06/04/2014 11:57AM

Jerardi: History is irrelevant in California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid

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Barbara D. Livingston
Triple Crown contender California Chrome has won six consecutive stakes, four graded, three Grade 1s. He has earned three Beyer Speed Figures of 105 or more.

I am not quite sure what Spectacular Bid, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and Smarty Jones have to do with Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, other than that their names will get typed thousands of times this week as reasons why California Chrome can’t win.

I am going to give you the most obvious reason why he can win: California Chrome is the best horse.

So, let’s start there and forget the history. Whenever anybody cites history in sporting events, I cringe. I don’t care what happened between Auburn and Alabama in 1986. I want to know who is playing today. I will evaluate these players and these coaches.
So, let’s evaluate the Belmont Stakes in the context of 2014. Let’s not be afraid of what happened in 1979, 1997, 1998, or 2004.

California Chrome has won six consecutive stakes, four graded, three Grade 1s. He has earned three Beyer Speed Figures of 105 or more. The likely opposition has won a combined four graded stakes on dirt: one Grade 1, one Grade 2, and two Grade 3s. None has ever reached 105 on the Beyer scale.

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If we were not all spooked by so many near misses and locks that were not locks, this Belmont would be about as complicated as this Derby and this Preakness. One horse stood out in both races on form. That horse, California Chrome, ran right to his form.
Why, really, should the Belmont be different?

Third race in five weeks? Check. Four solid horses (Wicked Strong, Commanding Curve, Samraat, Medal Count) with five weeks off between the Derby and Belmont? Check. Two tough Triple Crown participants (Ride On Curlin and General a Rod)? Check. A very impressive newcomer (Tonalist)? Check. The bizarre distance? Check.

California Chrome? Checkmate.

Everybody I talk with says they want to try to beat California Chrome. I don’t because A) I think he is going to win, and B) I wouldn’t know where to go if I didn’t think he was going to win.

If it’s not California Chrome, a reasonable case certainly could be made for Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong. If he runs back to the 104 Beyer he got in the Wood, that is going to give him a serious chance. And when I watch his races, I see a colt who struggles a bit on the turns. You would think Belmont Park’s sweeping turns would be much better for a horse who does his best running on the straightaway.

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If it’s not California Chrome, I could make a case for Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes winner Tonalist, especially if Joel Rosario, who is so good on front-runners, can clear the field, spread the race out just a touch, and get into the stretch with a lead. Any jockey who finishes like Laffit Pincay Jr. is always going to be hard to pass.

I do not think Commanding Curve is your typical late-running Derby plodder who got lucky. Remember, he was running behind a slow pace. And the other CC definitely was not plodding when he came by where I was watching at the eighth pole. He was flying.

All that said, the best horse is still the best horse. And you know what else? California Chrome is not only the best horse, he is also the fastest horse. I am convinced that Victor Espinoza could have put him in front in the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, or the Preakness.

Remember that California Chrome was battling for the lead in 4 1/2-furlong and 5 1/2-furlong races last spring. This is a naturally fast horse who just happens to do whatever his jockey wants him to do.

The biggest winning margin (7 1/4 lengths) in California Chrome’s career came in the San Felipe Stakes. It is the only race in which he led all the way. I do not think that the way he ran the race and the margin of victory were a coincidence.

If Chrome breaks sharply and the other jockeys are waiting around to see what everybody else is doing, Espinoza should put his colt on the lead, gallop them to sleep for six furlongs, get away from most of them on the turn, and then outsprint them the last quarter-mile.

When has loose-on-the-lead ever been a bad thing? I know Art Sherman has said that California Chrome loves a target, and I would never question anything Sherman says these days. But Sherman also was a jockey and knows that no horse ever got in trouble on the lead.

The good news is that California Chrome hardly needs a clear lead to win. He can win any kind of way. By the way, the last four Triple Crown winners (Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed) all won the Belmont Stakes the same way – in front at every call.

William Cacho More than 1 year ago
Great analysis!!!Good luck to everyone of the team California Chrome.
Ray Lanfear More than 1 year ago
I agree California Chrome is the class of the Belmont. His long strides alone, can win this race. CC has the six rights, the right trainer, the right owner, the right jockey, the right pedigree, the right distance, and the right time. It is CC time to pick up the Triple Chrome or if yo prefer Triple Crown. My prediction CC will win by at least 6+ lengths. Did I mention that CC likes cookies, and who does not like the "Cookie Monster"?
Tom Mastandrea More than 1 year ago
Another Mr. Obvious story! Secretariat broke 4th and did not have the lead until a 1/4 into the race.
Harry Mollineaux More than 1 year ago
If everyone runs their A-race and nothing criminal happens Kent D's non-ride on Big Brown CC wins and their all running for second. His connections are all about doing things the right way and maybe just maybe there is still a place in horse racing for the little guy with hard work and faith in your ability, its called the american way!!!!!! For all the little guys, see you in the winners circle CC!!!!!!!!!
mikey More than 1 year ago
HISTORY has been IRRELEVANT with this industry for last decade or so.....we have stop breeding for the horses that can do well in the TC.....instead we went with short distance sprinters and milers..... Sure CC can win.....won't mean much for this industry and wouldn't change this breeding industry......he will not create more future bettors and fans because after the race he probably wouldn't be around.....there will be no traction with CC to bring in new fans.....he won't be in the headlines....
Malihe Yahyavi More than 1 year ago
Yes totally agree. Victor should put him on the lead barring any nonsense from another jockey. I tried to beat Chrome to for this race. You just can't. He towers over this field and he reminds me of Cigar. This race could be his blowout victory. This will have trouble keeping up with his high cruising speed on the far turn and the 36 year jinx will be broken.
Craig Haugan More than 1 year ago
No matter who wins this is an average three year old class at best...at least 4 or five in the field will not win another race. Even though there was amazing perfect conditions for the first 2 legs (which is extremely rare) the times were pedestrian at best and will be again. Anyone know the O/U on the final time in Vegas?
Malihe Yahyavi More than 1 year ago
Average? Since when is winning average?
Troy Perkins More than 1 year ago
How about war Emblem? Funnycide? How about Big Brown? He looked unbeatable. He failed to fire in the Belmont. Historically the Belmont pays out big numbers and only 3 favorites have won this race as the favorite. (Afleet Alex, Empire Maker, and Point Given) And yet we have seen winners pay $40, $51, $74, $79, and $142.50. I would love to see the triple crown finally won, but I have my reservations about Chrome, up til this point he has been the best, but 7 times in the last 17 years we have seen a horse with a shot to win it all, many times as the best of the field entering the Belmont. Something has happened every time to derail the best horse in this race. If it weren't for a bad trip in the Derby, my favorite horse, Afleet Alex would have won all three. But, that is what happens, and I won't be surprised if it happens again Saturday.
Troy Perkins More than 1 year ago
Only 3 favorite have won this race since 2001 is what I tried to say.
Troy Perkins More than 1 year ago
And those five big payouts have been since 2001
Malihe Yahyavi More than 1 year ago
Smarty was a Sprinter. War Emblem's luck ran out. Funny Cide was not the best horse in the race and Big Brown well who knows what the heck happened there. That ride by Kent into the first turn was inexplicable.
Steve More than 1 year ago
Jerardi, you've been right so far and I hope you're right again Saturday.
JeanK More than 1 year ago
Nice honest work, for once mr. Jerardi is not dreaming of a long shot; actually California Chrome is the longest shot of them all. I find one horse vey intriguing in this field and that Ride On Curlin. The only two races he won were 5 / furlong maiden (with a 103 beyer, leading on every pole) no other horse here has a triple digit beyer as a 2 yr old, and the other race is a 6 furlong race. Therefore, I se 3 horses gunning for the lead, Tonalist ROC and CC. CC should be leading the field but he might have some unexpected company . We should have a triple crown winner this year, other than the Bid I did not think any of the other 11 deserved it, but this Chrome certainly does.