Belmont Stakes Contenders: A Quick Guide
Use this quick and informative guide for a look at the field for the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). It is compiled in post position order by Ron Mitchell, with analysis by Evan Hammonds.
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MEDAL COUNT (20-1)
Trainer Dale Romans has sung the praises of this colt since last year, but the big colt has been unable to transform morning works to dirt form. He was moving well in Derby but was stopped cold in the stretch when Danza cut in front of him and finished eighth. Brings back-to-back bullet works with him to Belmont. Don't count on him being tired in the stretch; should relish the trip.
CALIFORNIA CHROME (3-5)
Morning-line 3-5 favorite to become racing's 12th winner of the Triple Crown. Seems to have thrived in his near-three week stay at Belmont Park with assistant trainer Alan Sherman reporting the colt has gained weight throughout the run through the classics. Had an awesome work, :47 3/5 for a half-mile, a week before the Belmont. Perhaps only two runners to challenge him early in the 1 1/2-mile race; should turn for home with the lead.
Broke maiden in debut last November and was far back of eventual Florida Derby winner Constitution and Tonalist in '14 debut at Gulfstream. A $625,000 sale 2-year-old. Well beaten in the Peter Pan, finishing behind Tonalist and stablemate Commissioner. Trainer Todd Pletcher hoping colt will move up on a dry track.
COMMANDING CURVE (15-1)
Skipped Preakness after making big run in the Derby to finish second. Took four tries to break his maiden and has not won since, but prepped against top group in Louisiana over the winter. Worked a half-mile in :47 1/5 Sunday. He is a grandson of 1992 Belmont winner A.P. Indy out of a mare who missed a grade II-placing by a nose. The distance is the least of his problems; early pace will spell his fate.
RIDE ON CURLIN (12-1)
Stabled in same barn as California Chrome and one who has gotten closest to him on the track this season, finishing 1 1/2 lengths behind him in the Preakness. One of three 3-year-olds to enter all three Triple Crown events, owner believes he's still 'fresh' because he didn't get chance to run much in the Derby. Has trained well and looks good at Belmont; appears to be biggest challenge to tarnish California Chrome's bid.
Broke maiden in his debut last September at Churchill Downs and is winless in seven starts since. Off the board in two starts at the graded level. Well-bred colt has not run since finishing second to Kid Cruz in Federico Tesio Stakes April 19 at Pimlico (Kid Cruz ran eighth in the Preakness). Best angle is trainer Bill Mott.
Stepped out of New York-bred company to win Withers and Gotham Stakes. Fought hard, tired late in the Derby. Has running style to mix it up with California Chrome early, so he will get first run at him. Last pair of workouts have been at a mile to help him get the 12-furlong trip. The pride of New York.
Shipped around the country on the Triple Crown trail seeking his spot and had his best run last time in the Peter Pan over a sloppy, sealed Belmont main track. By A.P. Indy, a Belmont winner, out of a mare by Touch Gold, a Belmont winner. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won Belmont twice and admits he's taking a shot here.
WICKED STRONG (6-1)
Late-running colt ran on well to close for fourth in the Derby and was impressive in winning the Wood by 3 1/2 lengths. Created some additional buzz after firing a bullet :59 for five furlongs Sunday. Broke his maiden over this track last October. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is winning at a 36% clip at the meet. He will garner a lot of support from those in the know.
GENERAL A ROD (20-1)
Finished 8 1/2 lengths behind California Chrome in the Derby and 8 lengths behind him in the Preakness. Has stout pedigree and can hang his hat on a pair of good efforts at Gulfstream in February and March when he was closer to the pace. It would take a dramatic reversal of form here to put him in the frame.
Has shown brilliance but only has four starts under his belt. He was impressive in Peter Pan over the track, drawing off by four lengths. Big colt at 17 hands. Broodmare sire is stamina-laden Pleasant Colony, winner of Derby and Preakness in 1981 for owner's father, and broodmare is granddaughter of blue hen mare Toll Booth. He's the third choice on the morning line for a reason despite drawing outside post 11.
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