Patrick Semansky/Associated Press
Chrome is a beloved horse and maybe a Triple Crown winner.
For the next two-and-a-half weeks, all the talk swirling around Belmont Park and horse racing will be whether or not California Chrome can win the Triple Crown.
Usually the Kentucky Derby taxes the winner to the point where the Preakness is a matter of adrenaline. With the Belmont, the horse is on fumes. Chrome is different. He won the Derby nice and easy. It was so easy and his time so pedestrian (2:03.66) that people were calling him a fraud.
The Preakness silenced Chrome's critics by the way he was able to accelerate for an entire half-mile to separate himself from the talented Social Inclusion and the late-charging Ride On Curlin.
Social Inclusion forced Chrome's tactics a furlong too soon, but Chrome rose to the occasion.
Unlike many of the Triple Crown threats before Chrome, Chrome's running style may be the most favorable. Smarty Jones was able to relax in the Derby and Preakness, but he spent most of his time tugging to the lead in the Belmont. He was cranked in 2004 and was too taxed too early. He nearly won the darn thing. In 2008, Big Brown's body chemistry was all kinds of messed up, and he got stepped on leaving the gate. He was eased and didn't finish.
Chrome chooses his own adventure; he makes his own trip. He proved that in the Derby and the Preakness. No more will that be important than in the Belmont Stakes, a race that tests a horse's physical and mental capacities. It's a long way around Belmont's oval, and Chrome, though far from regally bred, has the proper mix of talent and awareness to make this thing happen.
It's been far too long, and maybe Chrome is the best horse since Real Quiet (relative to his own generation, of course). All the attention, all the cameras and really, the whole globe, will be tuning in to see if Chrome will join two other chestnuts—Secretariat and Affirmed—in the Triple Crown fraternity.