One of the questions surrounding California Chrome is how he'll handle the 1.5-mile track at the Belmont Stakes in his quest to be the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978. Now imagine if he had to deal with another half-mile after that.
That's just what the horses at the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup faced. It was Charming Kitten who was the first champion on the two-mile turf race, edging out Irish Mission and Reflecting. From the NYRA on Twitter:
Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News has more:
Charming Kitten, blinkers off, takes the 1st running of the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational in 3:21.52— Jerry Bossert (@JBossertNYDN) June 6, 2014
Trainer Todd Pletcher was hoping that removing the blinkers would help, as he told HorseRacingNation.com before the race:
"With a horse like him, who has been steadily campaigned, his fitness level is pretty good," said Pletcher. "One thing we are going to do is take the blinkers off for this race. Obviously, we hope it will help him relax in the early part of the race and get him in a good rhythm."
Turns out he the move paid off. Quite literally. Here are the full results and payouts:
|6||Spy in the Sky||-||-||-|
|10||Comes the Dream||-||-||-|
|Scratched||Wings of Fortune||-||-||-|
Charming Kitten came on very strong at the end, surpassing several horses to sneak to the front of the pack. Irish Mission and Reflecting weren't close behind and in fact were so close for second place, it required a photo finish.
Comes the Dream spent most of the race in the front, but couldn't hold off the field down the straightaway. Twilight Eclipse spend much of the race drafting in right behind Comes the Dream but couldn't quite hold off the faster horses late. Ditto for Mambo Man, who took a wide berth midway down the backstretch run and was up with the leaders but would eventually drop back.
Reflecting made a strong run on the final straightaway but appeared to pause ever-so-slightly when trying to squeeze between horses. That moment of hesitation was all Charming Kitten would need, as the horse made a strong run on the outside and had the steam to hold off a close group of horses for the win.
Some folks, of course, will remember Charming Kitten from the 2013 Kentucky Derby, when the horse finished ninth. Pletcher, meanwhile, will be hoping the horses he has trained that are running in the Belmont Stakes—Matterhorn and Commissioner—will have the same luck as Charming Kitten.
And jockey John Velazquez will hope he has as good a run on Ride On Curlin in that same race.
In other words, a whole lot of folks will be hoping Charming Kitten charms not only the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup, but also the Belmont Stakes as well.