NEW YORK (AP) It was a great start to the day for Barn 26, the Belmont home for California Chrome. Unfortunately, the Triple Crown hopeful fell short.
Wabbajack, who was a few stalls down from California Chrome, won the opening race at Belmont on Saturday.
”It’s all going to rub off on Chrome,” said Matt Amodeo, a partner in Wabbajack. ”Chrome’s going to continue the good karma,” he said.
California Chrome finished in a dead heat for fourth, leaving Wabbajack as the barn’s winner.
The barn pairing actually started last summer when Ride on Curlin trainer Billy Gowan befriended Wabbajack trainer J.J. Toner while both were at Saratoga.
Amodeo, who is part of the Ninety North partnership, said that after Chrome’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Alan Sherman asked Gowan where he was going to stay while he was in New York. Gowan didn’t hesitate in telling him he was headed to Toner’s barn and Sherman decided to have Chrome join them.
Amodeo also said that he was happy his horse ran in the first race which went off at 11:35 a.m. as he was given the option to run in either of the two races after the Belmont Stakes.
”Horses are so much creatures of habit,” Amodeo said. ”They train in the morning and we’re happy that he got to run early.”
RACING GREATS: The last three Triple Crown winning jockeys were signing autographs and interacting with fans at the track.
Steve Cauthen, who rode Affirmed in 1978, Jean Cruguet, who rode Seattle Slew in 1977, and Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat in 1973, were only supposed to sign for two hours, but stayed hours later to give autographs to a steady stream of fans.
Cauthen was only 18 when he rode Affirmed to the last Triple Crown. Now with his hair graying, he happily was posing for photos with fans.
They were later joined by Secretariat’s owner, Penny Chenery, who was smiling and engaging the fans.
After the race Chenery said she was ”very disappointed that we didn’t have a Triple Crown winner, but I’m happy for the winners.”
NEW BLOOD: Racing’s elite hope that the success of California Chrome may bring new owners to the business. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner is the latest example that the winner’s circle isn’t just for horse royalty with wealthy owners.
”It could bring in some new people. That’s certainly the hope,” said Dale Romans, who trains Medal Count.
California Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn is a press operator with a Nevada firm that makes magnetic strips for credit cards and hotel keys. Co-owner Perry Martin owns a materials testing lab in California.
The pair bred California Chrome for an investment of just under $10,000.
”It really is a great story,” said Amodeo.
THWARTED FANS: A huge crowd showed up to watch California Chrome try to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. They left stunned as Tonalist pulled off the upset victory.
Once the results were posted, most fans sat and stared in silence. Within seconds, many raced to the exits.
”I’m very disappointed in the race,” said Jimmy Church, who lives near Saratoga, New York. ”Man I come down here, I’m 51. I was hoping that California Chrome would win the Triple Crown, unfortunately it didn’t happen, but there’s always next year. But I do want to see another Triple Crown before I die. I don’t think they’re breeding the horses like they used to.”
Fan Jeff Harrison of Woodbine, Maryland said that he’s ”giving up. I’ve been here three times and it hasn’t happened since 1978.”
WINNING WELKER: The Triple Crown races have been very good to Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker. His horse Undrafted won the Jaipur Invitational on Saturday.
Welker also had a great day at the Kentucky Derby last month. He won thousands of dollars on the Triple Crown race that day and was seen with a large stack of cash afterward. He was handing out $100 bills to random people at the Derby.
Associated Press Writer Frank Eltman and AP Freelancer Mike Farrell contributed to this report.