Tag Archive | "Triple Crown"

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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

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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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MJC President Chuckas would like to move Preakness back to June

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MJC President Chuckas would like to move Preakness back to June

Posted on 19 May 2014 by WNST Staff

CHUCKAS ADDRESSES POTENTIAL OF MOVING PREAKNESS DATE

BALTIMORE, 05-19-14—At his annual post-Preakness media session this morning in the Pimlico winners’ circle, Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas addressed the potential of moving the date of the Preakness Stakes (G1). Last week, Chuckas told print reporters he wanted to change the spacing of the Triple Crown.

Since 1969, the current order of the Kentucky Derby (G1) on the first Saturday in May, followed by the Preakness two weeks later and the Belmont Stakes (G1) on the first Saturday in June has been in place. However, on eleven occasions the Preakness was run prior to the Derby and twice (1917 and 1922), both were on the same day. The Belmont has been contested before the Preakness eleven times.

“I respect tradition but I also think tradition cannot impede the growth or betterment of the industry,” Chuckas said. “When we get our most attention we tend to consolidate which is not beneficial to the thoroughbred industry as a whole. People might say you will have to put an asterisk by the horse who wins the Triple Crown under these conditions. This schedule has changed often so the bottom line is you don’t have to put an asterisk. If you take a look at the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, all of them have gone through transformations with wild card additions and scheduling changes but do you really believe there should be an asterisk by the Seattle Seahawks because they won the Super Bowl under different conditions that the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl 1? I don’t think so.”

Chuckas said he will work with officials at Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association toward a schedule that has the Kentucky Derby retain its position on the first Saturday in May, while the Preakness would be moved to the first weekend in June and the Belmont Stakes to the first weekend in July.

“The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years,” added Chuckas. “It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it. But this idea is not just for the Triple Crown races. We have an obligation to the public to put our best racing on the table when the world is watching and we are not doing that. We could promote a Woodford-Dixie-Manhattan series for older turf stars and Triple Crown filly series with the Kentucky Oaks, Black-Eyed Susan and Acorn. All those things are possible but is going to demand a collaborative effort between the parties to make this happen.”

Only three horses from the May 3 Kentucky Derby competed in Saturday’s Preakness.

 

CALIFORNIA CHROME WALKS SHEDROW, WILL DEPART PIMLICOTUESDAY MORNING

California Chrome, who will try to become the 12th Triple Crown winner in the Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 7, walked the shedrow in the Preakness stakes barn first with assistant trainer Alan Sherman and then with groom Raul Rodriguez Mondaymorning. Trainer Art Sherman stopped by to say goodbye to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner before heading back to California for the next two weeks.

“He came out of that race great, feeling good,” Alan Sherman said. “He is usually tired for a few days but he was feeling really good. I am starting to realize the significance of it all. It has been a great ride this horse has put us on and I never fathomed we would be one race away from winning the Triple Crown.”

Thirty-three horses have been eligible to win the Triple Crown entering the Belmont but just 11 have succeeded. It has been 36 years since Affirmed swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1978. There have been only three Triple Crown winners since Citation in 1948.

California Chrome and Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin will leave Pimlico for Belmont Park Tuesday morning at 6 a.m.

Ride On Curlin, who finished 1 ½ lengths behind California Chrome Saturday afternoon, walked the shedrow at the same time as the Preakness winner.

Social Inclusion, who finished third Saturday, is scheduled to return to the track Friday and will leave for New York Sunday.

 

PREAKNESS INFIELDFEST HEADLINER LORDE WINS TOP NEW ARTIST AWARD SUNDAY NIGHT 

One day after headlining the 2014 Preakness InfieldFest concert, Grammy Award winner Lorde picked up another honorSunday night, winning the Top New Artist Award at the Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.

The 17-year-old sensation performed a 75-minute set on the main stage Saturday afternoon then watched the Preakness from the rail just passed the finish line, cheering California Chrome to victory in the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

A record 123,469 fans packed Pimlico Saturday.

-mjc-

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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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California Chrome Shines In Preakness, Looks To Win Triple Crown

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California Chrome Shines In Preakness, Looks To Win Triple Crown

Posted on 17 May 2014 by Brandon Sacks

In the history of the Triple Crown, there have been 11 horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes in the same year.  The last horse to do this was Affirmed back in 1978.  Since then, there have been 12 horses to win both the Derby and the Preakness, but all have failed to capture the third leg hosted in Belmont Park, most recently just two years ago with I’ll Have Another.

California Chrome entered the Preakness coming off a rather dominating Kentucky Derby run, which ended with a victory of almost two lengths even though he eased up during the last few yards.  A little time before the race, California Chrome was at 3/5 odds to win the Preakness.  In other words, he was the overwhelming favorite to take the second leg of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome ran the Preakness almost identically to how he ran the Derby.  He started letting another horse set the pace and made the move coming out of the last turn.  The most recent odds right before the race had California Chrome at 1/2 odds to win, and win he did.  California Chrome won the Preakness by a length and a half with a time of 1:54.84.  Which horse was the last to win the Preakness with a 1/2 odds?  It was Affirmed on his way to winning the Triple Crown back in 1978.

California Chrome enters the Belmont Stakes as the 13th horse since the Affirmed winner to have hopes to win the Triple Crown.  He looks to be the first during this span to actually win the Belmont Stakes and take the Crown.  California Chrome will enter the Belmont Stakes as the presumed favorite even though the original odds and lines have not yet been released.

Is California Chrome something special or is he just a pretender?  Will we have our first Triple Crown Champion since 1978 this year?  We can speculate for now, but we will find out for sure in three weeks.

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California Chrome, General A Rod, Ride On Curlin get first work in at Pimlico

Posted on 13 May 2014 by WNST Staff

CALIFORNIA CHROME GETS ACQUAINTED WITH PIMLICO TRACK/ DERBY WINNER JOGS IN PREPARATION FOR PREAKNESS STAKES; RING WEEKEND SEEKS TO BECOME EIGHTH GELDING TO WIN; GENERAL A ROD, RIDE ON CURLIN, KID CRUZ TAKE TO TRACK

 

CALIFORNIA CHROME – Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome’s first visit to the track at Pimlico Tuesday morning was more about getting acclimated to the home of the Preakness Stakes than exercise.

Exercise rider Willie Delgado took the big chestnut out for a tour of the one-mile course at 6:45 a.m., approximately 16 hours after he arrived at the Preakness Stakes Barn on a trip from Louisville, Ky.

“He jogged and he was great,” said assistant trainer Alan Sherman, who has managed the horse since the Derby while his father, Art, has tended to the rest of his stable in Southern California. “He stood out there for a while, just looked around and took it all in. He’s a really curious horse. He likes to look around a lot and check out the surroundings. He was good. He was really good.”

Alan Sherman said the colt has settled in nicely in Stall 40, traditionally the Pimlico home of the Kentucky Derby winner. The next step, Sherman said, was to let the horse check out the track while he was stretching his legs and getting a feel for the surface.

“Yeah, just let him look around,” Alan Sherman said. “When he gallops, I want him to be focused on what he’s doing and not be looking around and stub his toe or anything.”

Art Sherman, 77, was scheduled to arrive from California Tuesday afternoon and will be at Pimlico when California Chrome returns to the track at 6:45 Wednesday morning.

“He is enjoying the ride immensely,” Alan Sherman said, “but he’s not a young guy and was getting a little tired toward the end of all that. He’s fresh now.”

California Chrome’s emergence from promising young horse to the leader of his division with his resounding Derby victory has put the Shermans in the spotlight. Art Sherman has spent 60 years in the business as a stable hand, exercise rider, jockey and trainer. Alan Sherman works for his father and his brother, Steve, is a trainer in Northern California. The Sherman family is enjoying its ride with California Chrome.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Alan Sherman said. “Every year when you get the 2-year-olds in you’re saying, ‘maybe this will be the one that will get us to the Derby,’ but we’ve been saying that for a lot of years now and we finally made it. It’s really special.”

California Chrome, bred and owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, brings a five-race winning streak into the Preakness, but he wasn’t an overnight sensation. He won two of his first six starts, most of them races against other California-bred horses before he stepped forward.

“In the King Glorious, the last stake at Hollywood Park (Dec. 22), that opened my eyes up. Then he just kept getting better,” Alan Sherman said. “Then he won the California Breeders’ Derby and that was another impressive race. But the San Felipe (G2) was probably when I went, ‘wow.’ It was the first time against open company and he just broke two in front and won so easy that day. I was pretty excited about that one.”

After the San Felipe, California Chrome won the Santa Anita Derby (G1) by 5 1/4 lengths, a performance that made him the Derby favorite. His victory at Churchill Downs on May 3 made Art Sherman the oldest trainer to win the Derby and punctuated a solid career.

“My dad is so deserving of it,” Alan Sherman said. “He works hard. He goes to the sales and buys horses himself and claims horses with his own money. He puts up his own money. He deserves it.”

Having prevailed from the 19-horse Derby, in which several participants ran into traffic, California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza move to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, a slightly shorter test at 1 3/16 miles with 10 likely starters.

“You’re not going to get the traffic problems, hopefully,” Alan Sherman said. “You can get in traffic problems in a four-horse race, but it’s not 20, by any means. And he’s got enough turn of foot. All Victor has to do is squeeze on him a little bit and he can keep himself out of trouble.”

When someone asked him what the worst possible scenario might be, Alan Sherman grinned and said, “Losing.” Sherman understood that the question was about race dynamics and quickly said the colt’s versatility would enable Espinoza to ride the race as it develops.

“If they go too slow in front, he’ll take it right to them and push the horses in front of him. If they are going fast in front, he can just sit off the pace,” he said. “That’s the good thing about him – that he doesn’t have one style of running. He’s pretty push-button. If you ask him he’ll do it.”

 

BAYERN – Kaleem Shah’s Bayern walked the shedrow at Barn 33 at Churchill Downs and received a visit from jockey Rosie Napravnik Tuesday morning.

Never worse than third in four career starts, Bayern had worked five furlongs in company Monday with Napravnik up in 1:02 3/5.

“He came out of the work fine and we are ready for Baltimore,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert.

Bayern, along with Preakness hopefuls Dynamic Impact and Ria Antonia, is scheduled to be loaded onto a van at 10:30 Wednesday morning for the short ride to Louisville International Airport to make a Tex Sutton charter flight to Baltimore scheduled to arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in early afternoon.
DYNAMIC IMPACT – It was back to business Tuesday morning for John Oxley’s Illinois Derby (G3) winner Dynamic Impact.

With exercise rider Marco Cano aboard, Dynamic Impact was on the fast track at Churchill Downs to gallop 1 ½ miles. Dynamic Impact had worked five furlongs on a track labeled as “good” in 1:01 3/5 Sunday and walked the shedrow Monday.

Assistant trainer Norman Casse indicated that Dynamic Impact would visit the starting gate Wednesday as part of his morning routine.

Dynamic Impact will be ridden in the Preakness by Miguel Mena, who rode the Tiznow colt for the first time in the Illinois Derby.

In that race, Dynamic Impact eventually wore down 2-5 favorite Midnight Hawk, winning by a nose with the third-place horse 8 ½ lengths back.

“He is a classy horse,” Mena said of what will be his initial Preakness mount. “Those kinds of horses dig in and don’t like to get beat.

“He’s a fighter, but he doesn’t like to be inside. At the half-mile pole (in the Illinois Derby), I was able to pull him out (from the rail) and he found another gear. He fought so hard until he got the job done.”

 

GENERAL A ROD – Trainer Mike Maker was on the scene Tuesday morning for General a Rod’s first trip to the racetrack at Pimlico Race Course, supervising the colt’s 1 ½-mile gallop under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.

“He really seems to like it here,” said Maker, the former D. Wayne Lukas assistant who is preparing his first Preakness runner. “He likes that big stall. He’s all sprawled every time I’ve seen him. Last night and this morning he was in the same spot, sprawled out and relaxed.”

The son of Roman Ruler is in the same location that trainer Doug O’Neil’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another occupied two years ago at the rear of Barn D. Maker said he’s hoping to glean some of that good fortune for the Gulfstream Park Derby winner.

Maker has had much more tangible exposure to Preakness success, having served alongside Lukas for more than a decade from 1993 to 2003, when the Hall of Famer won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown with Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995), and Derby winner Charismatic (1999). General a Rod wasn’t quite as successful in Louisville, finishing a troubled 11th.

“I didn’t think he had a fair shake,” said the 45-year-old Michigan native. “He had a rough trip and didn’t get to run his race. He came out of it well and with high energy. It’s the Preakness … we might as well give it another shot.”

General a Rod was a model of consistency before the Derby, never off the board in his first five starts, including a head defeat in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and a 1 ½-length setback in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream in his final prep. Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing purchased the colt only days before the Kentucky Derby from J. Armando Rodriguez.

General a Rod has impressed his trainer with his consistency through his sophomore season.

“He’s been exactly the same,” Maker said. “Obviously he needs to get a little better, but, knock on wood, he’s had a string of great days for a long time.”

 

KID CRUZ – Assistant trainer Samantha Randazzo supervised a routine gallop for Kid Cruz in the colt’s first trip over the Pimlico racing strip Tuesday morning shortly after 6:30 a.m.

Trainer Linda Rice is scheduled to be on hand at Pimlico for Wednesday’s post-position draw for the Preakness.

“He got in last night at about 8 o’clock and had a nice mile-and-a-half gallop this morning over the track,” Rice said by phone from her Belmont Park base.

Rice said she plans to gallop the colt the rest of the week and plans to school him in the paddock sometime on Thursday.

Julian Pimentel, who has been aboard a pair of ungraded stakes victories by Kid Cruz in Maryland, will also be going for his first Preakness victory in only his second mount. He finished 11th with Norman Asbjornson in the 2011 edition.

Rice, representing Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds, claimed Kid Cruz from Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott for $50,000 off his maiden-breaking win on dirt at Aqueduct on Nov. 13. Mott had tried the son of Lemon Drop Kid on grass in his first start with no success before making the surface switch to dirt. Rice was paying attention.

“I spoke to the connections and we decided to put in the claim,” said Rice, who was the first female to ever win a training title at Saratoga Race Course in 2009. “I really liked his conformation and the way he moved.”

After closing to finish second in an allowance at Aqueduct on Jan. 26 to begin his sophomore season, Kid Cruz was shipped to Laurel and rewarded his connections with a resounding four-length victory in the $100,000 Private Terms.

The Wood Memorial was next on Kid Cruz’s schedule but he couldn’t make the race, so Rice opted to aim for the Preakness. He prepped for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown with another easy victory in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on April 19.

“He’s stepping up in class considerably,” said Rice, who is preparing to saddle her first Preakness starter. “His numbers aren’t as good as most of the horses in the field, so we know he’ll have to step up in this race, but we’re excited to give him the chance. He deserves it.”

 

PABLO DEL MONTE - Trainer Wesley Ward reported Tuesday that Pablo Del Monte had a good and uneventful morning of training at Keeneland.

“We galloped a mile and a half,” Ward said. “Everything went beautifully.”

Pablo Del Monte debuted with a victory in April 2013 and won his next start, an allowance race at Keeneland in October. Ward moved him into stakes company, where he has been competitive but winless in four tries. Pablo Del Monte set the early pace in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) and finished third, 3 1/2 lengths behind Dance With Fate.

Ward decided to skip the Kentucky Derby after the colt drew into the field from the also-eligible list and was assigned Post 20, opting to focus on the Preakness. Pablo Del Monte will be Ward’s third Preakness runner.

“He’s certainly ready,” Ward said.  “He worked 1:10-and-change last week and he came back with a 1:12 1/5 on Saturday. He’s had the spacing between the Blue Grass and the Preakness now. If ever you’d want to take on a Kentucky Derby winner it’s when he’s coming back on short rest, like these two weeks.

“My colt’s got speed and historically, for Aloma’s Ruler and horses like that, speed has been to their advantage and they have taken it from gate to wire. There have been a lot of gate-to-wire winners. Everything is kind of coming together right now and I really don’t want to change anything. That’s why I kept the horse here until Wednesday. Everything is looking great.”

Ward had originally planned to ship Pablo Del Monte to Baltimore from Lexington, Ky, on Wednesday, but switched up and said he would put the colt on a Monday charter. However, he reversed himself Monday and went back to the original schedule.

Jeffrey Sanchez will ride Pablo Del Monte in the Preakness Stakes.

 

RIA ANTONIA – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia, jogged a mile under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez shortly after the track at Churchill Downs opened at 6 o’clock Tuesday morning.

Winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) via disqualification last fall, Ria Antonia is scheduled to gallop in the morning before heading to Baltimore.

Ria Antonia would be the first filly to run in the Preakness since Rachel Alexandra won the race in 2009 with Calvin Borel aboard. Borel will ride Ria Antonia on Saturday.

 

RIDE ON CURLIN – Trainer Billy Gowan took a very active role in Ride On Curlin’s morning activities at Pimlico Tuesday. After leading the son of Curlin out to the track for a vigorous 1 1/8-mile gallop under exercise rider Bryan Beccia, Gowan walked his Preakness hopeful in the shedrow and assisted in the bath and the grooming of the star of his four-horse stable.

“It looked like he got over it (the track) perfect to me,” said Gowan, whose colt shipped into Pimlico from Kentucky Mondayafternoon. “Every track he’s ever been on he’s gone over good. This one looks just like the rest of them, really good. I was really happy.”

The son of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin had an eventful trip from Post 18 in the Kentucky Derby under Calvin Borel, ultimately passing seven horses in the stretch to finish seventh behind California Chrome. Gowan decided to switch riders to Joel Rosario for the Preakness.

“If we can get a clean trip, we’ll just see,” said the 48-year-old Louisiana native. “California Chrome is an awful nice horse. I’d just like a clean trip and see what the horse is really made of. I thought it’d be our day in the Derby; maybe it’ll be our day in the Preakness.”

Ride On Curlin won an allowance race in the first start of his 3-year-old campaign at Oaklawn Park. He went on to finish third in both the Southwest and Rebel, before running a solid second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and heading to Kentucky.

Last season he set a track record at Ellis Park while breaking his maiden at 5 ½ furlongs, but owner Daniel Dougherty turned down a $1 million offer to sell the colt.

Rosario will be the fourth jockey for Ride On Curlin in six races this season.

“I don’t think it’s the jockey,” Gowan said. “All these jockeys are trying to win. They want to win races just like I do. It’s just racing luck and circumstances. He’s (Rosario) a really strong finisher on a horse, and it’s going to take a really strong finisher to beat California Chrome and all these horses. They’re all nice horses.”

Ride On Curlin is scheduled to breeze  “an easy half-mile” Wednesday morning.

 

RING WEEKEND – St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend galloped 1 5/8 miles under Alice ClaphamTuesday morning at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

The 3-year-old son of Tapit is scheduled for a quest to become the eighth gelding to win the Preakness Stakes, from which geldings were barred from 1920 through 1934.

Ring Weekend was gelded following his 2-year-old campaign, in which he finished third twice in three starts.

“He was quite a tricky horse to be around. We also felt that perhaps he was showing more in the morning than he was in the afternoon. It gave us reason to think there was more there and perhaps getting his mind more focused would help,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Also, he had one testicle that was not properly descended. We had in the back of our minds that it could be bothering him.”

Ring Weekend made a good showing in his 2014 debut, finishing second in a Gulfstream turf race on Jan. 18, before breaking his maiden on dirt on Feb. 8.

“The first time we ran him he was still green, a little cheeky, perhaps, when he ran on the grass at Gulfstream that day. The second time he really put it together. That was a big transformation for him,” Motion said. “Even this morning, we were commenting on what a different horse he is in the morning and how he is a more professional workhorse. I think it’s an ongoing thing for him.”

Ring Weekend followed up his maiden victory with a triumph in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and a second-place finish in the Calder Derby. The Kentucky-bred gelding was knocked out of a trip to the Kentucky Derby by a fever that cost him a few days of training. He showed no ill effects from the fever last Saturday, when he breezed six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 before galloping out a mile in 1:41at Fair Hill.

Funny Cide was the last gelding to win the Preakness in 2003, following up his Kentucky Derby victory with a 9 ¾-length romp in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

 

SOCIAL INCLUSION – Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion jogged once around the Pimlico racetrack under exercise rider Domingo Navarro Tuesday on the morning after turning in a sharp 47-second half-mile workout in preparation for Saturday’s Preakness.

“He is feeling good. He ate up everything,” trainer Manny Azpurua said. “I really think he is going to run a big race.”

Azpurua is greatly encouraged by the way Social Inclusion has trained over the Pimlico surface since arriving from Gulfstream Park on Thursday.

“After his work, he came back with his head up and looking around. Sometimes after a work, horses that are tired will drop their heads. He was looking around. It was like he did nothing,” said the 85-year-old native of Venezuela who has been training in South Florida since 1979.

The son of Pioneerof the Nile also pleased his trainer during his trip to the track Tuesday morning.

“My main concern is if there is rain for Saturday, but I believe he’d handle it,” Azpurua said. “I think the track will be nice either way. I like the racetrack here.”

Social Inclusion, who has worked on a wet track at Gulfstream, has excelled in three starts on fast tracks, winning his first two starts by a combined 17 ½ lengths before setting the pace  into deep stretch during a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G1) on April 5.

Having lost an automatic berth in the Kentucky Derby when nosed out of second in the Wood, Social Inclusion was on the outside looking in when entries were taken for the Run for the Roses. His connections opted not to enter him to be included in the also-eligible list. He was entered in the Sir Bear Stakes at Gulfstream on Derby Day, but he was scratched due to a bruise in his right front foot.

“I worked him the way he worked (Monday) because I lost the chance to run him (May 3),” Azpurua said. “I’m very happy with him.”

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