Is California Colt the Unlucky 13th Loser Since 1978 or 12th Triple Crown Winner?

As the 13th horse to win the first two legs of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing since 1978, California Chrome is headed to Elmont, New York with visions of equestrian immortality as the Belmont Stakes race approaches. And there are a lot of reasons to like this story. Co-owners Steve Coburn and Perry Martin are self-described "working-class stiffs", and a breath of fresh air in the sometimes stuffy horse racing community. While being the 13th horse to attempt a Triple Crown victory since Affirmed was successful may sound unlucky, California Chrome comes from sire Lucky Pulpit, a bargain $2,500 purchase if there ever was one. The two thoroughbred horse racing enthusiasts named their partnership DAP for DumbAss Partners, but they are looking wiser than anyone in the game right now.

Winning the Triple Crown is Extremely Difficult ... but Doable

With only 11 Triple Crown winners all time, the chances for California Chrome are slim. Even those horses which seemed veritable locks to capture a Triple Crown in recent years have failed. In 1998, Bob Baffert's Real Quiet had a four length lead at Belmont at the top of the stretch. But he was eventually outdone by Victory Gallop, the horse which finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness to Real Quiet that year. And just one year after Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, Spectacular Bid pushed early and faded down the stretch, as Coastal took the victory. How hard is it to win the Triple Crown? Spectacular Bid is widely regarded as the best horse ever to win the Preakness and Derby and then fail at the Belmont Stakes. However, California Chrome has a lot going for him.

California Chrome is Versatile, and That's a Good Thing

Probably more important than any other factor is California Chrome's ability to win different types of races. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victories were obtained in two entirely different fashions. This highlights the colt's talent; being able to run any type of race. For superstitious horse racing enthusiasts, the fact that California Chrome has worn a nasal strip and then been victorious each of the last six races points to victory in New York. The powers that be have already okayed nasal strips for horses at Belmont. And if you want weird facts to govern your betting, how about the fact that 20 Belmont winners had names that started with "C"? 35 years having passed since the last Triple Crown winner also leads most to believe that horse racing is due for this memorable achievement.

Trainer Art Sherman and Jockey Victor Espinoza are Perfect for California Chrome

California Chrome also has longtime trainer Art Sherman as a positive. In a story that seems out of Hollywood, a young Sherman actually slept with eventual Kentucky Derby winner Swaps prior to the 1955 race. With a very down-to-earth and practical ideology, Sherman never believes in giving pre-race instructions to a jockey. This means that Victor Espinoza can respond to changes during the race however he sees fit. Espinoza also finished second in the Belmont in 2001 on AP Valentine, and earned a ninth place finish in this race in 2006 on AP Valentine. Most applicable though is Espinoza's eighth place finish on War Emblem in a Triple Crown attempt at Belmont. That is simply experience you cannot pay for. And many thoroughbred insiders say that the California Chrome/Espinoza pairing is reminiscent of Steve Cauthen on Affirmed and Ron Turcotte on Secretariat, pretty high praise indeed.

Luck Can Help California Chrome Shine at Belmont

You can also say that California Chrome is destined to win the Triple Crown because he has run into no bad luck so far. Previous Triple Crown candidates who lost at Belmont include Spectacular Bid (stepped on a pin before the race), Charismatic (suffered a broken leg on the turn) and I'll Have Another (injured and scratched just before the race). Horses are also frequently contacted out of the gate, but California Chrome has run into no bumping problems. And the long, wide Belmont track seems so big that it is hard to presume traffic problems, bumping and other congestion issues. Talent-wise, California Chrome seems to be far and away the best horse in the field. Alysheba was beaten by a very strong horse in Bet Twice, and Sunday Silence had Easy Goer to contend with. Such does not appear to be the case this June 7, when California Chrome will either shine in Triple Crown splendor, or fail as the unlucky 13th possible winner since 1978.

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