2014 Belmont Stat Blast #1: Past 15 Triple Crown Candidates

Comedian Chris Rock once joked about the low-budget, indie film The Blair Witch Project. “People keep telling me they made it for $100,000. ‘You gotta see it. It’s amazing, and it only cost them $100,000 to make it!’ So I went to see it. Man, I tell ya, somebody’s walking around with $90,000 in their pocket!”

For weeks now, you’ve been hearing, “No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed. The last 12 horses to run for the Triple Crown have failed. It’s almost impossible to win the Triple Crown!”

So, man, I gotta’ tell ya’, anybody who thinks California Chrome doesn’t have a chance to win is looking at the stats the wrong way. And I hope they’ve got 90,000 dollars in their pocket to burn.

Unlike many of the dozen who failed, California Chrome owns winning times that rank among the best in the past 30 years or so. He has the best Santa Anita Derby time since Indian Charlie won it in 1998. His winning San Felipe Stakes time ranks just as high. And his winning Preakness time leaves him just 2/5ths of a second behind Affirmed and Seattle Slew, the last two Triple Crown winners.


Sunday Silence…….1:53.80 (2nd 1989 Belmont)
Spectacular Bid…….1:54.20 (3rd 1979 Belmont)
Seattle Slew…………1:54.40 (Won Triple Crown)
Affirmed………………1:54.40 (Won Triple Crown)
Real Quiet…………….1:54.60 (2nd 1998 Belmont)
Pleasant Colony…….1:54.60 (3rd 1981 Belmont)
Silver Charm…………1:54.80 (2nd 1997 Belmont)
California Chrome…1:54.84
Big Brown……………..1:54.86 (last 2008 Belmont)
Charismatic…………..1:55.20 (3rd 1999 Belmont)
Smarty Jones…………1:55.59 (2nd 2004 Belmont)
Funny Cide……………1:55.61 (3rd 2003 Belmont)
Alysheba……………….1:55.80 (4th 1987 Belmont)
I’ll Have Another….1:55.94 (scratch 2012 Belmont)
War Emblem…………1:56.40 (8th 2002 Belmont)

Every TC candidate in this list with a Preakness time faster than 1:55.0 finished in the money in the Belmont, except Big Brown. Not coincidentally, Big Brown ran in the Belmont while nursing a severe quarter crack, an injury that limited his racing as a 2-year-old and caused him to miss 3 days of training when it resurfaced prior to the Belmont. And Spectacular Bid suffered a foot abscess just prior to the 1979 Belmont from stepping on a pin. California Chrome, by all reports, is 100% healthy.

Silver Charm lost his bid in 1997 in one of the most competitive Triple Crown series in recent memory. Real Quiet lost to his nemesis Victory Gallop, who went on to win other top stakes races. But California Chrome faces a field emptied of the year’s most impressive stakes winners, as well as being void of last year’s top young stakes horses. The only rival with a Grade 1 or 2 win around two turns is Wicked Strong. Three rivals have only maiden wins; two others have beaten only 1st-level allowance horses.

In summary, of the last 8 horses to run faster than 1:55.0 in the Preakness, 2 won the Triple Crown and 3 finished 2nd in the Belmont. Seven of 8 finished in the money. What if I moved my cutoff point back to the last 10 TC candidates to win the Preakness in under 1:55? Tally another winner (Secretariat) and a loser (Canonero II). So 30% winners  and 60% win/place. The only problem with betting this angle is that nearly all of these TC hopefuls went to post as heavy favorites. Digging a profit out of these overachievers is tough.

I wish I could point to a lucrative angle for this year’s Belmont. The best I can do is recommend that you take a shot with longshots who will sit close to an early pace that’s likely to be slow. Bet General A Rod and Samraat in exactas with the horse I think will be the next Triple Crown winner, California Chrome.

—Roger LeBlanc

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