Tag Archive: Triple Crown

Leftovers: The Belmont Stakes 2017

The last of the Horse Races and I can safely ignore them until next year. The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races, held in Elmont right next to Queens (yes, you read that correctly. It’s an unincorporated Census designated place with no ‘B’ in it at all). Indications of …

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Triple Crown: The Middle Child

I was wrong, this is the most racist theme song of the Triple Crown- Maryland, My Maryland The despot’s heel is on thy shore, Maryland! His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland! Avenge the patriotic gore That flecked the streets of Baltimore, And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland! Hark to …

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Triple Crown: The Longest 2 Minutes In Sports

This was no ordinary homecoming.  This was a do-or-die attempt to lay the ghost of years of rejection from the horse-rearing elite and the literati who sat in those privileged boxes overlooking the track and those unprivileged craven hordes who grovelled around the centre-field where he had suffered as a boy. The clubhouse as I …

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The Belmont Stakes 2016

The last of the Horse Races and I can safely ignore them until next year (Wait? What do you mean there’s another one in November?). The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held Elmont right next to Queens. Indications of that are they can’t settle …

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Pimlico- Race of Death

What? You think I’m kidding? Two horses, Homeboykris and Prameyda, die at Pimlico on Preakness Day By Dave Sheinin, Washington Post May 21 at 2:59 PM Prameyda, a 4-year-old filly, broke down on the final turn of a 1 1/16-mile turf race, suffering a broken cannon bone in her left front leg, and was euthanized …

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Triple Crown: The Longest 2 Minutes In Sports

This was no ordinary homecoming.  This was a do-or-die attempt to lay the ghost of years of rejection from the horse-rearing elite and the literati who sat in those privileged boxes overlooking the track and those unprivileged craven hordes who grovelled around the centre-field where he had suffered as a boy. The clubhouse as I …

Continue reading »

The Belmont Stakes 2015

The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held Elmont right next to Queens.  Indications of that are they can’t settle on a song or a drink.  The song has ranged from Sidewalks of New York, a charming Tin Pan Alley tune better known as East Side, West Side, to the Theme from New York, New York (as performed by Frank Sinatra and appropriated as the Yankees anthem and not the original Liza Minelli rendition), to 2010’s Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z.

This year they are back to New York, New York because Sidewalks of New York didn’t produce a Triple Crown winner.

Likewise the drink has changed from the absolutely un-potable White Carnation to the refined trashcan punch that is the Belmont Breeze.

I suggest instead the classic Cosmopolitan.

Ingredients-

  • Ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau
  • fluid ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Long thin piece orange zest

Directions

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Strain the cosmopolitan into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink and serve.

Note: The drink can also be stirred in a pitcher.

This year is the 147th running and again we have the possibility of a Triple Crown.  While the past 36 years are littered with failure I’d argue that at least as many hopes have been dashed at Pimlico as at Belmont.

There are many problems a potential Triple Crown Winner faces at Belmont.  First of all the distance.  At 1 1/2 miles the Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races and comes hard on the heels of the sprint at Pimlico.  It is still a subject of much controversy whether the schedule should be changed, especially since it’s a common tactic for many strong contenders (but losers) at the Kentucky Derby to skip the Preakness and other horses who are also strong but without the stamina to race all three Triple Crown events to skip both in order to rest and train.

This year from 7 contenders there are 3 who fit that profile- Madefromlucky, Frosted, and Materiality.

That said, the smallness of the field and lack of serious contenders other than those three give American Pharoh an excellent chance.

But the Belmont track surface is looser, sandier, and harder to run on than most tracks in the country.  Also the NYRA is much stricter about “performance enhancement” than most racing associations.

So you want to know who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Here is the line from The New York Times.

The Field

Post Horse Odds
1 Mubtaahij 10 – 1
2 Tale of Verve 15 – 1
3 Madefromlucky 12 – 1
4 Frammento 30 – 1
5 American Pharoah 3 – 5
6 Frosted 5 – 1
7 Keen Ice 20 – 1
8 Materiality 6 – 1

Unfortunately, Triple Crown or not, I won’t be around to watch.  If you want to take a crack at live blogging it yourself all you have to do is post “They’re off” around when the horses break from the gate and then the results when it’s over.

Good Luck!

Post time is 6:50 pm ET on NBC.  Hype starts around 4:30.

(I might update this with my collected NYT links later, but it’s too much work for right now- ek)

Triple Crown: The Middle Child

There is only one thing to think about today and that is justice for Freddie Gray and the other victims of a militarized and out of control Police’s Racist War on Blacks, Hispanics, and the Poor.

A Baltimore Neighborhood, Wary and Healing, Prepares for Preakness Day

By JULIET MACUR, The New York Times

MAY 10, 2015

“They told me that there’s so many things we can do here that it would be really fun for me and my kids,” said Thomas, a 33-year-old single mother of four who works transporting patients at a hospital. “But I don’t know what to think of it. We’ll see. It’s been a tough couple of weeks.”

A tough couple of weeks for the entire city.

Less than a month ago, Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, was arrested in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood, about four miles southeast of Pimlico, which sits on the northwest side of the city. Gray fell into a coma while in police custody and later died. Riots and protests followed, including some outside Camden Yards, where in the jittery days after Gray’s death two Orioles games were postponed and another was played behind closed doors.

Six police officers have been charged in connection with Gray’s death, and some residents here predicted that those indictments might quell any protests, at least until the trial. But for now, the wounds in the city and in this neighborhood, where the 140th Preakness will be run on Saturday, are still raw. As race day approaches, many people here remain on edge.

Sometimes sporting events can play a role in healing a city’s wounds, as the baseball games after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did in New York City. But the Preakness doesn’t quite fit that role.

A gigantic banner hanging above the racetrack’s main entrance declares the Preakness to be “the people’s race” and “the people’s party.” But those people, for the most part, aren’t from the largely black community around the track, where just gaining admission to the clubhouse and the grandstand will cost you $25 (much more if you want a seat), and where an infield ticket will set you back $70.

“For 50 years, I’ve sat on this porch and have seen people come and go on Preakness day, and most of them are white and rich and look all fancy in their dresses, neckties and shorty-shorts,” said Ruth Spencer, 87, who lives near the corner of Hayward and Winner Avenues, across the street from the track. “But I do love watching the people come by. I feel proud that they’ve come here to my backyard.”



But on race weekend, Austin said, the neighborhood was energized by the party atmosphere and the chance to make a bit of quick money. Asked if that fun might be ruined this year by protesters looking to grab the spotlight, Austin laughed.

“Oh, no, no,” he said. “Do you know how many police there are here that weekend? There’s one every few feet. Nothing’s going to happen here. Not a thing.”

Austin said that the greatest tension between the residents and the police in recent years had stemmed from a rule that bars the sale of anything on the racetrack side of the street.

The rule was announced a few years ago when signs appeared that read: “No vending. By order of the Baltimore City Police Department.” Residents trying to make a buck on Preakness weekend are still grumbling about that, noting that the police certainly have bigger problems to worry about than octogenarians selling iced tea for a dollar.



But Zora said that Gray’s death had changed the way she viewed the police. When she sees a police car drive by now, she said, she can feel her heart beating faster.

“Now when I see them, I start thinking, What if they want to fight one of us? What if they want to fight me? And that scares me,” she said, while sitting on a swing at the Pimlico Good Neighbor Park, which on Thursday was so strewn with cups, candy wrappers and potato chip bags that it looked as if a trash bag had exploded.

Thomas said that Zora’s distrust of the police made her sad. And even Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, admitted on Wednesday that the police and the community had a “fractured relationship.”

That was why the mayor asked the Justice Department to investigate any unconstitutional abuse or discrimination on the part of the Police Department. That federal investigation is now underway, but in Park Heights and Sandtown-Winchester and many other neighborhoods, a tense truce between the black community and the police will remain the order of the day for a while.

To make the best of the situation, even if it is a short-lived distraction, Thomas said she was considering her neighbor’s suggestions for race day.

“I have a hot dog machine, and a popcorn maker, so I might take them out to see if I can sell some, or maybe make fresh lemonade,” she said with a sigh as her 8-month-old daughter wailed in the background. “Or, I don’t know, maybe not.

“With all that’s happened here in our city, I have really mixed feelings. A lot of people do.”

Yeah, celebrate good times and forget about all the ugliness and oppression, c’mon.  Rights?  You have no rights a Gold or their jackbooted Sturmtruppen, the Blues and the Greens, are bound to respect.  Vive la Ancien Régime.

Even the Derby winner, American Pharoah, has a name that reeks of oligarchic privilege and wears earplugs to dampen the noise of the unwashed masses.

American Pharoah Is a Fan Favorite, but Not Vice Versa

By MELISSA HOPPERT, The New York Times

MAY 15, 2015

During the walkover at the Derby, a tradition that allows contenders’ connections to escort them on the racetrack to the paddock, American Pharoah became so unnerved by the crowd of people around him and the record 170,513 in the stands that it took several grooms to control the dark bay colt.

“The walkover for the Derby has gotten out of control,” said Baffert, who even stuffs fluffy cotton plugs in American Pharoah’s ears before every race to avoid such occurrences. “There’s too many people. It was like walking your horse through Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve. And they were yelling and screaming and running next to him and taking pictures, so it got him a little stirred up.”

His aggressive behavior, noted by horseplayers as a bad omen because it saps strength, continued in the paddock and on the racetrack, until he was loaded into the starting gate.

“He started becoming very hyped, and he was using a lot of energy, and I got very nervous because that’s the first time I’ve seen him do that,” his owner, Ahmed Zayat, said.

From the URL- Favorite’s Problem? He hates crowds but packs them in.  There is truth in that.

Oh, you want to talk about horse races, not class conciousness.  Well, there are only 8 horses in today’s race because if you don’t have a Triple Crown contender, what’s the point?  People care more about dogs than they do about horses, and your ever shrinking audience is 1%er’s, gamblers, and the celebrity obsessed.  Still, no one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the people.

American Pharoah will not win despite the hype.  His stablemate Dortmund is much more stable in temperment, was faster through the length of the shorter Pimlico course, and starts from a more favorable pole position.  American Pharoah begins on the rail and will be buried by an avalanche of horses headed for the racing line.

According to The New York Times the field looks like this-

Gate Name Jockey Odds
1 American Pharoah Victor Espinoza 4-5
2 Dortmund Martin Garcia 7-2
3 Mr. Z Corey Nakatani 20-1
4 Danzig Moon Julien Leparoux 15-1
5 Tale of Verve Joel Rosario 30-1
6 Bodhisattva Trevor McCarthy 20-1
7 Divining Rod Javier Castellano 12-1
8 Firing Line Gary Stevens 4-1

Joe Drape’s picks: Firing Line, Dortmund, American Pharoah

Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Dortmund, American Pharoah, Firing Line

Pimlico.

Preakness Trivia

  • Actually 2 years older than the Kentucky Derby.
  • Shortest in distance (1/16th shorter than the Derby).
  • Only the Derby has a larger attendance.
  • No Black Eyed Susan has ever been used, currently it’s painted Chysthanthemums.

There have been 34 winners of both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes including the 11 Triple Crown winners.

Preakness Traditions

Winners don’t get the real Woodlawn Cup to keep, but a half size replica (oh, and the Woodlawn Racing Club is defunct).  Black Eyed Susans don’t bloom until 2 months after the Preakness.  The Old Clubhouse was destroyed in a fire in 1966.  They paint the winner’s racing silks on the weathervane.  No one on the internet knows why it’s called the Alibi Breakfast.

Official Website

I need a drink-

Black Eyed Susan Recipe

(Official, but without the brand names)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 oz. Bourbon (20% of Early Times is aged in used barrels)
  • 3/4 oz. Vodka
  • 3 oz. Sweet and Sour Mix
  • 2 oz. Orange Juice

Preparation:

Fill a highball glass with shaved ice, add the liquors first, then top off with orange juice and sweet and sour mix. Stir and garnish with an orange slice, cherry, and stirrer.

Post time 6:18 pm ET, coverage starts at 4:30 pm on NBC.

Triple Crown: The Longest 2 Minutes In Sports

Bats photo ralph-steadman-illustration-for-fear-and-loathing-in-las-vegas_custom-8accc312c7b6cf1f16f56637344397ca0ac4e93a-s4-c85_zps6976f710.jpg

This was no ordinary homecoming.  This was a do-or-die attempt to lay the ghost of years of rejection from the horse-rearing elite and the literati who sat in those privileged boxes overlooking the track and those unprivileged craven hordes who grovelled around the centre-field where he had suffered as a boy.

The clubhouse as I remember was worse, much worse than I had expected.  It was a mess.  This was supposed to be a smart, horsey clubhouse, oozing with money and gentry, but what I saw had me skulking in corners.  It was worse than the night I spent on Skid Row a month later, back in New York.  My feet crunched broken glass on the floor.  There seemed no difference between a telephone booth and a urinal; both were used for the same purpose.  Foul messages were scrawled in human excrement on the walls and bull-necked men, in what had once been white, but were smeared and stained, seersucker suits, were doing awful things to younger but equally depraved men around every corner.  The place reminded me of a cowshed that hadn’t been cleaned in fifteen years.  Somehow I knew I had to look and observe.  It was my job.  What was I being paid for?  I was lucky to be here.  Lots of people would give their drawing arm to be able to see the actual Kentucky Derby which was now hardly an hour away.  Hunter understood and was watching me as much as he was watching the scene before us.

Something splattered the page I was drawing on and, as I moved to wipe it away, I realized too late it was somebody’s vomit.  During the worst days of the Weimar Republic, when Hitler was rising faster than a bull on heat, George Grosz, the savage satirical painter, had used human shit as a violent method of colouring his drawings.  It is a shade of brown like no other and its use makes an ultimate statement about the subject.

‘Seen enough?’, asked Hunter, pushing me hastily towards an exit that led out to the club enclosure.  I needed a drink.  ‘Er… one more trip to the inner-field Ralph I think,’ I heard Hunter say nervously.  ‘Only another half-hour to the big race.  If we don’t catch the inner-field now, we’ll miss it.’  So we went.

While the scene was as wild here as it had been in the clubhouse, it had a warmer, more human face, more colour and happiness and gay abandon – the difference in atmosphere between Hogarth’s Gin Lane and Beer Street.  One harrowed and death-like the other bloated with booze but animal-healthy.

Who would have thought I was after the gristle, the blood-throbbing veins, poisoned exquisitely by endless self-indulgence, mint juleps, and bourbon.  Hide, anyway, behind the dark shades you predatory piece of raw blubber.

The race was now getting a frenzied response as Dust Commander began to make the running.  Bangles and jewels rattled on suntanned, wobbling flesh and even the pillar men in suits were now on tip-toe, creased skin under double-chins stretched to the limit into long furrows that curved down into tight collars.

Mouths opened and closed and veins pulsed in unison as the frenzy reached its climax.  One or two slumped back as their horses failed, but the mass hysteria rose to a final orgasmic shriek, at last bubbling over into whoops of joy, hugging and back slapping.  I turned to face the track again, but it was all over.  That was it.  The 1970 Kentucky Derby won by Dust Commander with a lead of five lengths – the biggest winning margin since 1946 when Triple Crown Champion, Assault, won the Derby by eight lengths.

‘I think it’s time I was thinking of getting back to New York.  Let’s have a meal somewhere and I can phone the airline for plane times.  What day is it, we seem to have lost a weekend.  I need a drink.’

‘You need a lynching.  You’ve upset my friends and I haven’t written a goddamn word.  I’ve been too busy looking after you.  Your work here is done.  I can never come back here again.  This whole thing will probably finish me as a writer.  I have no story.’

‘Well I know we got a bit pissed and let things slip a bit but there’s lots of colour.  Lots happened.’

‘Holy Shit!  You scumbag!  This is Kentucky, not Skid Row.  I love these people.  They are my friends and you treated them like scum.’

Ralph Steadman- The Joke’s Over

If you want to you can watch Kentucky Derby coverage from 11 am ET (on Vs. where it actually started on Wednesday) until 7 pm (on NBC, where they spare you the pre-race hype until 4).

I suppose this is good thing since you can hardly be expected to follow Horse Racing unless you’re a tout or plunger in one of the few forms of gambling deemed socially acceptable (as opposed to Poker, which is not gambling at all) and 2 year olds don’t have much of a record to handicap.

There is no clear favorite this year with-

Gate Horse Jockey Odds
18 American Pharoah Victor Espinoza 3 – 1
8 Dortmund Martin Garcia 4 – 1
2 Carpe Diem John Velazquez 7 – 1
10 Firing Line Gary Stevens 8 – 1
15 Frosted Joel Rosario 9 – 1

all in the single digits of what will ultimately be a 19 horse field after 3 qualifiers (International Star, El Kabeir, and Stanford) scratched since Friday morning along with one alternate, Tale Of Verve.

It’s really mostly an excuse to wear hats that would be rejected from a 5th Avenue Easter Parade or Royal Wedding and get tanked up on Bourbon that is best sipped with a soda chaser and not muddled up with mint.

Mint Julep

Ingredients

  • 4 cups bourbon
  • 2 bunches fresh spearmint
  • 1 cup distilled water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Powdered sugar

Directions

To prepare mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves. Wash and place in a small bowl. Cover with 3 ounces bourbon. Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes. Then gather the leaves in paper toweling. Thoroughly wring the mint over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.

To prepare simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 cup of distilled water in a small saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.

To prepare mint julep mixture, pour 3 1/2 cups of bourbon into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the bourbon.

Now begin adding the mint extract 1 tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste-generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

To serve the julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) 1/2 full with shaved ice. Insert a spring of mint and then pack in more ice to about 1-inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to 1-inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice. Serve immediately.

I suppose I might mention this is the 141st edition.

The Belmont Stakes 2014

The Belmont Stakes are perhaps the most democratic of the Triple Crown Races even though it is held Elmont right next to Queens.  Indications of that are they can’t settle on a song or a drink.  The song has ranged from Sidewalks of New York, a charming Tin Pan Alley tune better known as East Side, West Side, to the Theme from New York, New York (as performed by Frank Sinatra and appropriated as the Yankees anthem and not the original Liza Minelli rendition), to 2010’s Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z.

This year they are returning to Sidewalks of New York, hoping it will bring back some Triple Crown luck.

Likewise the drink has changed from the absolutely un-potable White Carnation to the refined trashcan punch that is the Belmont Breeze.

I suggest instead the classic Cosmopolitan.

Ingredients-

  • Ice cubes
  • 1 1/2 fluid ounces lemon vodka
  • 1 fluid ounce Cointreau
  • fluid ounce cranberry juice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Long thin piece orange zest

Directions

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the vodka, Cointreau, and cranberry and lime juices. Cover and shake vigorously to combine and chill. Strain the cosmopolitan into a chilled martini glass. Twist the orange zest over the drink and serve.

Note: The drink can also be stirred in a pitcher.

This year is the 146th running and for once we have the possibility of a Triple Crown.  While the past 36 years are littered with failure I’d argue that at least as many hopes have been dashed at Pimlico as at Belmont.

Hard Lessons From Belmont

By ERIC BANKS, The New York Times

JUNE 6, 2014

Though I welcome the fair-weather fans, few appreciate just how hard it is to sweep the Triple Crown. After prevailing in the Kentucky Derby, a horse that goes on to win the Preakness is often a victor by attrition, as the tougher challengers, no longer having a shot at the Triple Crown, frequently skip the second leg in the series to better prepare for the Belmont Stakes. Three weeks later, the Belmont’s acid test – a long distance over the racetrack’s unusual and tiring sandy surface, facing a slew of well-rested adversaries – usually exposes the champ’s flaws.

It’s ironic that the Belmont Stakes is able to generate a crowd (and betting handle) as large as the one it will see on Saturday only by dangling the prospect of a Triple Crown – which is likely to send its customers home disappointed.

I hope I’m all wrong about California Chrome. Every strand of his narrative is appealing, from his unlikely pair of regular-guy owners to the magical training job done by his 77-year-old conditioner. A Triple Crown sweep would also be a fitting send-off to the track announcer and Belmont legend Tom Durkin, the longtime voice of New York racing who is retiring in August. If you love the sport, despite its doping scandals and episodes of callous, even cruel treatment of animals, you can’t but hope that the 120,000 spectators who are anticipated at Belmont Park will be treated to a perfect Cinderella – or Seabiscuit – ending.

But horse racing hasn’t been a hopeful sport in some time. I’m content to wish the gallant horse good luck from a distance and take the slim prospect of celebrating far away from the track in exchange for the likelihood of familiar disappointment in person. With the Triple Crown, it just seems like the sporting thing to do.

History of Failure (all from The New York Times)

Still, Eric does identify many of the problems a potential Triple Crown Winner faces.  First of all the distance.  At 1 1/2 miles the Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races and comes hard on the heels of the sprint at Pimlico.

Pushing to Change the Triple Crown’s Grueling Schedule

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

MAY 30, 2014

Stuart Janney III, the vice chairman of the Jockey Club and a member of the New York Racing Association’s board, is joining Tom Chuckas, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, in calling for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes to be spread out over three months. Janney said there was a groundswell of support from owners and trainers for a potential scheduling change, which is already stirring intense debate.



The spacing and order of the races has not always been the same. The Preakness was run before the Derby 11 times, for instance. In 1917 and 1922, they were held the same day. Sir Barton was recognized as the first Triple Crown champion in 1919.



Only two starters from the 19-horse Derby field joined California Chrome in the Preakness. Art Sherman, the 77-year-old trainer of California Chrome, expressed how uncomfortable he was with the turnaround, saying most horses require at least 10 days to recover from a race. Todd Pletcher, a top trainer who regularly claims a deep roster of 3-year-olds, started four horses in the Derby. He skipped the Preakness for the third consecutive year.

“The philosophy of the trainers has drastically changed over the years,” Chuckas said. “It is hard for them to bring a horse back from the Derby in two weeks and run a horse three times in a five-week period. Most of them will not do it.”

Recent history suggests the tightly bunched spring classics can take a toll on young horses that are still developing physically and mentally. Big Brown, the last horse to start in the Belmont Stakes after sweeping the first two legs, in 2008, was so thoroughly defeated that his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, eased him in the stretch. Although I’ll Have Another looked impressive in taking the Derby and the Preakness two years ago, he was scratched on the eve of the Belmont with a career-ending leg injury.

And indeed it is so, this year’s number one contender, Comanding Curve, has been on vacation.

In the Belmont Stakes, a Rested Commanding Curve

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

“I had never experienced the pure jubilation of running so well in the Kentucky Derby,” Finley said. “The first thing that happens is you have people talking about going to the Preakness right away, and you get caught up in the talk.”

Forty-eight hours after the race, the calculating former military man was back in charge.

“When I met with my team, we really felt very strongly the Preakness would not suit our strengths,” Finley said. “We didn’t really have the pressure of going on to the Preakness, not having the Derby winner.” The trainer Dallas Stewart agreed.



Stewart said the rest and the longer distance in the one-and-one-half-mile Belmont may allow his horse to deny California Chrome, who fended off Ride On Curlin by one-and-a-half lengths in the Preakness.

“The best scenario would be to just catch him at the eighth pole and let them fight it out,” Steward said. “It would be a dream to see them fight it out in the stretch.”

Commanding Curve also benefited from remaining at Churchill Downs, his home base, after the Derby. He produced two strong workouts there before being shipped to Belmont Park, where he turned in another sharp four-furlong drill Sunday. He worked in the company of Cost Effective, another West Point horse, and bested him by one length in blazing four furlongs in 47.38 seconds. The workout ranked third of 25 at the distance on a fast track.

It appeared to be the latest evidence that staying on the sideline was wise.

Also the Belmont track surface is looser, sandier, and harder to run on tran most tracks in the country.

The Complex Battle to Achieve the Perfect Dirt

By MELISSA HOPPERT, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

Grading, watering and an assortment of other procedures are necessary to keep the track, which is known as the Big Sandy, in uniform shape. It is a constant battle for the small army charged with its caretaking, and it goes on whether the day’s card is made up of modest claiming and allowance races, as it often is, or loaded with prestigious million-dollar races, as it will be on Saturday, when California Chrome takes aim at the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.



Belmont’s racetrack is considered different not just because of its size but also because of its racing surface, which is a combination of sand, clay and silt. Still, the Big Sandy moniker may actually be a misnomer.

“There’s an impression that it’s a lot different, but the numbers really don’t show it as being dramatically different from the other tracks,” said Peterson, a professor at the University of Maine whose researchers routinely gather data on the surface. “It’s a little sandier, but it’s not that big a change.”

He added: “The biggest difference on racetracks, which is much more important than the sand or the surface composition, is the moisture. And one of the things that makes Belmont quite a bit different is the time of year when they’re racing and how they maintain that.” In other words, Belmont is a spring, summer and early fall track, which means thunderstorms, among other things, are a familiar factor.

One factor he fails to consider is that the NYRA is much stricter about “performance enhancement” than most racing associations.

Debating the Possibility of Winning by a Nose Patch

By TOM PEDULLA, The New York Times

JUNE 5, 2014

The owners, Perry Martin and Steven Coburn, asked the trainer Art Sherman to add the strip after California Chrome started slowly and finished poorly, running sixth among nine starters, in a one-mile stakes race limited to California-breds last Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. They also changed jockeys after their fourth defeat in six races. Victor Espinoza, who swept the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem in 2002, replaced Alberto Delgado.

With those changes, California Chrome rattled off six consecutive victories by a combined 27 ½ lengths. His convincing efforts in the Derby and the Preakness have put him one victory from the Triple Crown.

Martin and Coburn think enough of the nasal strip that Sherman suggested the day after the Preakness victory that California Chrome might not be run in the Belmont if the New York State Gaming Commission did not lift its ban on the nonmedicated, 4-by-6-inch adhesive patch. The commission obliged the next day, citing the opinion of Scott Palmer, its equine medical director.

“Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance nor do they pose a risk to equine health and safety, and as such do not need to be regulated,” Palmer said in a statement released May 19 by the New York Racing Association.

Still, a lot of horses have failed or been pulled because they can’t use their favorite meds in New York State.

Performance Enhancing Drugs (all from The New York Times)

It is a compelling human (and horse) interest story from California Chrome himself who was picked up for a song because he looked like a runt and his breeding was unimpressive, to the owners who, if not exactly middle class (you don’t own race horses if you’re middle class), are at least not as obnoxiously wealthy as most of their peers, to the trainer with one last shot at the Triple Crown.

Human Interest (all from The New York Times)

Hey, at least he wasn’t turned into chevaux.

So you want to know who will win?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Handicapping (all from The New York Times)

And how are New Yorkers reacting to the hype?  Well, the usual mix of insouciance and disdain with a side of suppressed excitement and anticipation.

Coverage has started on NBC and now we’ll have an hour and a half of hype.  Post time is 6:52 pm with pre-race setup starting at 6.

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