Crown contender Chrome early Belmont favorite

California Chrome will break from the second post in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, trying to become just the 12th horse to win US flat racing’s coveted Triple Crown.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was installed as the early 3-5 favorite in the 11-horse field for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, dubbed the “Test of the Champion”.

Since Affirmed swept all three races in 1978, 12 horses have arrived at Belmont with a chance to complete the treble, only to come up empty.

Trainer Art Sherman pronounced himself pleased with California Chrome’s draw.

“Going a mile and a half, it’s a good post position,” Sherman said. “He’ll save some ground leaving there.”

Victor Espinoza, who has ridden the chestnut colt in his last six starts — all victories — will again be onboard.

Espinoza was aboard War Emblem in 2002 when his mount stumbled out of the starting gate at Belmont for his Triple Crown bid to crumble.

California Chrome, owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, joins Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones and Big Brown as the only three-year-olds since 1979 to be favored in all three Triple Crown races.

Alan Sherman, assistant to his father Art, thought the chestnut colt’s post position augured well.

“Well, Secretariat was number five in the Derby, number three in the Preakness and number two in the Belmont,” Alan Sherman noted, the 1973 Triple Crown champion’s starting slots matching those of Chrome.

California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby on May 3 by 1 3/4 lengths over Commanding Curve and came back a fortnight later in the Preakness to beat Ride On Curlin by 1 1/2 lengths.

“It’s all coming to the point,” Coburn said. “It’s all coming to the top of the pyramid right now.”

Wicked Strong, fourth in the Kentucky Derby, will break from the ninth post under Rajiv Maragh and was made the 6-1 second choice.

Tonalist, winner of last month’s Peter Pan Stakes, was priced at 8-1 and will start from the outside post with Joel Rosario aboard.


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