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"Immortality has been realized once the roar of the crowd has been united."

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Knocking At The Door Of Destiny

Equine athletes are not unlike those found in any other sport. In order to achieve success, they must exhibit a certain degree of speed, strength, and endurance. These are vital to the performances seen on the track, yet the traits alone cannot define greatness. The longest, most grueling of the Triple Crown races is the Belmont Stakes. It is a twelve-furlong battle of attrition, designed to humble the faint-hearted, and referred to as the Test of Champions.   

Ernest Hemingway once wrote that courage is grace under pressure. As tens of thousands prepare to descend upon Belmont Park in New York, it is easy to believe that Hemingway might have coined this phrase with the Belmont Stakes on his mind. There can be but one champion as ten others will fall desperately short. The Belmont is a test of courage, and he who triumphs here will have displayed an unequaled amount of grace under pressure.

The Contenders

Rock Star Royalty: This designation is for the elite in the current three-year-old division.

California Chrome- Art Sherman’s prized colt has been victorious in six consecutive races. He has shown a versatility which allows him to run on the lead or sit comfortably in behind the pace setters. He has also engineered an uncanny knack for steering clear of in-race traffic and trouble. Breaking from gate number two coincides nicely with his running style. California Chrome moves with a seemingly effortless stride, and his blinding turn of hoof is about to earn him a Belmont victory and a place among horse racing’s immortal few.

The Gladiators: These warriors will battle down the stretch and should hit the board.

Commanding Curve- Dallas Stewart’s colt sat out of the Preakness after finishing a hard-charging second in the Kentucky Derby. He should relish the added distance in this one.

Ride On Curlin- The runner-up in the Preakness Stakes ran a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He has followed Chrome’s every move and is peaking at the right time.

Tonalist- Christophe Clement’s colt scored an impressive win over a sloppy track in the Peter Pan Stakes. Drawing outside in post eleven could potentially prove a daunting task.

The Bandits: This group is sly enough to be within striking distance at the quarter pole.

Commissioner- Commissioner is a fresh face on the Triple Crown circuit and has had the advantage of a race over the Belmont track. Todd Pletcher is sure to have him in high gear.

Samraat- New Yorkers will be cheering on this son of Noble Causeway. He ran fifth in the Derby and will benefit from his use of tactical speed as he breaks from post number seven.

Wicked Strong- The winner of the Wood Memorial ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby and has two wins in six starts. The added distance should help his chances of hitting the board.

The Also-Rans: This motley bunch is fortunate to have insured a spot in the starting gate.

Genral A Rod- Competed in all three Triple Crown races and ran fourth in the Preakness. Maker’s colt is simply not talented enough to have any significant impact in the Belmont.

Matterhorn- Pletcher’s other entry is lightly raced, and he most recently ran an uninspired fourth in the Peter Pan Stakes. The on track performance should justify his very long odds.

Matuszak- This son of Bernardini’s lone win came in a Maiden Special Weight contest held in September of 2013. He will clearly be out of his league as he takes his place in the gate.

Medal Count- Medal Count won the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland before placing eighth in the Derby.  He appears to have a bright future on synthetic surfaces, but drawing the rail post here will certainly not help his chances against this group.  

The atmosphere at Belmont Park on June 7th is sure to be an electric one. Some will have the good fortune of witnessing history be made first hand, while others will gather around television sets to revel in the magical moment alongside of their family and friends. Eleven equine athletes will pit their courage and skill against one another, but in the end, the horse that has been knocking at the door of destiny will pass through and become a legend.  

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