California Chrome – Everybody’s Horse

California Chrome is deservedly the favorite in tomorrow’s 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.  I can’t tell you how badly I want this over achieving 3 year old colt of such humble origins to win the first Triple Crown in 36 years.  It would be one for all of us working class stiffs – who don’t have the big names, the big money, the fancy cars, the super bloodlines.  This horse, its owners, its trainer & its jockey are one of us.  Somebody i could go have a beer with, tell an off color joke to, maybe belch at the table & nobody would mind.

Still, I likely won’t bet more than a $2 ticket to win – which I will not cash.  If Chrome wins, I’ll keep it with the program & racing form so I can frame them & stick them on my wall.

Chrome will be badly overbet in this race.  Chrome is this ailing sport’s best hope.  He’s everybody’s horse. People will bet Chrome just because they want him to win so badly.  How terrible would it be for Chrome to win & you have a bet on some other horse?

Still – even though Chrome is a deserving favorite, there are reasons for caution:

1)  None of the previous Triple Crown winners ever beat more than seven horses.  Chrome is being asked to beat 10 horses; 2)  Chrome’s parents won a total of 4 races between them & Chrome’s breeding does not indicate much ability to do well at long distance races such as this; 3)  running three demanding long distance races in a 5 week period is very taxing on any horse, increasing the likelihood Chrome will not produce his best effort; 4)  Chrome is racing against 8 fresh horses whose blue blood owners will be embarrassed if Chrome wins, so expect racing tactics designed to make Chrome work very hard for this win (very fast early pace, keeping Chrome in tight quarters, pinning Chrome on the rail, boxing Chrome in, forcing Chrome very wide around the turns if possible, etc. ….; 5)  Chrome, like all of these horses, has never been asked to run this far; 6) Chrome has never raced at Belmont Park before; 7) other horses in the race are better bred to race long distances; and lastly 8)  despite breaking well in each of the first two Triple Crown races, Chrome has a history of breaking poorly from the gate.

Pittsburgh Phil, perhaps the best horseplayer that ever lived, believed the horses with the most class were most likely to win stakes races.

“Birth and breeding do not appear to count so much.  It is heart, nerve and ability combined, which ignores all ordinary rules and ordinary obstacles.”

That pretty much sums up California Chrome for me.  He shouldn’t be able to do the things he does, but he does them.  I know he has the heart and the nerve to win this race.  I really hope he has the ability.

This sport needs this particular horse to win the Triple Crown.

Good luck at the races!

– Ron Classen,