On Saturday, June 7 California Chrome will try to be the first horse since 1978 to win The Triple Crown. All he needs to do is win the third and longest leg of the three jewels in the crown. Chrome has shown superiority in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He’s gotten near perfect trips and he has been able to pull away from the completion at precisely the right time to ensure victory.
There is no doubt Chrome will be a heavy favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and in turn earn the Triple Crown. Yet, I for one find it difficult to believe a horse such as Chrome is going to be the one to stop the losing streak. The pedigree isn’t there. And, history has shown us that favorites, especially those who have raced in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, tend to struggle when running the mile and a half Belmont.
Here a few reasons why Chrome won’t be golden on Belmont Day:
- 1. History is against him. Affirmed was the last horse to win the Triple Crown. It’s been 36 years. While the racing world is due for a Triple Crown runner, it isn’t a fluke the drought has gone this long. Horse racing is more competitive today than it was in 1978. Plus, the advent of new training methods and drugs given to horses has made it more likely for average horses to beat great ones in a one and done format.
- 2. Chrome is tired. Who can blame Chrome for showing signs of wear? The three weeks off since the Preakness help, but to run at the top of your game three times over five weeks is something only really special horses can do. Chrome could be special enough to win, but with Commanding Curve, who finished second in the Derby and is much fresher than Chrome, might be able to get by the favorite late. The same is true for Ride on Curlin who came on late in the Preakness. The combination of experience against Chrome and added rest in the case of Commanding Curve, could prove to be the things that shutout the favorite out of the winner’s circle.
- 3. The Belmont is the longest race, thus making the last quarter of a mile unchartered territory for all runners. Chrome may very well have the lead at the mile and a quarter point of the race. But it’s that last quarter of mile where anything could happen. Take a look at the Derby and Preakness and tell me that Commanding Curve and Ride on Curlin wouldn’t have won if those races were stretched another 1,200 feet? It would be hard to deny, by watching the film that Chrome could have held one or both of them off. With the added ground Chrome is vulnerable.
- 4. Lastly, like any great athlete on the edge of legendary status, other factors come into play. Can the horse, jockey and trainer handle the added pressure and attention being two for two brings? To their credit, the Chrome barn has done a nice job. But its times like these that separate the best from the very good. Will Chrome be Tiger Woods circa 1997 and put away his competition early or will Chrome be like the Buffalo Bills of the early 1990s, dominating, but not quite legendary?
This race will be a can’t-miss event. I for one won’t bet on California Chrome, not even in my pick four bet. I am going to live and die by being contrarian on race day. After all, Chrome not only has to beat the field, he has to beat history. And in sports, history is one of the toughest opponents around.
Blair Reynolds is a freelance writer and horse player who resides in St. Paul, Minnesota.