09/18/2014 3:39PM

Crist: History says California Chrome is a bad bet

Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
War Emblem wins the 2002 Haskell in his comeback after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and then losing the Belmont. Since 1980, six of the eight horses returning to the races after winning the first two Triple Crown races but losing the third have lost their comeback race.

Before you go betting the ranch on California Chrome on Saturday in the Pennsylvania Derby, you might want to consider some cautionary recent history: Since 1980, six of the eight horses in his exact position – returning to the races after winning the Derby and Preakness and losing the Belmont – have lost their comeback race, most of them at short odds. Had you wagered a deuce on each of them over the last 34 years, you’d have ventured $16 and received a gross return of $5, for a loss of 69 percent of your investment.

California Chrome is the first Derby-Preakness winner to return to the races after the Belmont Stakes since Big Brown in 2008. I’ll Have Another (2012) and Smarty Jones (2004) were retired, the former without contesting the Belmont, the latter after a gallant second-place finish. So, just having him back at all will be an unaccustomed pleasure. Taking a short price on him might not be as happy an experience.

After running third in the 2003 Belmont, Funny Cide returned in the Haskell Invitational and finished a distant third to Peace Rules at even-money. One year earlier, War Emblem, who had won the Derby and Preakness, took his next start after the Belmont: After finishing eighth in the final leg of the Triple Crown, War Emblem came back to win the Haskell as the 3-10 favorite.

The five previous Derby-Preakness winners before War Emblem and Funny Cide who raced again (Charismatic in 1999 did not) were remarkably consistent: All of them finished second at odds from 1-5 to 8-5. It’s a small sample, and clouded by return times ranging from six weeks to nine months, but it’s remarkable that all five of them lost in good efforts that were only good enough to run precisely second.

In 1981, Pleasant Colony came back from finishing third to Summing and Highland Blade in the Belmont to miss by a head to Willow Hour in a very sloppy Travers.

In 1987, Alysheba missed by a neck in the Haskell to Bet Twice, eight weeks after finishing 14 1/4 lengths behind him when fourth in the Belmont. Bet Twice was the 6-5 favorite in that Haskell, with Alysheba 3-2 and Lost Code, who ran third, just another neck behind the top pair, the 2-1 third choice.

In 1989, six weeks after running second by eight lengths to Easy Goer in the Belmont, Sunday Silence resumed racing in the Swaps at Hollywood and had a four-length lead with a furlong to go – but Prized came and got him to win by three-quarters of a length.

Silver Charm and Real Quiet had the same result but under different circumstances, as both were sidelined for at least six months after running second in the 1997 and 1998 editions of the Belmont.

After missing by three-quarters of a length to Touch Gold in the Belmont, Silver Charm was away from the races for 29 weeks, then ran second at odds of 3-10 to Lord Grillo in the Malibu at Santa Anita. Real Quiet, who lost the 1998 Belmont and the Triple Crown by just a nose, needed 39 weeks off, then came back at odds of 1-2 as a 4-year-old in the 1999 New Orleans Handicap and ran second to Precocity.

The most recent Derby-Preakness winner to return to the races was Big Brown, who paid $2.40 to win his comeback race in the Haskell Invitational.

Still want California Chrome at even-money Saturday at Parx? If you’re keeping score, that’s two winners in the last seven tries – War Emblem at $2.60 and Big Brown at $2.40 – and defeats for Pleasant Colony at 8-5, Alysheba at 3-2, Sunday Silence at 1-5, Silver Charm at 3-10, Real Quiet at 1-2, and Funny Cide at 1-1. The only thing they have in common besides winning the Derby and Preakness is that they all were named champion 3-year-old male at year’s end, whether or not they won a race of any kind after the Preakness.

The point here is not to cast shade on California Chrome and his enthusiastic followers, but to illustrate how hard it is for any horse to come back and win his first start following a break after the Triple Crown.

Granted, on paper it’s hard to beat him. Only the unreliable Bayern has run Beyer Speed Figures in the same area code as California Chrome’s, and they are the only two in the race to have exceeded the par of 105 for the last 20 runnings of the Pennsylvania Derby. California Chrome has won three Grade 1 races this year, three times as many as the rest of the field combined.

Just remember, though, how good most of those other Derby-Preakness winners looked on paper, and what happened to most of them.

Bruce Battaglia More than 1 year ago
I buy at least 3 sometimetimes as many as 5 tracks per day. I spend the money for the pp's but the mext day I then have to BUY the charts. That sir is a ripoff!!. I really don't care about the articles but I'm sure thousands of people do. I work from my home every day and then bet on the Twin Spires web site.I also must complain about the man who writes the information for mostly the NY charts. He also wrote thr Parx charts yesterday. He writes a paragragh about each horse describing every move the horse and rider make from start to finish. Joe then shifted his weight from the left side to the right while looking directly in front of his mount before suddenly glancing from right to left and then behind. When clear he let out a notch without cooperstion from his mount. He then took alternative action by first using the whip in his left hand without response. He then tried the right handed whip and the animal briefly pricked his ears but it was too late and he finished a game seventh. This then destroys the 3 word short comment carried on the pp line. Short comment may be too late,gamely.Sir,you have gotten every dime from me when I buy the pp's for each track. I will never pay for the charts. That is the biggest scam and I guarantee business has tanked. The good will of the readers has turned to hate.I actually hate the drf.
cmoney404 More than 1 year ago
You don't have to PAY for charts. What are you talking about?
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
Congrats to all the brain surgeons who predicted California Chrome would not win this race first off the shelf with bigger game down the road.I'll bet you also picked Untapable to win.I'm in awe!
Thomas Georgetown More than 1 year ago
LOL So how much did you bet on California Chrome?
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
Not a dime.I don't bet chalk.
FESTUS ELROY More than 1 year ago
And I didn't care for the race from a betting standpoint.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
Down the road he will be in a breeding shed. He has no business in the Classic, go ahead and blow your money. What you should do is enjoy the great run he had and the pennys you collected and go try to win some money.
Andrew More than 1 year ago
Chrome will be back in the Classic. Victor knows he was not in a good position. He wrapped up the final 1/16th.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
Well I love to say I told you so, but I did, Chrome out of the money, and has absolutely no chance of doing anything in any BC race. hes finished.
mike More than 1 year ago
Gary I was wrong today- BIGTIME. But,you need to put down the pipe if you think he's finished from losing his first race back. Tell me,seems like the great Slew lost his first back after the Triple Crown.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
He was used up in the spring, had his run and is done. Talk to me in November, They'll be figuring out where he will stand stud.
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
He's the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner!! We will always remember him for that years from now, and no one from that race at Parx.
flash gordon More than 1 year ago
forget him losing,he didn't even finish fourth.
Jack H More than 1 year ago
When will the DRF pull Matt Benier from their stable. That guy never picks a winner. Listen to his PA Derby selections. What a joke that cat is !!
Thomas Georgetown More than 1 year ago
I listened to it. He did say CC was the horse to beat after saying he didn't think CC was quite the super horse its fans think he is. So I guess you could fault him for thinking a horse that finished 6th was a horse to beat. ? Or are you a CC fan and he made you channel the horse's owner's inner rage if things don't go his way for saying he doesn't regard CC quite as high as some do? He did speak of Bayern good and Bayern did win. Not sure what your complaint is about his analysis of this race is. He didn't have the winner outright, so, it's horse racing.
KissmeCatexoxo More than 1 year ago
He could canter and win this race ! No way he does not win today.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
No way?
Thomas Georgetown More than 1 year ago
well...on the other hand.....
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
I know he's been off since June, but no way will he lose to this sorry group.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
you California gusy are a little delusional. Bayern was the best horse in the field. CC had is run and is finished.
Allan Gauthier More than 1 year ago
Ya......easy to say after the fact.
Debra Croff More than 1 year ago
baffert will steal the money
mike More than 1 year ago
Your on something if you believe that.
gary Potter More than 1 year ago
MIke wrong again :)
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
he ALWAYS is............don't waste ur time reading that losers comments.
Old timer More than 1 year ago
while I think that Cali will win, I do agree that the value won't be there, with his odds less than even and a nearly 4 month layoff. This is the kind of race that is fun to watch, but a tough one to bet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To the author of the article: Horse racing itself is a bad bet. Because its fixed. So whats your point?
Tim Roberts More than 1 year ago
Well then make a selection as to who will win, if not the Derby winner. You don't get paid for being against a heavy favorite unless you come up with the winner.