JC / Railbird

Unfamiliar Conditions

Richard Migliore on the unique challenge of riding at Belmont Park:

“Heading into the second turn [when you’re used to a smaller oval], your hands and body language are trained to give the horse its cue,” said Migliore. “You open your knees and lower your seat [asking your horse to pick it up]. The problem is [at Belmont Park] you’re not three furlongs from home at that point. You’re probably four and a half furlongs from the wire. And once you give the horse that cue, you can’t take it back.”

There’s a great interactive graphic in Frank Angst’s Triple Crown opus that shows the differing proportions of the classic races (scroll to the midpoint): 14% of the Belmont Stakes happens in the stretch; 51% takes place in the turns. “I rode that track every day and you’re still tempted to let your horse move as you drop into that far turn,” Jerry Bailey told Angst. I wonder if the challenge for Victor Espinoza on June 7 will be not his own impulse to move with California Chrome then, but that other riders and horses surely will …