Saturday, June 7, 2014

Belmont Stakes 2014 - Triple Crown Edition

BELMONT PARK - June 07, 2014
Race 11 - 6:52 PM
Belmont S.   (Grade I)
Purse - $1,500,000
Distance - One And One Half Miles
Surface - Dirt

1 – Medal Count
2 – California Chrome
3 – Matterhorn
4 – Commanding Curve
5 – Ride On Curlin
6 – Matuszak
7 – Samraat
8 – Commissoner
9 – Wicked Strong
10 – General A Rod
11 - Tonelist

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Triple Crown in Horse Racing means a horse must win the Kentucky Derby  (in Kentucky) on the first Saturday in May, The Preakness (in Baltimore) two weeks later and then The Belmont Stakes (in New York) three weeks after that.

It is a task that involves taking on possibly 19 other horses in the first race – an unusually brief rest (by modern terms) to win the second race, and finally (after still a relatively short rest) winning the longest race they have ever run (and likely will ever run), a mile and ½ , for the final leg of the Triple Crown.

And to top it off – you can only do this during your three year old season – meaning #1 California Chrome can’t come back and try this again next year.
Now who's up for some Atari Pong?

Many GREAT horses have fallen short since 1978 when Affirmed was the last horse to win the American Triple Crown --- and today we’ll see if California Chrome can break the drought.

Since April California Chrome has performed like clock-work – his recipe for the winners circle has been to stay towards the top of the pack until then accelerate out of the final turn like he’s been shot out of a cannon.

California Chrome has glided home, unchallenged, in his last three races – in my opinion his biggest challengers today will be Fatigue from racing in four different states (California , Kentucky, Maryland and finally New York) in almost two months, and the daunting distance of this race.

His competitors are solid --- but all things being equal he has shown that he can beat all of them on a consistent basis.

To be up front – I think when it comes to the Belmont Stakes – if you take the favorite out of it – it’s always kind of a wide open race – because you just have no idea how these horses are going to react to this distance.

#1 Medal Count – his last win was the Transylvania Stakes in April, he looked good in the Blue Grass Stakes, however when he’s faced more quality talent he has not finished well (8th in the Kentucky Derby, 5th in the Fountain of Youth)

#11 Tonelist recently finished 1st in the Peter Pan Stakes here in New York – defeating 2nd place #8 Commissoner and 4th place #3 Matterhorn.

Tonelist made a point of setting the early pace in the Peter Pan --- and ran very well on a sloppy track.  I’m not crazy about this post position today – but he could push California Chrome early and that could leave Chrome winded in the final furlong.

#4 Commanding Curve was closing on California Chrome in the final furlongs in the Kentucky Derby. This is the horse that concerns me the most – however I’m only basing that on how strong he looked at the end of the Kentucky Derby. His last victory was in November – but this horse has a solid post position and if he can finish as strongly as he did a month ago – he might be able to upset a tired Cali Chrome.

#5 Ride On Curlin could be the second best horse in this race – however this will be his fourth race in less than two months, and I think asking for a Belmont Victory out of this horse is asking too much. I like that they’re running him as if he’s going for the Triple Crown….but I think this horse needs to rest for a few months and start building towards a solid four year old season.

#6 Matuszak – his last race was a 2nd place finish in April. He has shown nothing to indicate this is his race, but he’s exactly the kind of horse that comes out of nowhere.

#9 Wicked Strong is considered the second favorite in this race – he won the Wood Memorial and finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. Reports from Belmont are that he has looked sharp in workouts…..and he does have an advantage of being more rested than California Chrome and only having to race in two states (Kentucky and New York) over the past two months.

#7 Samraat – has finished just behind Wicked Strong in his past two races (2nd in the Wood Memorial / 5th in the Kentucky Derby).  Samraat had won 5 straight races before meeting up with Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial .

I think Wicked Strong, Samraat and Tonelist are the three best New York has to offer – they are properly rested and have home court advantage here in New York – Wicked Strong closed very well in the Wood Memorial – so he deserves to be considered a solid threat.

#10 General A Rod – similar to Ride On Curlin – this horse will be running in all three Triple Crown races and I have a lot of respect for racing like you’re going for it all. The General finished 4th in the Preakness and 11th in the Kentucky Derby. Solid horse – but he comes in with no advantages and just as fatigued as the Favorite who has beaten him soundly.

When the  bell rings and the gates fly open – I look for Samraat, Tonelist and California Chrome to set up shop at the top of the pack – pace will be incredibly important in this race – if these top three horses start dueling early and set a half mile pace under 48 seconds… could disastrous if you’re hoping for a Triple Crown bid.

As the come out of the final turn I’ll be looking for California Chrome to separate from the pack – I think he’ll be able to own the rail the entire race so he could put about 4 or more lengths between him and the rest as the head for home.

At this point we’ll see if Samraat or Tonelist are still in the hunt and pushing Cali Chrome or if they’ve begun to fade – in stretch for home I’ll start looking for Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve to start closing --- at it will simply come down to how fatigued California Chrome is, and if he has the fight to hold off any of the late closers.....or if one of these horses just "has" the distance in him?? As I stated it's more wide open then most might think.
Strangely Sensitive Cheetah would
love a California Chrome victory
and a Nathan's Hot Dog with
Chili Fries......

What can I say….I’d love to see California Chrome win a Triple Crown…..

Closing Speed likes: California Chrome / Commanding Curve / Tonelist

If I’m betting $26 on this race I like:
$10 – Wicked Strong to Win
$10 – Commanding Curve to Win
$6 – Exacta Box – California Chrome / Tonelist / Commanding Curve