The Breeders’ Cup? Fuhgeddaboudit. The racing card put together by the New York Racing Association for Belmont Stakes Day could be the best we’ve seen in many years.
Not content with taking things up to a ten, Belmont Park is going to crank it up all the way to eleven. A quick scan of the June 7 stakes schedule is impressive enough, revealing a total of 10 stakes races (nine of them graded.) It all adds up to $7.7 million in purse money for many of the nation’s biggest stars. Take a look …
The story is far from over there. Yesterday, in front of the largest Preakness crowd in history, with millions more watching at home, California Chrome did exactly what most were hoping he would do. The copper colored star impressively moved one step closer to the most difficult achievement in horse racing, by adding a Preakness win, to his Kentucky Derby victory two weeks earlier. It’s been 36 years since another chestnut colt got it done once, twice, three times a champion, over his dogged adversary Alydar. With so many ‘close but no cigars’ since Affirmed, racing fans want a Triple Crown so badly, that they will be able to taste it each morning they wake up over the next 20.
No hating here, but … there is a reason there have been so many failed attempts in the last 35 years. California Chrome is far from a sure thing, with so many good horses like Danza, Wicked Strong, Tonalist, and Commanding Curve ready to test him in those final few furlongs of the grueling challenge that is the Belmont Stakes, I fear we could be in store for another Real Quiet, Smarty Jones type heartbreaker, but then again I tend to worry a lot. The four I mentioned also have the benefit of being at home, resting, while California Chrome was punching the clock at Pimlico. One thing for sure, if California Chrome is to make 21st century history on June 7, he is going to have earned it. The anticipation will be as thick as the La Brea tar pits, as we inch methodically closer to the biggest test in his career.
As if having a Triple Crown on the line for California Chrome is not enough for the hair on the back of your neck to stand straight up, how about the Met Mile? Raised to an all-time high purse of $1.25 million, one of my favorite races of the year is sure to be a real slobberknocker this year. One of my favorites, and last year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Palace Malice, looks to be the one to beat, but in the perfect match of top sprinters versus distance able horses, this classic one-turn race for older horses is never easy. With a few names like Goldencents, Vyjack, Central Banker, Shakin It Up already on the probable list, and more big names to come, this one is sure to entertain, but it probably is not the most interesting race for older horses on the card.
Lest we forget the fairer sex, when is the last time we’ve had a group of four-year-old fillies that look as good as Beholder, Princess of Sylmar, Close Hatches, and Midnight Lucky? All four are coming into the race in fine fettle. Frankly, the 8 ½ furlong Ogden Phipps is without exaggeration, shaping up better than most Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classics we’ve seen. And folks, these are only the top three of ten big stakes races.
Top sprinters, turf horses, late developers, marathoners, this Belmont Stakes card is going to have it all. Let’s not forget about the Grade 1 Acorn, which is scheduled to be the first race for Untapable since her triumphant run for the lilies. There are a few experts that say she is the best three-year-old out there … even better than a certain Triple Crown hopeful. It’s almost too much to wrap my head around.
I need to work hard over the next 480 hours, and take my mind off what is coming on June 7. This is too much excitement too stand. Are you as excited as I am???