A friend of mine told me that the Derby is won by the
luckiest horse, the Preakness by the best horse, and the Belmont Stakes
by the horse
with the most stamina. For the most part, I believe those are wise words and
above all, true words. However, there are always caveats.
The Derby is indeed won by the luckiest horse, in most circumstances,
but then every once in a blue moon, there comes a horse who can make their own
luck. A horse like that, who is fast enough to keep out of trouble, but kind
enough to listen and respond to his rider’s cues the instant they are made, is a horse that can dominate the Derby.
The Preakness is the race won by the best. If the Derby was
won by luck and not talent, you can believe that if the talent comes back two
weeks later that it will prevail. However, if the luckiest horse was also the
best in Kentucky, you can often times bet your house, that the Derby winner
will finish the best.
The Belmont is won by the horse with the most stamina almost every single year. It is won by a horse who can stay close and just keep
on running and running. It often times does not go to the swiftest or the most
talented, or the best, which is why it can be such a daunting task. Of the
jewels that make up the Triple Crown, it is the one that hurts the most, for
many a horse have captured the first two only to come up short at history’s
Why is this? How can a horse survive the 20 horse rodeo of
the Kentucky Derby, turn back the talent and the speed in the Preakness, but
not win the Belmont. Simple, human error.
Tell me Smarty Jones
did not lose his bid due to several
rider errors? Getting caught in a speed duel, while trekking 12 furlongs,
before his jockey moved him much too soon. By the time Birdstone came to his
flanks, Smarty Jones had used all his reserves in the last 11 furlongs, and had
no answer. Spectacular Bid
….safety pins just don’t come undone, and if that
wasn’t enough, was ridden into a blistering speed duel that left him empty in
the stretch. Big Brown
, over confidence, not enough foundation put into his
training, a jockey who acted like an apprentice during the opening stages of
the race. These three horses were mortal locks to win the Triple Crown, but
every time human error reared its ugly head and these horses fell victim.
After running two grueling races in the last five weeks, and
about to complete a third, mistakes like the ones aboard those three, cannot be
made. The Belmont is won by stamina, but stamina does not just come from
breeding. It comes from foundation and a steady ride. If the foundation is
lacking the horse will not be able to withstand the 12 furlong trip. If rash
decisions are made by the rider they will leave their horse with nothing left
to give in the final furlong.
In 2014, California Chrome’s
connections have been
outstanding. Chrome has an excellent two year old foundation under him, along
with a well thought out and planned three year old campaign. Three races before
the Derby likely extended the foundation he built as a juvenile, allowing him
to have the fortitude to bounce back so well after both the Derby and
Most would criticize trainer Art Sherman’s training methods,
from the Derby till now….I do not. Yes, Chrome has only worked once, since the
Derby, but just look at his gallops. He 9 times out of 10 his gallops are at
least two miles long, when normally trainers gallop about 1 ½-1 3/8th miles. His lone work, Sherman did not just
work him an easy half, he worked him 47 and change, out past the wire in 59 and
change, 1.12 and change, 1.26 for seven furlongs, pulling up a mile in 1.40.
Make no mistake, Art Sherman has this horse fit and ready to roll.
Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, has also been near
perfection. He’s ridden his colt flawlessly in both the Derby and Preakness,
getting him out of the gate well, allowing him to secure good position before
simply letting the horse do the rest. On a horse as good as California Chrome,
that is all you have to do. In preparation for the Belmont, Espinoza has come
to Belmont early, to get a feel for the track, an excellent move. Jockeys who
are ill prepared for the track often move their mounts too soon, and in turn
end up costing them the race. It seems that Victor Espinoza is trying to head
that problem off by reacquainting himself with the track.
Up to this point California Chrome has answered all the
questions. He has the foundation, he has the ability, and he has the talent. He
has every reason to become thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown
winner. His connections have done their part, now it is time to see if
California Chrome is really that good. Tomorrow, we will see if he can master
the Test of the Champions and enter the elite echelon of Thoroughbred greats
that contains the likes of Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral,
Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and