Daily Belmont Update: Tuesday, June 3

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6/3/2014
2:34 pm EDT

An abbreviated Update today.

BILLY TURNER -- Billy Turner, who trained Seattle Slew through a sweep of the 1977 Triple Crown, briefly handicapped this year's Belmont Stakes this morning outside his barn.  Turner is the only living trainer who has won the Triple Crown.

"I think it's going to be a great race, I really do," he said. "California Chrome is the outstanding horse of the crop. The only question you have is, will he get the mile and a half? He certainly appears to be the best of the 3-year-old crop, no question, but a mile and a half can be a little bit strange, and we have a few horses in there who will get the mile and a half. Tonalist was very impressive in the Peter Pan, and Wicked Strong has been training like a monster of a horse, and he is bred to run that far."

Turner discussed the importance of pace in the Belmont Stakes, saying Seattle Slew had the race locked up when he led through three-quarters in 1:14.

"The strategy of the riders is going to be very, very interesting," said Turner. "I wouldn't be surprised to see California Chrome running third or fourth the first part of the race. Then the question is, how fast do they run three-quarters? That will tell an awful lot."

Turner reflected on how he changed his training tactics to help Seattle Slew negotiate the distance.

"I had taken the fastest horse in the world," said Turner, "and I drilled him to take the speed away from him for the Belmont because I didn't want him to go three-quarters of a mile in 1:09 and change and expect him to get the mile and a half."


CALIFORNIA CHROME -- California Chrome galloped 2 3/8 miles over the main track on a warm and sunny morning at Belmont Park while Art Sherman watched the colt exercise for the first time since the Preakness.

"I haven't been back here for a lot of years, and I rode here years ago," said Sherman, who won more than 2,000 races as a jockey from 1957-78. "It's changed quite a bit. I didn't realize it was this big. After you get away from it, it's a huge racetrack. It's beautiful. It's good to be back."

After schooling in the paddock, California Chrome got a hug around the neck from regular exercise rider Willie Delgado before heading to the track. He jogged four furlongs before turning around for his slow and easy gallop.

"I thought he looked better now than he did after the Preakness," Sherman said. "I couldn't believe how much weight he put on. He really looks good right now. Going on the Triple Crown trail, it's kind of rough. He's an amazing horse."

Sherman returned west after the Preakness, leaving California Chrome with his son and assistant, Alan. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit will be the heavy favorite to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

"I don't think he has to win the Triple Crown to be a hero," Sherman said. "He's on a six-race winning streak. He'll always be my hero. Just to win the Derby and Preakness is good enough for me. If he gets the Belmont, that's the hat trick. Believe me, I'll be really satisfied then. I'm the kind of guy that I take one race at a time. I hope we have a good trip and everybody comes away healthy. That's my main concern."

Sherman said his last visit to New York came in 2005, when he attended the Breeders' Cup to cheer on his friend and fellow trainer Greg Gilchrist and his horse, Lost in the Fog. Despite finishing seventh in the Sprint, the 3-year-old earned the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.

"I am kind of a city guy," Sherman said. "I like going around, and New York has always been a fun town for me. I remember when I was riding, there was a lot of action when I was a young feller."

Sherman, who has won nearly 2,200 races as a trainer, sounded confident when asked if California Chrome would run as a 4-year-old should he sweep the Triple Crown.

"We'd like to race him for another year, although I don't know," he said. "Sometimes when you're offered so much money, it's hard to refuse. I think that the owners will sure run him next year, from what I gather. They just got him insured for a lot of money. You don't pay the insurance premium and sell him right away."


KID CRUZ -- After speaking with the owners this morning, trainer Linda Rice said Kid Cruz has been withdrawn from consideration for the Belmont Stakes.

Rice said Kid Cruz will be pointed to either the Easy Goer on the Belmont undercard or the Dywer at Belmont Park on July 5. Both races are for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 mile.

In his most recent start, Kid Cruz ran eighth of 10, beaten 16 lengths by California Chrome in the Preakness.

"We have decided to pass on the Belmont," Rice said. "Frankly, he didn't perform at Pimlico. It was a flat effort on his part. We'll just look for an easy race for him to get him back on track. It's a long summer. I just think his last effort was a non-effort on his part. He's a nice horse, and we want to do the right thing by him. We're going to consider the Easy Goer, but we may decide to wait for the Dwyer."

Rice believes that California Chrome is the horse to end the 36-year drought since Affirmed last swept the Triple Crown in 1978.

"I think so. I think he's going to be very hard to beat," she said. "This horse has been so dominant, I think there's a good chance we will see it."


WICKED STRONG -- Wicked Strong returned to the track Tuesday morning for the first time since his bullet five-furlong breeze on Sunday.

Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Wicked Strong galloped 1 1/2 mile on the main track after walking the shed row on Monday. On Sunday, he was clocked in 59.10, the fastest of a dozen horses, on the training track.

"I galloped him at 7 o'clock because I thought it was going to get kind of hot and I didn't want to wait until 9:30 or 10 o'clock like we usually do the first day back after working hard," Jerkens said. "He's doing great."

Jerkens said Wicked Strong will stand and school in the starting gate on Wednesday morning.

"I haven't figured out what time yet," he said. "It all depends on when we can get our pony boy."

A closing fourth in the Kentucky Derby following his Wood victory despite a troubled trip, Wicked Strong is gathering momentum as one of the primary roadblocks to California Chrome's quest to win the Triple Crown.

"I can see why," Jerkens said. "He had a pretty good excuse in the Derby. His Wood was great, and he's trained really well since then. He really is training great. But, you never know until you lead them over there."