (G2) on Belmont Stakes Day as options. “It’s early, but we’re going to New York, definitely.”

The 3-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile, who made only his fourth career start in the Preakness, was regarded as the likely pacesetter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. However, the Manny Azpurua-trained colt was forced to race off the pace after experiencing early trouble.

“We’re very happy that he ran with his heart,” Sanchez said. “He didn’t really have a clean trip. He had a little trouble in the starting gate, in his stall, and after that he didn’t break well. He bumped twice with California Chrome and on the first turn he got the worst of the bumping. The horse stalked the pace and made a good run, but California Chrome took off.”

Wide on the backstretch, Social Inclusion pulled alongside California Chrome leaving the backstretch and the pair swept around tiring pacesetter Pablo Del Monte on the turn before entering the stretch, where California Chrome kicked away to victory. Social Inclusion tired but held on to third money.

“We’ll try again. He’s getting mature. We’re very proud of him,” said Sanchez, who is planning a mini-vacation in Ocean City, Md., where he lived during the ‘90s. “We’ll see what happens in his next race. We’ll work on the gate problems and see what options we have and go forward.”


GENERAL A ROD: Trainer Mike Maker said that General A Rod came out of his fourth-place Preakness finish “in good shape” but couldn’t make a definitive statement about the colt’s chances of being only the third horse to run in all three Triple Crown events this year (California Chrome and Ride On Curlin are confirmed for the Belmont Stakes).

Jack Wolf, managing partner of Starlight Racing, said Sunday morning that his group will confer with representatives from co-owner Skychai Racing later this week and decide on the colt’s future.

“I would like to run him in the Belmont,” Wolf said. “I’m a racing fan first and an owner second, and I’d like to see a Triple Crown. I’d like to win the Belmont, too.”

The son of Roman Ruler was only a head from finishing third in the Preakness behind show finisher Social Inclusion. The Gulfstream Park Derby winner finished eight lengths behind Preakness winner California Chrome.


RING WEEKEND: Trainer Graham Motion was “quite happy” with the way St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’Ring Weekend came out of his troubled fifth-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness.

The Tampa Bay Derby winner (G2) bumped with Bayern after the start and had to be steadied going into the first turn.

“I think, perhaps, with a cleaner trip he could have been on the board,” said Motion, whose colt was vanned back to Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. Saturday evening. “I was very pleased with the way he ran, and I think he showed he belongs with those horses.”

No decision has been made concerning Ring Weekend’s next start.

“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Terry (Finley, managing partner of West Point Thoroughbreds). There’s always a possibility of doing the Belmont, but there are going to be a lot of options for him this summer that I think he’d be very competitive in,” Motion said. “So, we’ll have to get together and decide what makes the most sense.”

Motion was impressed with California Chrome’s performance.

“I think he handled everything so well. He’s a real pro. He’s a good enough horse that he doesn’t get himself in trouble. Perhaps, that’s the kind of horse we need to have a Triple Crown winner,” Motion said.


PABLO DEL MONTE – Trainer Wesley Ward said his homebred colt Pablo Del Monte was headed home to KentuckySunday, where he will be freshened for a summer campaign.

Under jockey Jeffrey Sanchez, Pablo Del Monte led the field through six furlongs in 1:11.06, before being overtaken and finishing sixth.

“I was very happy with his effort and proud of him,” Ward said. “I thought we would have run a little better, but he certainly wasn’t going to beat the winner regardless. What a phenomenal horse. I’m so excited to be involved with a possible Triple Crown hopeful. It’s a great story.”

Ward said he and his co-owners, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, talked about aiming their colt to middle distance type races of seven furlongs and a mile. He said that after Pablo Del Monte returns from some time off, he will be prepared for the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga Race Course.


DYNAMIC IMPACT – John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact, who finished seventh in Saturday’s Preakness, was boarded on a van bound for Baltimore-Washington International Airport for an early Sunday morning flight to Louisville, Ky.


KID CRUZ – Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz came out of his eighth-place Preakness finish in good shape and was boarded on a van headed home to Belmont Park shortly after 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

“He came out well and everything was good this morning,” said trainer Linda Rice, who remained behind for the sales in Timonium this week. “We will fight again.”

Whether that’s against California Chrome in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks is still an uncertainty, Rice said.

“I’d say we’re about 50-50 right now,” said the first woman to ever win a Saratoga Race Course training title. No woman trainer has ever won a Triple Crown race.

Rice said she would meet with the colt’s owners   sometime soon and make a final determination.

Kid Cruz has had only six career starts, three of them victories, but Rice is confident that the son of 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid has his best races in front of him.

“He’s still catching up,” she said. “He just had too much to do yesterday. We know he’s got talent.”


BAYERN – Kaleem Shah’s Bayern, who finished ninth in Saturday’s Preakness, boarded an early Sunday morning flight to Louisville, Ky.


RIA ANTONIA – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia exited from her last-place finish in Saturday’s Preakness in good health.

“She’s in good shape,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “We’ll regroup and find another spot.”

Ria Antonia, the only filly in the 10-horse field, was boarded on a Tex Sutton flight to Louisville, Ky. early Sunday morning.

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California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid potentially in jeopardy due to nasal strip

Posted on 18 May 2014 by WNST Staff

BALTIMORE (AP) — Trainer Art Sherman says California Chrome might not pursue a Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes if New York officials won’t allow the colt to wear a nasal strip.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner has worn one during his current six-race winning streak after co-owner Perry Martin suggested it. Sherman said Sunday he will talk to New York racing officials and the horse’s owners.

Some horses, like humans, wear nasal strips to assist breathing.

Two years ago, I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness while wearing nasal strips. New York officials told his team the colt couldn’t wear one in the Belmont. The issue became moot when I’ll Have Another was scratched the day before the race because of a leg injury.

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Winstar silks

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Analysis & Selections for the 3rd Leg of Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes and Closing Day at Pimlico

Posted on 07 June 2013 by Gary Quill

Drawing courtesy of Mel @dailyracefunies. To see more of Mel’s work, click here.

On paper, the Saturday’s 145th running of the Belmont Stakes shapes up to be a great betting race, which isn’t a bad consolation since the luster of the race was tarnished by Orb’s loss to oxbow in the Preakness. There are fourteen (14) 3 year olds scheduled to break from the starting gate at Belmont on Saturday, for the $1 million 1½ mile classic, Post Time is 6:36pm EDT. NBC-TV will have “live” coverage from 5pm-7pm.

The weather forecast for the New York metropolitan area, location of Belmont Race Course, is “iffy”. The rain that fell all day on Friday may be gone by Saturday morning. MOstly cloduy skies and winds of 10-15 mph won’t be enough to dry out the track. So look for the track condition to be MUDDY.

Here’s how I see the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes playing out, listed in my predicted order of finish. Morning Line Odds are shown in comparison to the Early Betting Odds only from NYRA tracks, Fort Erie in Canada and Twinspires.com, which was only $39,552 in the WIN pool.

1st – Winstar silks #9 – Revolutionary
Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / Javier Castellano
Running Style: Closer
He was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby, but could only manage a 3rd place finish, while running on at the end. Skipping the Preakness was a wise move for this lightly raced son of War Pass. His granddaddy (A.P. Indy) on his Mom’s side won this race and there’s enough early speed in here to provide an honest pace to run at in deep stretch.
Early Betting Odds : 5-2 compared to Morning Line Odds: 9-2

2nd – Horton silks #10 – Will Take Charge
Trainer / Jockey: D. Wayne Lukas / Jon Court
Running Style: Tactical Speed
One of three colts who will have run in all 3 Triple Crown races (Orb and Oxbow are the other two), he was sort of a Wise-Guy horse in the Preakness after his strong run into the Churchill Downs stretch was abruptly stopped when Verrazano swerved in front of him. Unfortunately for his backers in the Preakness, he never fired, finishing 7th but during during Preakness week he wasn’t “on his toes” in the A.M. as he was during Derby week. Based on video from Belmont Park workouts, he looks “fit as a fiddle” again. Therefore, at a price he’s a must use in my exotics.
Early Betting Odds : 23-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 20-1

3rd – Dogwood silks #12 – Palace Malice
Trainer / Jockey : Todd Pletcher / Mike Smith
Running Style: Stalker
His Daddy (Curlin) lost the 2007 Belmont Stakesby a head, so there’s no question this colt can get the 12 furlongs. Mike Smith retains the mount after a less than stellar ride in the Derby, but the addition of blinkers likely caused Palace Malice to be way too aggressive and uncharacteristically go to the lead. The blinkers come off which should translate into a more relaxed run with a nice stalking trip.
Early Betting Odds : 10-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 15-1

4th – Repole silks #3 – Overanalyze
Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / John Velazquez
Running Style: Mid-Pack
Has the same sire (Dixie Union) as last years’ Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags. So one would the distance should not be a question. Trainer Pletcher has 4 others in here but his #1 jock rides this one. If you believe in patterns, then look at Overanalyze’s past performances. He wins then loses, wins, loses He lost his last race.
Early Betting Odds : 11-1compared to Morning Line Odds: 12-1

5th – Janney silks #5 – Orb
Trainer / Jockey: Shug McGaughey / Joel Rosario
Running Style: Mid-Pack
The Derby winner was prematurely anointed a strong choice to be the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years, but it wasn’t to be as he was a distant 4th in the Preakness Stakes. So what makes him so special to be the favorite here? I’m thinking he may have peaked on the first Saturday of May and could be a tired horse.
Early Betting Odds: 5-2 compared to Morning Line Odds: 3-1

6th – Repole silks #13 – Unlimited Budget
Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / Rosie Napravnik
Running Style: Tactical Speed
The only filly in the field will try to become just the 4th filly in 145 runnings of the Belmont Stakes to enter the Winners’ Circle. She has the bloodlines and an impressive resume’ (4 wins in 5 career races; 3 in graded stakes). In an effort to compare her against her male counterparts, we can look to her Feb. 23rd race at Fairgrounds. A winning effort but her time was 4/5th of a second slower than the winner of the Risen Star, run 50 minutes after her victory. Neither the winner(I’ve Struck a Nerve) nor runner-up (Code West) are in here, but Palace Malice ran 3rd just a half length behind the winner.
Early Betting Odds : 12-1compared to Morning Line Odds: 8-1

7th – Calumet silks #7 – Oxbow
Trainer / Jockey: D. Wayne Lukas / Gary Stevens
Running Style: Speed
 Winner of the Preakness in gate-to-wire fashion, many believe he got away with a slow pace and put his competition to sleep. That won’t happen in this race as at least 3 others (Freedom Child, Giant Finish, Midnight Taboo and possibly Frac Daddy) will keep him company throughout the early stages. I see a carbon copy of his Derby run where he had the lead entering the stretch but didn’t have the stamina to seal the deal.
Early Betting Odds : 16-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 5-1

8th – Fipke silks #14 – Golden Soul
Trainer / Jockey: Dallas Stewart / Robby Albarado
Running Style: Closer
After his second place finish in the Derby at 34-1, it seems that all the experts have now discovered this hard-knocking colt who just keeps running, but only has beaten maidens in his 6 race career. Add the fact no horse has won the Belmont Stakes from the 14th post in at least 105 years.
Early Betting Odds : 16-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 10-1

9th – West Pt silks #2 – Freedom Child
Trainer / Jockey: Thomas Albertrani / Luis Saez
Running Style: Speed
Romped by 13+ lengths in slop in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont in most recent outing. One problem. He did it alone on the lead, dictating the pace. That won’t happen in this race. Though he only lost to Orb by 2 and finished ahead of Revolutionary by 2¼ in the same maiden race at Aqueduct in November, he’s likely to be a pace victim.
Early Betting Odds : 8-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 8-1

10th – Magic City silks #1 – Frac Daddy Trainer / Jockey: Kenneth McPeek / Alan Garcia
Running Style: Tactical Speed
A quarter crack derailed his Derby Trail but still ran for the roses (16th). Been training lights out at CD since, but upon arriving in the Big Apple, he walked (1:04.60) through 5 furlongs in his final tune-up. Word has it he’ll gun from the #1 post, joining early speed. Looking for a glimmer of hope? In his career debut, he ran a nice second going a mile on a muddy Belmont surface.
Early Betting Odds : 23-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 30-1

11th – Godolphin silks #6 – Incognito
Trainer / Jockey : Kiaran McLaughlin / Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Running Style: Tactical Speed
It’s hard to believe the number of experts picking this one to pull a huge upset. I don’t see it. Other than having the pedigree to “run all day”, he lacks the seasoning. Making his seventh career start, took four tries to break his maiden, then followed that up with a win by a nose in a $25k Optional Claimer for N1X. Throw in the fact he’ll carry 10 more lbs. than he did in his last race, which is 6 more than he has ever carried. Early Betting Odds : 19-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 20-1

12th – Pick Six silks #11 – Vyjack
Trainer / Jockey: Rudy Rodriguez / Julien Leparoux
Running Style: Tactical Speed
Went from an undefeated, potential Derby favorite heading into the Wood Memorial, to an afterthought for the Belmont Stakes. An 18th place finish by 52 lengths will do that to a horse, but is he really all that bad? From the looks of his recent workout (5f in 59 flat) over “Big Sandy” (aka Belmont), on paper is impressive but he was ridden hard in order to get that time. Derby jock Garrett Gomez opted for a bigger longshot in here (Midnight Taboo) rather than stick with this guy.
Early Betting Odds : 31-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 20-1

13th – Sunrise silks #4 – Giant Finish
Trainer / Jockey: Anthony Dutrow / Edgar Prado
Running Style: Speed
He’s a NY-bred who does his best within that company and/or on synthetic surface tracks. Ran in the Kentucky Derby without embarrassing himself (10th by 13¼) but never threatened, simply ran a “even” race. Expect Prado to get him up close early in order to have a fighting chance, but the distance will be too much for him.
Early Betting Odds : 34-1 compared to Morning Line Odds: 30-1

14th – Repole silks #8 – Midnight Taboo
Trainer / Jockey: Todd Pletcher / Garrett Gomez
Running Style: Speed
He’s basically just starting his career with only 3 career races, is overmatched and is only runner in here that has never faced graded stakes company. The owner also has Overanalyze and Unlimited Budget. Both of those will need a quick pace to run at, so Midnight Taboo appears to be the sacrificial lamb.
Early Betting Odds : 37-1compared to Morning Line Odds: 30-1

Based on my analysis of the Belmont Stakes, I’ll play…

$10 WIN, PLACE, SHOW on #9 (Revolutionary) – Cost $30

$1 EXACTA BOX on #3 (Overanalyze) #9 (Revolutionary) #10 (Will Take Charge) #12 (Palace Malice) – Cost $12

$1 TRIFECTA PART-WHEEL 3, 5, 9, 10 w/ 3, 5, 9, 10 w/ 12 (Palace Malice) in 3rd spot – Cost $12

Selections for Pimlico’s Closing Day, Saturday, June 8th card  are on Page 2.

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