JC / Railbird

Trips and Limits

Ed DeRosa on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner:

California Chrome was much the best in both races because of what I prefer to call “clean trips” rather than “perfect trips.” Clean because he stayed out of trouble but not perfect because — especially in the Preakness — he was fighting every step of the race and turned back all challengers.

That’s a useful distinction, especially in looking ahead to the kind of trip California Chrome might get in the Belmont Stakes. It won’t be perfect, because no one is going to cede a step to the dual classic winner. But clean might not be enough. If Victor Espinoza thought he was a target in the Preakness and had to ride defensively — “I had to start early because the outside horse was pushing me,” said the jockey after the race, “I thought I had the perfect position, but when the outside horse attacked me, I had to open it up at that point” — the Belmont is going to ratchet that pressure up.

Sam Walker remains skeptical of California Chrome’s Triple Crown chances:

The main worry with California Chrome is that he had his stamina exposed in the Derby two weeks ago, where he finished relatively slowly off a steady pace, producing a weak final time (over 1m2f). The expectation is that he will have even less in reserve at the end of the Belmont (over 1m4f).

So stamina is a concern, but so too is class. Sure, the colt has an edge over his contemporaries but so did every other failed Belmont favourite.

When he was trouncing his opposition in the Golden State he looked set to take the world by storm. Back then the sky was the limit, but he hasn’t continued that progress in the Classics. Indeed, his RPRs have plateaued.

At Santa Anita he ran to 124, in the Derby it was 125 and in the Preakness 125 again. We appear to be close to finding the limit of his ability — and in the Derby I think we found the limit of his stamina.

Danza is out of the Belmont. He isn’t 100%; he’ll get some time off.