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Friday, June 6, 2014

CALIFORNIA CHROME AND THE TRIPLE CROWN

Read this blog today and learn the following:  What...
  • ...is the Triple Crown (TC)?
  • ...is the official drink for each race of the TC?
  • ...horses are capable of beating California Chrome (I have suggested a wild upset!!)
  • ...do 3:5 odds mean?
Amazingly enough, throughbred horse races were first held in the U.S. just about 350 years ago in New York.  Belmont Park is in Elmont, New York and, at 1.5 miles, is the largest dirt thoroughbred race course in the world, with sports' largest grandstand.  


The Belmont Stakes, watched in person by 100,000, are held here as the third leg of the TC, which begins with the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, followed by the Preakness, run two weeks later at the Pimlico Course in Baltimore, Maryland, completing the trio three weeks later in New York.

During the almost century (first race in 1919--TC won by Sir Barton, right), there have been eleven winners of the TC.  It was a quarter century between Citation in 1948 and Secretariat (who won the final race by a ridiculous 31 lengths in 2 minutes 24 seconds--but his HEART weight was MORE THAN TWICE the norm) in 1973, so droughts are not uncommon.  It has been 36 years since Affirmed (below) won by a head at the Belmont Stakes to take the TC.  


Got to say something more about Secretariat (above), the greatest thoroughbred ever:
  • Comparing best times of a mile and longer at various distances with ManO'War, sometimes picked as #1, Secretariat wins each by at least ten lengths.
  • He averaged 37.8 miles per hour.  Usain Bolt only gets up to 23 MPH.
  • Never lost a race.
  • Yes, he had a heart that is estimated to have weighed 22 pounds, the largest on record, with the average at 9 pounds.  The larger a horse's heart, the more successful a racer.
These three races are only for 3 year olds.  The equine multiplier is 3, except that horses develop earlier, and 3 is like 18 for humans.  Julie Krone in 1993 was the only female jockey to win the TC on Colonial Affair.  Female horses are fillies (and become mares at the age of 4), while males are colts (becoming a stallion at 4).  Rarely is a filly entered in a triple crown race, but Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness in 2009.  Unlimited Budget came in sixth in the Belmont Stakes last year.  Ruffian is the #1 female racer of all time.  There is a film which Rotten Tomatoes audiences rated at 97%.  No Triple Crown winner.

Since 1978 a dozen horses have won the first two (in 2012 and 2008, the contenders did not finish or start--Smarty Jones, right, came in second in 2004), but failed this ultimate challenge.  Why?
  • The length:
    • Kentucky Derby:  1.25 miles.
    • Preakness:  1.185 miles (this surprises people because this race is the shortest).
    • Belmont Stakes:  1.5 miles
  • Three races in five weeks are too many for a horse.
  • The "bulls-eye on your back" syndrome, that is, all the other horses will try to get in your way.
The official drink of the day is a Belmont Breeze:












Compare with the simpler Mint Julep of the Kentucky Derby:


By contract, Early Times is the designated Kentucky whiskey...note, not bourbon.  If you are in a splurgy mood, have a $1000 premium mint julep of Woodford Reserve bourbon, mint from Ireland, spring water ice cubes from the Bavarian Alps and sugar from Australia, served in a gold-plated cup with a silver straw.

Black-Eyed Susan of the Preakness:



California Chrome (above with jockey Victor Espinoza--age, 42) should not be here.  He comes from two not particularly distinguished parents.  Both he and his mother, Love the Chase, are owned by Perry Martin and Steve Coburn, whose company is DAP Racing, the acronym is for Dump Ass Partners, which has a story of its own and reveals the incongruity of their presence.  

However, after California Chrome (here with mother as a foal--note his "white stockings") won the Kentucky Derby,  a $2.1 million offer was made for his mother, who has also born 2 fillies.  Note that prized stallions are particularly desired, for their sperm can inseminate a lot of mares.  Females are thus relatively cheap.  The most expensive horse is Shareef Dancer (above) in the UK at $45 million.  A one year old filly was sold in Qatar for $8.4 million.  The most expensive thoroughbred is The Green Monkey, which was sold at the age of 2 in 2006 for $16 million.  The average thoroughbred is sold in the range of $50,000 to $100,000.

You will recognize California Chrome, not only for his dominating white face marking, but those controversial nose strips:


California Chrome is listed at 3:5, meaning that if you bet $5, you will return a total of $8 ($3 winnings and the $5 you bet).   He will have ten rivals (the Kentucky Derby had 19 horses):
  • Wicked Strong is at 6:1 (bet $10 and get back $70):  is based at Belmont Park, and only came in 6th in the Kentucky Derby, but stumbled at the start, and has had five weeks off
  • Tonalist at 8:1:  also has considerable experience here and skipped the first two races, so is fresh
  • Ride On Curling at 12-1:  I would pick him to beat California Chrome, not necessarily because he will win, but I like the odds if I were at a racetrack
    • he was far back in the Preakness, but accelerated at the end and lost by only 1.5 lengths
    • the Belmont Stakes race is more than a quarter mile longer, and this horse appears to have stamina
    • his jockey is Bryan Beccia, who served five years of a 25-year sentence for drugs, and at the age of 48 only began racing two years ago--he has a point to prove--look for this black horse with a red silk jockey
  • Commanding Curve at 15-1:  he was second in the Kentucky Derby and has had a five week break.
For the record, Tonalist won, and if you bet $2, would have picked up $20.40.  If you had picked Tonalist #1, Commissioner #2 and Medal Count #3 for the trifecta, for $1 you would have won $3390.  California Chrome tied for fourth, and co-owner Steve Coburn, clearly troubled, placed the blame on the power structure, which kept Tonalist fresh.  He might have a point, for the past few years, half the winners were first timers at Belmont, and the remainder skipped the Preakness.  But conspiracy?   Such is the nature of horse racing.

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