California Chrome pushes limits in quest for immortality

In an effort to milk the possible event as much as humanely (or equine-ly) possible Before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the post time for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes has been delayed until 6:52 p.m.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 1.00.46 PMWill California Chrome be gold, or dust by 6:55?

Many believe this is the day when horse racing’s 36-year Triple Crown drought comes to an end. The morning line had California Chrome going off as an overwhelming 3/5 favorite.

I will not be going to the betting window with that bet, and here’s why.

The handling of race horses has become similar to starting pitchers in baseball. Would you see this, even in postseason Major League Baseball? A pitcher throwing a complete game, then throwing another complete game on two days rest, and finally, a third on three days rest, the final time tossing 150 pitches in the process? That would be Lou Broudette/1957 World Series stuff.

That is the equivalent of what a would-be Triple Crown winner is asked to do, and it is no longer 1957. Don’t get me wrong; it remains one of the more elusive accomplishments in sports. I am old enough to remember Secretariat putting his punctuation mark on the history of horse racing with his 31-length win at Belmont, with a record time that stands to this day.

Every other horse before or since is measured by that standard. It is like the tireless comparisons of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan. It is not possible to eclipse.

The Preakness continues to be run two weeks after the Kentucky Derby, with the Belmont three weeks later. The schedule continues because it has (seemingly) since the beginning of time. But horse racing has evolved, like every other sport. The principals are handled with more care than ever. The minimum standard now calls for 28 days rest between races.

California Chrome only faced two of his Kentucky Derby rivals at the Preakness. In this era there are very few entrants in both the Derby and Preakness unless the Triple Crown is involved.

Now he is being asked to complete what is known as the “Test of Champions,” winning racing’s longest race against Kentucky Derby entrant on full rest. It is a task where other Triple Crown hopefuls have failed miserably in recent years.

There will be an unusually high total of 11 entries scheduled to answer the bell. No other Triple Crown winner has ever won with more than eight horses in the Belmont. And California Chrome must hold them off for a mile and a half, a concept outdated like the 15-round championship fight.

Racing handles its most prized possessions with kid gloves. Eight Belles, Barbaro, Go For Wand, Union City. There are too many examples of catastrophic breakdowns in the few marquee events mainstream media follows.

Maybe by 7 p.m. Eastern Time California Chrome will have his place in history and be anointed as the horse of his generation, it would be good for the sport.

And then the powers that be can come to their senses and into the 21st Century, and schedule Triple Crown events four weeks apart.

About Kurt Allen

Have written/blogged about sports since 2000, along with starting my popular Twitter feed in 2009. I also closely follow fantasy sports developments, along with events such as the NFL Draft.


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