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California Chrome draws No. 2 post position for Belmont Stakes

Exercise rider Willie Delgado gallops Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome at Belmont Park on Wednesday.

Associated Press

Exercise rider Willie Delgado gallops Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome at Belmont Park on Wednesday.

ELMONT, N.Y.— The tension is palpable as post positions are drawn for the Kentucky Derby. Trainers entertain nightmare visions of their wonderfully quick animals becoming trapped behind a wall of 19 other horses.

For the Belmont Stakes? Horsemen spoke as if Wednesday's draw barely mattered. With its 11/2-mile length, wide turns and smaller fields, the race presents a different set of problems.

Which might be a good thing for California Chrome, who'll start from the No. 2 post as he tries to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The Derby and Preakness champ is a 3-5 morning-line favorite.

Though some of his connections acknowledged the position is less than ideal, they shrugged it off, saying the race will turn instead on Victor Espinoza's tactical decisions. "This is a jockey's race," co-owner Steve Coburn said. "We know Chrome can do it. He can go the distance. So it's going to be up to Victor to put him in position to where he can win this race. … No. 2 — it's just another post position. We all get drawn a bad place sooner or later. You just have to make the best of it."

Assistant trainer Alan Sherman reached into the past, noting Secretariat clinched the Triple Crown from an inside post, and 11 Belmont winners have come out of the No. 2 spot in the starting gate, the last being Tabasco Cat in 1994.

The 6-1 popular upset pick is Wicked Strong, who was fourth in the Derby and scored the biggest win of his career in the Wood Memorial at New York's Aqueduct Racetrack. He's fresher than California Chrome, has run best in New York but drew post No. 9. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is a second-generation New York trainer and knows Belmont well: "You got the big, sweeping turns and the big, long run down the backstretch to see if you should go up a little or take it easy a little. I'd have to think of all the (Triple Crown) races, this is the one where post position means the least."

Ride On Curlin and General a Rod are the only horses who join California Chrome for all three legs. Ride On Curlin will do it under his third rider, John Velazquez. His Preakness jockey, Joel Rosario, will ride Tonalist. Though he will start outside, he won the May 10 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, historically an indicator of good performance in the Belmont Stakes.

One old challenger who seems almost forgotten is Commanding Curve, second in the Derby with a late charge. "We're hoping a little extra distance will be to our benefit," trainer Dallas Stewart said.

The lineup

The field for Saturday's 146th Belmont Stakes, with post position, horse's name, jockey's name and odds:

1. Medal CountRobby Albarado20-1
2. California ChromeVictor Espinoza3-5
3. MatterhornJoe Bravo30-1
4. Commanding CurveShaun Bridgmohan15-1
5. Ride On CurlinJohn Velazquez12-1
6. MatuszakMike Smith30-1
7. SamraatJose Ortiz20-1
8. CommissionerJavier Castellano20-1
9. Wicked StrongRajiv Maragh6-1
10. General a RodRosie Napravnik20-1
11. TonalistJoel Rosario8-1

Trainers (by post position): 1, Dale Romans. 2, Art Sherman. 3, Todd Pletcher. 4, Dallas Stewart. 5, Billy Gowan. 6, Bill Mott. 7, Rick Violette Jr. 8, Todd Pletcher. 9, James Jerkens. 10, Mike Maker. 11, Christophe Clement.

Owners (by post position): 1, Spendthrift Farm. 2, Steve and Carolyn Coburn & Perry and Denise Martin. 3, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Town and Country Farms. 4, West Point Thoroughbreds. 5, Daniel J. Dougherty. 6, George J. Prussin. 7, My Meadowview Farm. 8, WinStar Farm. 9, Centennial Farms. 10, Starlight Racing & Skychai Racing, LLC. 11, Robert S. Evans.

Weights: 126 pounds. Distance: 1½ miles. Purse: $1.5 million. First place: $800,000. Second place: $280,000. Third place: $150,000. Fourth place: $100,000. Fifth place: $60,000. Post time: 6:52 p.m.

A big problem

California Chrome will have 10 rivals Saturday. No horse has won the Triple Crown facing more than seven Belmont challengers:

Horse Year No.

Sir Barton 1919 2

Gallant Fox 1930 3

Omaha 1935 4

War Admiral 1937 6

Whirlaway 1941 3

Count Fleet 1943 2

Assault 1946 6

Citation 1948 7

Secretariat 1973 4

Seattle Slew 1977 7

Affirmed 1978 4

California Chrome draws No. 2 post position for Belmont Stakes 06/04/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:02pm]
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