Belmont Diary — 8:34 A.M. Wednesday

Relatively quiet here at Belmont Park in the AM. California Chrome made an appearance — to the delight of about a hundred spectators lining the rail.  He’s visually impressive — has a strong head about him. Critics abound, however. The most critical gave much credit to what could be called “crazy racing luck” at worst, or “good positioning” at best. Some buzz about Commanding Curve, the second place Derby finisher.  He’s in good form and quite possibly improved off the Derby.  He’ll need to be if Chrome runs his race.

Interest throughout the town — certainly to increase as we get closer. Even non-racing fans are excited for California Chrome — don’t think I’ve seen this level of popular interest since Smarty Jones.  Fairly long segment yesterday during drive-time on THE FAN – always a good barometer of interest.  NYC is always a great sports town, but with a Triple Crown on the line and the Rangers in the Stanley Cup, the vibe is excellent.

The draw is in a few hours.  With such a long race, post position is less important. The most winners have come from the 1st post, but the last to do so was Empire Maker in 2003.

Remember, it’s not just the Belmont Stakes over the next few days. Belmont has the usual top-quality racing for the next three days — along with the inaugural Belmont Gold Cup contested over 2 miles on the turf on Friday. In addition to the usual coverage of the race of the day, I’ll have extensive coverage of one of the best races of the year, the Met Mile.

Recent Triple Crown History at Belmont

Recent history has been unkind to winners of the first two legs of the Triple Crown.  Let’s review the past ten years:

2003:  Funny Cide The plucky NY-bred beat heavily favored Empire Maker in the Kentucky Derby and romped in the Preakness while Empire Maker rested.  Watch what happened when they met in the Belmont:


2004:  Smarty Jones “It’s been 26 years.  It’s just one furlong away.”  Heartbreak.

2008:  Big Brown The least compelling recent Triple Crown attempt, likely due to the scandals surrounding trainer Rick Dutrow.  Still, I thought he’d win.  I never expected this.

2012:  I’ll Have Another Quite possibly the most disappointing of them all.  He scratched the day before the race due to injury and was promptly retired.  We never got to see him attempt the race.  It was like Wally World was closed.