By Gene Kershner
This morning the post position draw for this weekend's $1.5 million Belmont Stakes was completed and California Chrome's quest for the Triple Crown will start from the No. 2 post.
A field of 11 horses will enter the starting gate at approximately 6:52 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the final leg of the Triple Crown series where over 100,000 race fans will be descending on Belmont Park just outside of New York City.
California Chrome was set as the 3-5 favorite on the morning line and should have little difficulty heading out of the 2 hole, which has produced 11 Belmont winners since 1905. Post positions in the mile and a half classic are not as important as the Derby where 20 runners are fighting for position going in the first turn, but it won't hurt his chances based on his tactical speed to be in the inside early.
Fun Facts and Quotations:
- Horses starting with the letter C have won the most Belmont Stakes (20) since 1905, so that bodes well for the favorite.
- Chrome's trainer Art Sherman was happy with the draw. "Well, I think going a mile and a half, it's a good post position. We feel safe on the ground leaving there. I think it's going to be a jockey's race anyhow. It gives you a chance to see who's going to have the speed and where you land going into the first turn," said Sherman.
- The chestnut colt will seek to become the 55th of that color in the race's history to don the carnations which would bring them even with the bays who have won as many.
- Speaking of the carnation blanket, more than 700 select carnations from Colombia are glued by hand onto a green velveteen spread. A similar, smaller blanket is created and will be hanging on the statue of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, in the paddock.
- Earlier in the week, the Triple Crown trophy left its environs in the Kentucky Derby Museum to make its way to the Big Apple for this weekend's activities. The trophy was created in 1950 via the Thoroughbred Racing Association and designed by the world famous Cartier Jewelry Company it was bestowed on the previous eight winners of the Triple Crown retroactively. It wasn't officially awarded to a winner at Belmont (third jewel) until 23 years later to the great Secretariat. The three-sided vase, each face equally representing the three races (jewels) of the Triple Crown, is a permanent trophy awarded to the winner with engraved information on each side describing each victory.
- Wicked Strong was made the second choice on the morning line at 6-1 and drew post No. 9 for trainer James Jerkens, who had the far outside post in the Derby. "I would have liked him to be a couple of spots inside. But it's better than being way on the outside. At least he's got two horses shielding him from the crowd. Maybe that'll help a little bit," said Jerkens.
- Newcomer to the Triple Crown series and Peter Pan winner Tonalist (8-1) is the third choice on the morning line and will likely be forwardly placed in the early going. Early thinking is that he, Chrome, General a Rod and Samraat will all be in the front group heading into the first turn.
- Derby runner-up Commanding Curve (12-1) returns after a five-week rest to set his sights on derailing Chrome's Triple Crown hopes. Trainer Dallas Stewart wouldn't tip his hand on where he'd like his deep closer to be stationed throughout the race and will be leaving it up to his jockey. "We've got a great rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, I'm sure he'll stay in touch with the race, and he's got a lot of confidence in the horse, so I'm going to put it in his hands and we're going to see, but it's going to be a great race. The Triple Crown on the line, a lot of excitement, so I hope we get a big crowd," said Stewart.
The News will be on site in Elmont on Thursday and will have a Friday preview of the undercard at the Sports, Ink blog which features nine graded stakes and over $8 million in purses. On Saturday we'll have a Derby preview in print with a race recap Sunday morning.
Here's a look at the field for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes:
|5||Ride On Curlin||Gowan||Velazquez||12-1|
|7||Samraat||Violette Jr||J Ortiz||20-1|
|10||General a Rod||Maker||Napravnik||20-1|