#11 Tonalist (KY) – I can feel the hate from all the people as they open this preview and realize that I just picked against the Triple Crown. To all of you I do apologize, but I had to stick to what I believe in. I am not proud of the pick I have made, and I will not be happy if it turns out to be right…but it is who I believe will win the race. There are several factors that led me to Tonalist, most importantly being the fact that he comes into the race fresh and we’ve seen improvement from him each and every time he runs. I also believe strongly in trainer Christophe Clement, and how can you not like the fact that Joel Rosario chose Tonalist over Ride On Curlin…especially after Rosario just finished second in the Preakness with ROC. All signs point to this horse running huge, and I think in the end his light campaign will play to his favor and be the difference. I see him barely getting by California Chrome in heart breaking fashion.
#2 California Chrome (CA) – I picked him in Kentucky…I picked him in Baltimore…but I just can’t pick him in this one. It’s almost painful for me to write that, and as a wildly crazy horse racing fan it feels like I’m committing a sin. Here are the facts: I’m rooting for a Triple Crown. The horse has been trained and ridden perfectly. His energy level is great. He’s shown that he is the best three year old in the country by far. Every sign points to him ending the drought that has plagued horse fans for 36 years. However, I just can’t pick him to win. This is his toughest challenge yet, and he will be the shortest price he’s ever been. Will he have enough energy left in the tank to get it done against fresh and improving challengers? Make no mistake…I will be rooting for him, and I do believe he’ll show up and run a big race. However, this has a “Smarty Jones type ending” written all over it. I sure hope I’m wrong…
#9 Wicked Strong (KY) – I think this is the horse that gives most California Chrome fans nightmares. There is good reason for it as the horse is running on his home track, and is trained by Jimmy Jerkens who’s father is known as the “giant killer.” There is also the fact that the horse has had three solid works since the Kentucky Derby, including a mile in 1:39 and change two weeks ago. Considering the post and trip he got in the Kentucky Derby, his fourth place finish there was very impressive. He’ll have to change his running style somewhat in this one as he can’t be so far back, but if he can do that there is no doubt this is a horse that will have the best opportunity to run down California Chrome and ruin the Triple Crown.
#5 Ride On Curlin (KY) – This horse is amazing! The steady improvement by Ride on Curlin has been fascinating to watch, and by all accounts it looks like he’s going to run huge again in this one. The horse really started to pick it up training wise about half way through the Oaklawn meet, and hasn’t looked back since. His race in the Preakness was great, although it still looked like he might not quite be good enough to tackle California Chrome just yet. Play this one heavy underneath, and perhaps sprinkle him lightly on top with a few tickets.
#8 Commissioner (KY) – He has ran a few races that get you extremely excited, but lately he’s been pretty brutal which makes me question myself for even thinking he has a shot here. He was unable to have any luck whatsoever in the Derby preps, but he finally showed a little bit of life last time out when finishing second in the Peter Pan. That race makes me think he likes Belmont Park, and his breeding makes me think he will like the distance. You can probably describe him as a “plodder” but those types of horses usually run well in this race. Definitely one to consider playing underneath.
#7 Samraat (NY) – I’ve called him the toughest horse in the crop since early winter, and I’m sticking to that one more time. There is nothing in his pedigree that tells us he wants to go this far, but I definitely cannot see this horse quitting. If all the others get tired, I can see this one grinding by all of them. The plan is to get him into a high cruising speed and just let him keep on going. Win or lose, this horse has been fun to watch through the first half of the year.
#1 Medal Count (KY) – Respect the horse somewhat, but just think this is entirely the wrong spot for him. If he somehow takes to the Belmont track then I do believe he can stay around going this distance, but the chances of that aren’t all that great.
#3 Matterhorn (KY) – This would be the one that shocks me the most if he wins. There is not a single aspect about this horse that makes me think he can win.
#4 Commanding Curve (KY) – You have to take a stand against him in my opinion. Yes he did run very well in the Kentucky Derby, but I’m betting on that being his best career race. Could come back to bite me, but I think you have to follow the pattern of his stable mate Golden Soul.
#6 Matuszak (KY) – Awfully dangerous connections here, but its certainly hard to think he’s good enough for this spot. Only chance is if the mile and a half distance is something he really loves.
#10 General a Rod (KY) – I’ve thrown him out of all three triple crown races, and all three races have been for the same reason: He’s just not good enough to get the job done against these types of horses. I do respect that he’s been able to make the starting gate in all three of the Triple Crown races though.