California Chrome and The Belmont Stakes

We are close to the Belmont Stakes and a small time horse has a chance to make big time history. It has been 36 years since the last time the Triple Crown was won but next Saturday that could all change. When California Chrome enters the starting gate, he will be cheered on by millions all over the country many of whom have never seen a Triple Crown winner in their lifetime. California Chrome Odds will be more like 1:2 than 1:1. Can he pull it off? 

Bred to be a sprinter and by a mare that was so bad the owners were called dumbasses for buying (and now their stable is called Dumbass Stables), California Chrome is in a position noone would have ever expected. At Belmont Park, his connections have said he is working beautifully and ready to run his best race. However, there are new challenges and fresher horses in the picture this time around, and that’s what makes winning the Belmont the hardest part of the Triple Crown. The longest of the three races, the Belmont is the last in the series and comes after two grueling races in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness which take a toll on the horse. California Chrome will have to dig deep for every bit of distance in his pedigree and heart to conquer the greatest challenge of all and win the Triple Crown. But if there was any story that was tailored to a Cinderella ending, it is that of California Chrome.
The biggest challenges California Chrome will face come from Tonalist and Wicked Strong. Tonalist won the Peter Pan Stakes impressively and received an excellent speed figure. He’s an extremely talented horse who was injured during the Kentucky Derby and came back showing no signs of slowing down. Wicked Strong ran a good 4th in the Kentucky Derby after breaking from the 20 post and encountering some trouble throughout the race. He skipped the Preakness with the goal of coming into the Belmont as a fresh horse. If California Chrome is going to make history, he is going to have to earn it. The same way he’s had to earn respect his entire career. He’d want it no other way.

5 Things to Love About Kentucky (In Addition to Some Horse Race)

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Without a shred of apologies to Wayne’s World, I propose a must-read list, on the eve of the Kentucky Derby: 5 Things to Love About Kentucky (besides that horse race). Here it is:

1) Ashley Judd

As Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar would say: Schweeng.

2) Blue Moon Over Kentucky 

Who doesn’t love Bill Monroe?

3) KU and Louisville University

Is it my imagination or does one of these colleges win March Madness, like, every other year?

4) Colonel Sanders 

Just because.

5) Abe Lincoln

Before our 16th president nobly freed slaves and became the world’s first notable humanitarian with a pointy beard and an accent strangely reminiscent of Daniel Day-Lewis’, he grew up in Kentucky. As the National Parks Service website proclaims: His early life on Kentucky’s frontier shaped his character and prepared him to lead the nation through Civil War.

Jon Friedman is a journalist, author, and media consultant based in New York City.

Who’s Your Daddy: The Top 5 Studiest Studs

It’s no secret that most Thoroughbred racehorses get their incredible racing capabilities from just a few handful of ancestors, making this year’s contenders to the Kentucky Derby distant (or not so distant) cousins.

We traced the Thoroughbred family lineages to 5 baller racehorses that have sired the sires of the sires (and so on) of our future Derby champions.

Raise A Native (1961-1988)

Tinder has nothing on this mega stud.

An undefeated Thoroughbred racehorse that won the Great American Stakes and Belmont Juvenile in 1963, Raise A Native’s bright chances never had a chance at the Triple Crown due to a bowed tendon. Instead, he was retired to a breeding farm proceeded to live the life of the ultimate playboy.

Proof that Raise A Native was the ultimate champion producer: In 1978, Raise A Native’s offspring Alydar, dueled his grand offspring Affirmed (sired by Exclusive Native) in all three legs of the Triple Crown, finishing a close second to Affirmed in all three races by a combined total of less than two lengths. Talk about keeping things in the family!

As of 2014, a whooping 21 Kentucky Derby winners have had Raise a Native on their sire or broodsire line, including Smarty Jones, Funny Cide, Warm Emblem, Fusaichi Pegasus, Affirmed and Majestic Prince.

Northern Dancer (1961- 1990)

This Canadian stud has been called “one of the most influential sires in Thoroughbred history” by The National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

A nine time major champion winner, Northern Dancer was one win shy of the Triple Crown in in 1964, missing the Belmont Stakes title by just sixth lengths.

Northern Dancer sired 147 stakes Winners, producing multiple champions in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Notable offspring include Ninjinsky, winner of England’s Triple Crown, The Minstrel, Secreto and Northernette.

Nasrullah (1940 – 1959)

This fast runner was bred in Ireland and trained in the United Kingdom before becoming a champion sire in both Europe and North America.

As a two-year-old, he won the Coventry Stakes and finished second in the Middle Park Stakes, ending the year as the top-rated colt of his generation. In the following season, he became increasingly difficult to manage, and his temperament compromised his racing career.

Fortunately he had better luck with his siring career, becoming one the most important North American sires of the 20th century, leading the sire list five times.

Amongst his American progeny were Jaipur, winner of the Belmont Stakes, Bold Ruler (who himself became a champion sire), and Nashua, winner of the 1955 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Bold Ruler (1954 – 1971)

 

Bold Ruler was the one to watch as a Triple Crown threat in 1957. He went off as the heavy 6:5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby but faded down the homestretch after fighting jockey Eddie Arcaro’s restraint. In the Preakness Stakes, Bold Ruler bounced back to win but was unable to secure the Belmont Stakes title.

He is the sire of Hall of Famer Secretariat, the Triple Crown winner of 1973- the first in 25 years. He is also the grand sire of Seattle Slew, the Triple Crown winner of 1977.

Nearctic (1954 – 1973)

 

Another Canadian Hall of Famer, this nine time major stakes winner sired the one and only Northern Dancer, and appears four generations back on both sides (dam and sire) of champion race horse Big Brown.

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Derby Through the Ages

Clockwise from top:

Photo 1: Julep-laden waiters line up for pre-Derby inspection outside Churchill Downs clubhouse before serving early arrivals.

Photo 2Spectators watch a race at Churchill Downs on Derby day, 1955.

Photo 3In the winner’s circle with Swaps after the 3-year-old colt won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, with Hall of Fame jockey Willie Shoemaker on board.

Photo 4Mint Juleps at the Kentucky Colonel’s Julep Reception held the day before Kentucky Derby, 1937.

Photo 5The ladies shielding their hats as it starts drizzling.

Photo 6Early birds sleep at the track so they can be first in line at the grandstand admission windows when gates open on Derby morning.

Photo 7 (middle)Delirious winner, whose view of finish was blocked, leaps up as Swaps’ victory is announced in 1955.

The Psychology of Gambling

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Editor’s Note: We are fascinated by the psychology of gambling on horse racing. Each day, leading up to the big race, we will explore what motivates, inspires, vexes and keeps people betting. As you will see, all kinds of people bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Psychologists understand why people gamble. They see it as a fact of life, a way that people can feel better about themselves and their lives.

It isn’t always rational. But it is… life.

Gambling can make you think that your life has a deeper meaning. Even if gambling results in a financial loss and temporary anguish, people engage in the practice as a way to add some spice and excitement to their normally humdrum lives. Is it an illusion? Of course.

But like many so-called societal vices, it can temporarily make life more interesting — and that in itself can be enough to answer the siren’s call.

"The sheer unpredictability of winning excites neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, in the pleasure center," said Dr. Jennifer Naidich, a clinical psychologist in New York City. "This makes gambling even more reinforcing and rewarding." Naidich has seen it all in her work.

"So, when gamblers lose, because they’ve won before, they are willing to risk or do almost anything to score again," Naidich continued. "Sometimes, gamblers become so irrational that they are willing to lose everything they have, foolishly believing that they will not only recoup their losses but really hit it big."

Jon Friedman is a journalist, author and media consultant in New York City.

Derby Through the Ages

Clockwise from top:

Photo 1: Julep-laden waiters line up for pre-Derby inspection outside Churchill Downs clubhouse before serving early arrivals.

Photo 2Spectators watch a race at Churchill Downs on Derby day, 1955.

Photo 3In the winner’s circle with Swaps after the 3-year-old colt won the 1955 Kentucky Derby, with Hall of Fame jockey Willie Shoemaker on board.

Photo 4Mint Juleps at the Kentucky Colonel’s Julep Reception held the day before Kentucky Derby, 1937.

Photo 5The ladies shielding their hats as it starts drizzling.

Photo 6Early birds sleep at the track so they can be first in line at the grandstand admission windows when gates open on Derby morning.

Photo 7 (middle)Delirious winner, whose view of finish was blocked, leaps up as Swaps’ victory is announced in 1955.