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California Chrome draws gate No. 2 for historic Triple Crown try

By Robert Kieckhefer, UPI Racing Writer   |   June 5, 2014 at 10:09 AM   |   Comments

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California Chrome will start from the No. 2 gate against 10 opponents in Saturday's Belmont Stakes as he tries to end a Triple Crown drought stretching back to 1978.

Both the trainer and the rider of the modestly bred colt said they are happy with the post position, which is less important in the 1 1/2-miles Belmont than in the shorter earlier legs of the Triple Crown -- the Kentucky Derby and Peakness Stakes. California Chrome drew No. 5 for the Derby and No. 3 in the Preakness.

The Belmont Park oddsmaker slotted California Chrome as the 3-5 favorite for Saturday's race.

"I think it's going to be a jockey's race anyhow," said Allan Sherman, son and assistant to trainer Art Sherman. "It gives you a chance to see who's going to have the speed and where you land going into the first turn."

Jockey Victor Espinoza added, "I'm very excited. I like No. 2. I think, hopefully, it's my lucky number."

This is Espinoza's second chance at the Triple Crown. He won the Derby and Preakness on War Emblem 12 years ago but his colt stumbled at the start of the Belmont and never reached contention.

The field, from the inside, for Saturday's $1.5 million, Grade I Belmont Stakes, 1 1/2 miles on the dirt, with trainer, jockey and morning-line odds:

1. Medal Count, Dale Romans, Robby Albarado, 20-1
2. California Chrome, Art Sherman, Victor Espinoza, 3-5 (f)
3. Matterhorn, Todd Pletcher, Joe Bravo, 30-1
4. Commanding Curve, Dallas Stewart, Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1
5. Ride On Curlin, Billy Gowan, John Velazquez, 20-1
6. Matuszak, Bill Mott, Mike Smith, 30-1
7. Samraat, Rick Violette, Jose Ortiz, 20-1
8. Commissioner, Todd Pletcher, Javier Castellano 20-1
9. Wicked Strong, Jimmy Jerkens, Rajiv Maragh, 6-1
10. General A Rod, Mike Maker, Rosie Napravnik, 20-1
11. Tonalist, Christophe Clement, Joel Rosario, 8-1

Wicked Strong, the second favorite on the morning line, won the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and then finished fourth with a strong late move in the Kentucky Derby. He skipped the Preakness. Earlier, he finished ninth in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park -- a race that produced a raft of later stakes winners.

Tonalist, the oddsmaker's third choice, is making only his fourth career start but comes off a victory in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes over the Belmont oval, accelerating at the end of the 1 1/8 miles like he could have handled more distance.

Commanding Curve finished second to California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby, gaining a huge amount of ground in the long Churchill Downs stretch after running next-last of the 19 starters through the first 3/4 mile.

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