NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — California Chrome is the 3-5 early favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become horse racing’s 12th Triple Crown champion.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner will break from the No. 2 post under Victor Espinoza on Saturday at Belmont Park. Eleven Belmont winners have come out of that post, the last being Tabasco Cat in 1994.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to win the Triple Crown,” California Chrome co-owner Steve Coburn said Tuesday, according to Newsday. “Because I’ve seen him perform the other two times and his looks this past Saturday tell me this horse is healthy, he’s happy. He’s gaining weight and putting on muscle. He’s ready to go.”
California Chrome will be listed No. 2 in the betting program, the same number as 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who won the Belmont by a record 31 lengths while setting a track record for the 1 ½-mile race that still stands.
Wicked Strong was the 6-1 second choice and drew post No. 9. The colt finished fourth after an unlucky trip in the Derby, sat out the Preakness and comes into the Belmont off a five-week rest.
Tonalist was made the third betting choice at 8-1 odds and will break from the No. 11 post. The colt has experienced on the track, having won the Peter Pan Stakes, although he is new to the Triple Crown trail.
Ride On Curlin, the 12-1 fourth choice, and 20-1 shot General a Rod are the only other horses besides California Chrome who will have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Eleven horses were entered to take on California Chrome in his bid to win the Triple Crown for the first time since Affirmed swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont in 1978.
Commanding Curve, second in the Derby, was listed at 15-1. Four horses were at 20-1: Commissioner, General a Rod, Medal Count (eighth in the Derby) and Samraat (fifth in the Derby).
Matterhorn and Matuszak, both new to the Triple Crown series, were listed at 30-1.
MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE SCENES AT BELMONT
They’re gearing up for record crowds – and hosting more than 100,000 spectators takes some doing.
CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff got a behind-the-scenes peek at preparations on Wednesday.
Sam Grossman, otherwise known as “Sam the Bugler,” will do the call to the post on Saturday. He will welcome fans wondering if California Chrome has a date with destiny.
“It’s a mile and a half on a hot day. That’s why they call this the test of champions,” Grossman said.
He’s been down this path before. Twelve Triple Crown bids in the last 36 years fell short.
Tony Green, the Belmont florist, has already made his pick.
“I just feel like it’s going to happen, I actually had a dream about it,” said Green, referring to a Triple Crown.
Green is the talent behind Belmont’s beautiful grounds.
“White carnations are known to be lucky, so having luck at a racetrack would work out well. They are the longest lasting flowers,” Green said.
Green’s back office on Wednesday was stocked with 400 lucky white carnations for the winner’s blanket.
But who will be wearing it?
Placing judge Sonny Taylor could have a say in that, if there’s a dead heat. He’s worked the last three Triple Crownings.
“A mile and a half is a long ways and anything can happen. We hope he wins. I have another space on my wall,” Taylor said.
And calling it all with the best seat in the house will be Tom Durkin.
This will be his last Belmont Stakes and he knows he could be narrating history.
“I’m not going to have to try hard to make it memorable. If he does it, I don’t want to gild the lily. Just saying that California Chrome has won the Triple Crown is really all you have to say,” Durkin said.
Coburn told Gusoff that Saturday can’t come fast enough.
“I honestly believe that’s going to happen. History is going to happen Saturday,” Coburn said.
And if No. 2 proves lucky, Sam the Bugler said he is ready to serenade California Chrome — with some “New York State of Mind.”
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