$1,500,000 Belmont Stakes (G1)

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THE RACE $1,500,000 Belmont Stakes (G1) Belmont Park Race 11 (Saturday, June 7, 2014: 6:52 p.m./ET; 3:52 p.m./PT) Mile-and-a-half (three-year-olds) 12 horses since 1978 have won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1), but all of them failed to win the Belmont (G1). They have been as soundly beaten as BIG BROWN was in 2008, when he was eased and walked across the finish line, and as close as REAL QUIET, when in 1999 he was well clear in midstretch only to be nosed out at the wire by VICTORY GALLOP. This Saturday, will CALIFORNIA CHROME become the twelfth horse to win the prestigious Triple Crown? Let’s take a look at the field: #1 MEDAL COUNT has worked sharply for this race, including two bullet works at Churchill Downs last month. An excuse can be made for his eighth place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1) as he didn’t have the best of trips. By Dynaformer, he should be able to get the mile-and-a-half distance. Live longshot. #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME should get a perfect trip off the leaders and will get first jump on his main competitors. The deserving favorite but how low of a price will he be sent postward? #3 MATTERHORN finished fourth behind #11 TONALIST and #8 COMMISIONER in the Peter Pan (G2) over a sloppy track. Although he was purchased for $625,000 as a yearling, he has not lived up to that lofty purchase price. Pass. #4 COMMANDING CURVE has only visited the winners circle once, but he did run an excellent second to #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME in the Kentucky Derby (G1). Unfortunately, his late kick could get dulled in this race as there doesn’t look like a lot of early pace for him to close into. #5 RIDE ON CURLIN does not win often (2-for-11 lifetime) but he always seems to hit the board. He had a nightmarish trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and with a much better trip, came back to finish a game second to #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME in the Preakness (G1). He reportedly is doing very well at Belmont Park and his sire, CURLIN, finished second by a head in the 2007 Belmont Stakes (G1). #6 MATSUZAK has run eight times and his only win came in his first race, against maidens, in September. He has the Hall of Fame “tag team” of trainer Bill Mott and jockey Mike Smith, but unless he improves unexpectedly, it looks like he is in tough. #7 SAMRAAT was undefeated in his first five career races until finishing second to #9 WICKED STRONG and fifth to #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME in the Wood Memorial (G1) and Kentucky Derby (G1), respectively. This hard trying colt should be close to the pace as this race lacks speed, but he could have a tough time maintaining that position throughout. #8 COMMISSIONER has lost four races in a row, although he did finish second to #11 TONALIST in the Peter Pan (G2). His sire, A.P. INDY, won the Belmont Stakes in 1992, so his breeding indicates the added distance may be to his liking. #9 WICKED STRONG won the Wood Memorial (G1) two races back and after breaking from post 20 in the Kentucky Derby (G1), closed well to be fourth. His sire, Hard Spun, finished fourth in this race in 2007. #10 GENERAL A ROD has lost four straight races, including a troubled fourth in the Preakness (G1). He has shown speed in the past and figures to be close to the pace but I think he has the same stamina issues as #6 SAMRAAT. #11 TONALIST is the only horse in the field with a graded stakes win over this track, winning the Peter Pan (G2) impressively over a sloppy track a month ago. He’s won 2 of 3 races this year, with the one loss coming against CONSTITUTION, who went on to win the Florida Derby (G1). SELECTIONS 1. #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME – I’m calling a Triple Crown. 2. #9 WICKED STRONG – Getting good at the right time. 3. #5 RIDE ON CURLIN – Consistent as they come. LONG SHOT VALUE PLAY: #1 MEDAL COUNT - Improving three-year-old. WAGERING STRATEGY In an attempt to extract as much value as possible, I’ll play a $4 Trifecta, putting CALIFORNIA CHROME on top of MEDAL COUNT, RIDE ON CURLIN and WICKED STRONG. With the two dollars left over, I’ll spend it on a “souvenir win ticket” to show my grandchildren after ‘CHROME wins the Triple Crown! BANKROLL PLAY ($50 Budget) $4 Trifecta: #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME with #1 MEDAL COUNT and #5 RIDE ON CURLIN and #9 WICKED STRONG ($48) $2 Win: #2 CALIFORNIA CHROME (Bankroll at -$15.75 after Week Eighty-Nine Based on $50 Wagers; +$10.80 last newsletter).

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