As one of the most coveted prizes in the sporting realm that last came around in 1978, the Triple Crown is a strong possibility this year thanks to one California Chrome.
After staggering triumphs at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, not to mention enforcing rule changes in New York for the upcoming Belmont Stakes, California Chrome has the eye of the globe.
That includes Las Vegas, which lists the rag-to-riches story as a strong favorite at Belmont Park:
|Ride On Curlin||+500|
|California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||-115 (23-20)|
Info via BelmontStakes.com, Odds via Oddsshark.com
Note: Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The result of a $10,000 investment by owners simply looking for a fun tax write-off, California Chrome is not the typical elite horse backed by billionaires looking to flaunt their cash. There is no legendary jockey, either, just Victor Espinoza, who before assuming the saddle had not experienced great success in years.
Since the fateful pairing, the duo has won six races in a row by margins the sport has not seen in more than a decade. The spectacle in Kentucky was a complete rout, while the race in Baltimore had the look of a more competitive affair, but only because other contenders went all-in entirely too early.
But there are issues that suggest California Chrome is not such a safe bet. For one, the elite horse has never had to deal with a track that measures 1 1/2 miles, which is the full length of the Triple Crown's final act.
How California Chrome reacts to a lengthier distance is hard to say, but bettors can at least rest easy knowing Espinoza, who gets the most out of the sport's best participant unlike any other jockey has been able to do, will have a strong strategy entering the race.
There are other likely contenders, too. Ride On Curlin was right with California Chrome at the Preakness before running out of gas on the final approach.
It was bad handling from the jockey, but by all accounts, the contender has been handling the elongated course just fine, per David Grening of the Daily Racing Form:
Ride On Curlin with an easy 1 1-2 mile gallop over sealed muddy/sloppy main track. Rider had good, strong hold of him throughout.— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 24, 2014
Other horses, such as Wicked Strong, were able to sit out the Preakness after competing in the Derby and could very much play the spoiler. Many owners and trainers detest the quick turnaround between Kentucky and Baltimore and therefore, barring a win in the first leg, go all-in for the Triple Crown's final act.
Through all of the drama, including gaining permission to use the oft-talked about nasal strips, assistant trainer Alan Sherman is confident as his team practices in New York, as captured by Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News:
It’s amazing but I think he just keeps getting stronger. He keeps bouncing out of these races so fast it’s kind of scary actually. He’s just doing so good. Right now, I’ve got no concerns on the way he’s training and feeling so everything is going perfect right now, knock on wood. …
It’s a horse race. Anything can happen but as far as being worried or concerned about anything, once he gets out there it’s out of our hands. You have to have some racing luck and hope all goes well. He’ll run his race.
It's a hard point to argue. California Chrome has shown no signs of wear and tear through the quick turnarounds and continues to bully a field that may very well overall represent a down year in hindsight.
For bettors looking to cash in on the last spectacle of the horse racing season, California Chrome is the way to go.