If anyone knows how tough it is to sweep the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), it's Bob Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer came within a heartbeat of winning it twice, with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.
He had a third shot in 2002 with War Emblem, who lost all chance when the gates opened for the Belmont Stakes and he went to his knees. Adios Belmont, adios Triple Crown in an eighth-place finish.
That's why Baffert says the start of Saturday's 1 1/2-mile Belmont should determine whether California Chrome wins the third and most elusive jewel in racing's Triple Crown.
"The break is the key to the whole race," Baffert said. "A clean break and it's over. That's it. With a clean break, he's way better than all the other horses."
If there were doubters about California Chrome before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Preakness (both gr. I), Baffert can't be counted among them. At least not after what he saw in the Santa Anita Derby.
"He looked so good winning that race," Baffert said. "All his races here have been just phenomenal. You have to put aside that he's a Cal-bred and not sired by a major stallion.
"I think he's a great horse. It doesn't matter if there are 14 or six horses (in the race). He needs to break clean. Once he breaks clean, then you could run 20 horses there, he's going to be in front of them all, so he's not going to have any problem. He'll lead them all the way around there."