The field for the 2014 Belmont Stakes has already fluctuated in the immediate days following California Chrome’s Preakness victory. California Chrome and second place Ride On Curlin are entered for the Belmont and have already arrived in Elmont, NY.
Early on, Danza (third in the Derby) and Ring Weekend, also a Preakness participant were being pointed to the Belmont Stakes. As of today, both have been withdrawn from consideration. Danza was withdrawn earlier in the week following a workout with which trainer Todd Pletcher was not pleased. He will spend some time on the sidelines and plans are to bring him back to training hopefully later in the week. On the advice of trainer H. Graham Motion, Ring Weekend was also withdrawn and will be pointed to other stakes races later in the summer.
But almost concurrent to these moves, two other horses are being entered to the field beyond the other horses already committed–Matusak and, returning to the chase off his troubled Derby run, Candy Boy. I know little about Mutusak beyond the fact that he was the second place finisher behind Kid Cruz in the Frederico Tesio Stakes, the prep for the Preakness.
Barring the unforeseen, it’ll be a near full field for California Chrome to take down in his attempt to assume the Triple Crown. As of today, the field would consist of:
Commissioner (Second in the Belmont Stakes prep, the Peter Pan)
Ride On Curlin
Candy Boy and
If you’ll look back in my blog posts, you’ll see I was quite taken with Tonalist and his performance in winning the Peter Pan. And certainly if the track comes up wet on Belmont day I’d give him the edge over California Chrome (although CC has been training over a series of wet tracks at all three venues in the mornings and so far doesn’t appear to be spinning his wheels…). And in listening to many opinions of both TVG and HRTV (cable horse racing channels) analysts, Tonalist is the horse most are giving the best chance to upset California Chrome. Remember where you heard it first!!
As far as the rest of the Belmont field looks to me, Social Inclusion, Kid Cruz, and Candy Boy are surprising entrants to me. Once California Chrome got past Social Inclusion in the Preakness he only opened up on him in terms the number of lengths he left him behind. Kid Cruz never made a dent in California Chrome’s lead and the added distance of the Belmont I don’t suspect will help him gain enough to win. Yes, Candy Boy had a horrific Derby trip, but even though he’s bred for the distance, I still haven’t seen him really wanting it, even in his trouble-free prep race efforts.
Beyond Tonalist and in the absence of Danza, Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve are the two other horses I think could pull the upset. Commanding Curve was rolling and closing at the end of the Derby. Believe it or not, one of Commanding Curve’s connections went on record after the Preakness stating that Commanding Curve WOULD win the Belmont Stakes. And I simply don’t think we saw the best that Wicked Strong is capable of as he weaved his way through the Derby field for a respectable fourth place finish. As far as Ride On Curlin, he was there at the end of the Preakness, but really not making a serious cut into California Chrome’s lead. Further, Joel Rosario, who rode Ride on Curlin in the Preakness has opted to retain his ride on…Tonalist who he was on in the Peter Pan.
So the clock ticks at what I find an entirely TOO SLOW of a pace to June 7 and the answer to whether California Chrome will be lucky number 13; being the 13th horse since Affirmed to have the chance to take the most difficult title in all of sports–the Triple Crown.
I’ll close with something that IS known and is exceptionally good news, two-time and reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan is safe at home at trainer Charlie LoPresti’s farm to recuperate from his emergency colic surgery last week. The outcome was the best possible and a bit unusual. Apparently as Wise Dan was inverted on the operating table the affected area of his colon released and the twist that they had expected to find was back in place; he was checked thoroughly and then closed back up. He appears no worse for wear and could resume light training next month and potentially, if all goes well, return to racing late summer.