What to expect as California Chrome tackles the Belmont
MAY 30, 2014 3:07p ET
He lived up to the hype in the Kentucky Derby.
He wowed us in the Preakness.
Now California Chrome is on the brink of equine immortality.
The task is not an easy one.
The third and final leg of the Triple Crown is the Belmont Stakes, run three weeks after Preakness at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
At 1½ miles, it is the longest of the Triple Crown races and is probably the first and only time that the participants will run that far in their careers, particularly on a dirt track.
Because of its massive circumference and sandy racing surface, Belmont is known as “Big Sandy.”
It’s a racing experience like no other and some horses simply aren’t up to the task.
There have been 11 Triple Crown winners, but 19 Belmont failures
Heartbreak has ruled in recent years, with the defeat of fan favorite Smarty Jones in 2004 perhaps the toughest to swallow. Buoyed by a strong Philadelphia-based contingent, a record 120,139 fans witnessed the anguish.
No Triple Crown winner has beaten more than seven horses in the Belmont, but it looks like 10 or 11 opponents will line up to face Chrome.
Triple Crown attempts aside, the last Preakness winner, and race favorite, to take down the Belmont was Afleet Alex, way back in 2005.
Since Thunder Gulch prevailed as the favorite in 1995, only two Belmont favorites have won.
Five of the last six Belmont winners have been sent off at 11-1 odds or higher, and since 1999 the Belmont has seen six winners at odds of 18-1 or higher.
He’ll be the odds-on favorite, but the odds seem to be against California Chrome.
Making a bet on the Belmont but don’t want to deal with long lines and mayhem?
Wager a day in advance!
The pools will open on Friday, so you can wager at your local track, OTB or even online by opening an advance-deposit-wagering account (it’s free and easy!).
You can even calculate your bets before you step up to the window here.
If you’re wagering on the Belmont, there is one simple question you must ask yourself: Are you rooting for and/or betting on California Chrome because you love him and want to see him make history or are you seeking out value and playing against him?
It’s all in the name!
If you cashed a ticket on California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby, chances are you have a sentimental attachment and are going to stick with him.
Maybe you even cashed on the C-squared exacta of California Chrome and Commanding Curve. That opportunity presents itself again, but it won’t pay nearly as well this time!
Other hunch plays?
Are you a big fan of the Olympics? Perhaps Medal Count is your horse.
Do you root for the silver and black or love the movie “Caveman”? Maybe you’ll feel like dropping a few bucks on the longshot Matuszak.
Are you a spiritual person who has an appreciation for progressive art? Maybe it’s all about Tonalist.
You get the picture!
Bet the connections!
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has Commissioner and Matterhorn pointed to the Belmont, has won two of the last seven Belmonts with the filly Rags to Riches in 2007 and with Palace Malice last year.
Jockey Mike Smith, who is named to pilot Matuszak, has won two of the last four Belmonts, scoring with Drosselmeyer in 2010 and Palace Malice last year.
Maximize your money – budget $35!
Are you for or against California Chrome?
Because of his high profile for winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, not to mention all the souvenir win tickets that will be purchased, his odds in the win pool are going to be even lower than they should be, and remember, the Belmont has not been a haven for favorites.
If you like California Chrome and want to bet on him, diving into the win, place and show pools is probably not the way to go.
Pick two other horses you like and prioritize them. Bet two exactas with Chrome on top, one for $25, the other for $10.
The $2 Preakness exacta of California Chrome on top of Ride On Curlin paid $18.20. If you think about it, that’s a lot easier than picking an 8-to-1 winner!
If you’re a party pooper, are against Chrome and think there’s a chance he might not even finish in the top three (traditionally, favorites do stink in the Belmont), play the horse you like best $5 to win, $10 to place and $20 to show.
If you’re playing with a smaller budget but are a bit more of a risk taker, take your best three horses and play a $5 exacta box = $30. Take the other $5 and bet a cold combination with your favorite duo.
Belmont week buzz!
With three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont, California Chrome will have a published workout between races (scheduled for May 31). Early reports say he’s looking every bit as good, if not better, than he has all season.
It’s been five weeks since the Kentucky Derby, and horses who participated there but skipped the Preakness have freshness on their side, and they’ll likely post a couple of workouts before race day.
Pay attention to horse experts who are on the grounds in New York. How do they assess the physical condition of the contenders? Do they remain bright-eyed or have they lost a little weight?
Not only did California Chrome look the best on paper in the Kentucky Derby, he also made the most impressive appearance in the post parade. He looked fantastic in the Preakness parade, as did General a Rod, who wound up finishing a very unlucky fourth. Look for the horse, or horses, who look happy and healthy and project controlled energy.
Maximize your money – budget $60!
If you’re FOR California Chrome, key him on top of the exactas, or perhaps dive into the trifecta or even the superfecta pools.
You can play a trifecta for as little as 50 cents and, unlike the Kentucky Derby where the minimum superfecta bet is $1, like the Preakness it’s only a dime minimum for the Belmont.
If you’re FOR Chrome, key him on top of the trifecta and/or superfecta with multiple horses underneath. If you like Chrome but aren’t convinced he’ll win, perhaps keying him in SECOND is the way to go.
If you’re against the Derby and Preakness winner, use your favorite horses in first and second and perhaps relegate the favorite to only the third and fourth (if you’re playing a superfecta) spots.
Do your homework!
Analyze the Kentucky Derby and Preakness replays.
Was Wicked Strong compromised by Danza in Louisville?
Did Social Inclusion move too soon in the Preakness?
How impressive was Tonalist in the Peter Pan Stakes win and did the wet track aid the performance?
If you’re a true horse racing fanatic, print the past performances in advance, watch the prep races of the new shooters and research the pedigrees. Who is bred to get the 1 ½-mile marathon distance?
Read the workout reports and what the experts have to say, and try to create a pace scenario and visualize how it will all play out in your head.
Maximize your money – budget $100 and up!
If you’re on the California Chrome bandwagon, hammer the exactas with your next two choices, or play multiple trifecta or superfecta tickets keying him on top and perhaps second with the other horses you like.
Always wager in the smallest increment possible.
If you want to play a trifecta combination for $2, bet it for 50 cents four times.
If you want to play a superfecta combination for $1, bet it ten times for 10 cents.
You can calculate a ticket here.
As horse racing fans, most of us would love to see California Chrome win the Triple Crown.
We’ve been on the doorstep before, but it hasn’t happened since Affirmed in 1978.
If you’d rather cash a big ticket than root for history, keep in mind that the Belmont has not been kind to Triple Crown seekers or favorites in general.
What will be will be, but I for one vibe for the stars to align and a crowning of immortality.