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Either 0-for-3, or feelin' good

Saturday, June 7, 2014
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I am often wrong.

Give ya a fer-instance:

Just Wednesday night, moving from one hotel to another, I assumed that the street I would be looking for to get off the South State Parkway in Queens would be identified on an exit sign.

It was not.

GPS comfortably enjoying the night off in the glove compartment, it cost me about 15 minutes of my life to correct, which is fine. Unfortunately, I dragged somebody else down with me.

My friend Gene Kershner of the Buffalo News was following me and was forced to sacrifice 15 minutes of his life, too, while frantically trying to dial my comfortably muted phone before we finally got our strange little mixed-up universe back into alignment.

Today, it won’t bother me at all if I’m wrong again.

I’m not picking California Chrome to win the Belmont Stakes.

Didn’t go with him in the Kentucky Derby, tried somebody else in the Preakness, and if I go 0-for-3 but racing gets its first Triple Crown in 36 years, it’s a small price to pay.

I’m not going against California Chrome just to be a contrarian, I truly believe he has a very good chance to get beat in the Belmont.

Once you cross that road, you’re looking for somebody to do the dirty deed, which I pulled from a group that includes, in post-position order, Medal Count, Ride On Curlin, Wicked Strong, General a Rod and Tonalist.

Most of the strikes against California Chrome are self-evident.

Three tough route races in five weeks of a 3-year-old’s season is unheard of in any other context.

California Chrome’s connections have gushed about how he’s thrived after the Preakness and has loved Belmont Park, instead of showing signs of wear and tear, but if it comes down to a stretch duel against a better rested horse, I’ll take that one.

It’s for that reason, too, that I kicked Ride On Curlin out of my spoiler group first, even though I like the fact that he’s got Curlin in his blood and John Velazquez on his back.

Perhaps, too, this will be the point at which California Chrome’s modest breeding finally catches up to him.

Also, weird things have been happening at the Belmont in recent years, whether there’s a Triple Crown on the line or not.

Since Sarava paid $142.50 in 2002 (beating War Emblem and my substantial win ticket on Medaglia d’Oro in the process), the Belmont winner has paid at least $25 six of 11 times.

Victor Espinoza has done nothing wrong on California Chrome in six races, but his record at Belmont is not exactly stellar. His win from one mount on Friday was just the fourth in 71 races since 2000 for the California-based rider. He lost a Triple Crown on War Emblem, and was ninth in the 2006 Belmont on Sacred Light.

I picked General a Rod in the Derby, and if I had any guts at all, I would pick him in the Belmont. He’s had two terrible trips, but he doesn’t fall in the new-shooter category that I’m leaning toward, so . . . reluctant toss.

I want somebody who’s going to be close to the lead, so Wicked Strong and Medal Count are out, leaving me with Tonalist as my Belmont pick. My one concern is that he’ll make the lead early and that it won’t be an easy lead. Otherwise, I think he’s got the breeding and he has an impressive Peter Pan win on the track, even if it was in the slop.

“He’s a really, really big horse with a long stride, so he can basically run his own race without worrying about anybody else,” trainer Christophe Clement said. “The great thing is he’s versatile. [Joel] Rosario can break and, judging by the way he breaks, ride accordingly. It’s a wonderful luxury.”

So, yeah . . . Tonalist.

If California Chrome wins the Triple Crown, I’ve made much worse mistakes than that.

Now, where’s this damn exit?

 
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