Belmont's length makes the ride matter more

  • Article by: ED MCNAMARA , Newsday
  • Updated: June 6, 2014 - 9:21 PM

Wait, wait some more, then hurry up at the top of the stretch.

Jockey Victor Espinoza has been anticipating Saturday’s Belmont Stakes for three weeks, and he’ll need more patience to maximize California Chrome’s performance as they seek the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Before last Saturday, the longtime California regular hadn’t ridden since 2008 on Belmont Park’s massive main track, whose circumference (1 ½ miles) and configuration are unique.

Jockeys based elsewhere often move prematurely at Belmont, where the huge, sweeping turns make them think the finish line is closer than it is. Calvin Borel took off way too soon in the 2009 Belmont on Mine That Bird, who looked like the winner in midstretch before fading to third. Borel had downplayed his unfamiliarity with the layout, saying, “It’s like any other track; you just turn left.”

It’s not that simple.

Jimmy Jerkens trains 6-1 second favorite Wicked Strong. Jerkens grew up at Belmont, where his father, Allen, has saddled winners since 1950. “It’s very tricky, especially for jockeys who haven’t ridden there,” Jimmy Jerkens said. “You’re heading for that far turn and you’ve got to remember you’ve got a long way to go, longer than at any other racetrack.”

Espinoza will get the lay of the land in the third race, the Brooklyn Handicap, whose 1 ½-mile distance matches the Belmont’s. He’ll be taking notes.

California Chrome’s trainer, 77-year-old Art Sherman, rode at Belmont in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “Victor knows he can’t move too early on him,” he said. “You’ve got to sit as long as you can.”

Sherman said he doesn’t give riders instructions, and Espinoza is not a Plan A-Plan B guy anyway. He likes to wing it. “I never have a plan how I want to ride this horse,” he said. “Every race, people ask me, ‘How are you going to ride him?’ I wish I knew. I make my decisions during the race.”

As for how Chrome, or any of the 10 others, will handle the distance, take your best guess. As Billy Gowan, trainer of Ride On Curlin, said: “Nobody really knows. None of them ever tried it.”

“Chromie” enjoyed a perfect trip in the Kentucky Derby. In the Preakness, Espinoza was forced to turn him loose with a half-mile to go, about a furlong earlier than he wanted. Sherman realizes his star “has a target on his back” and that his rivals don’t plan to escort him to immortality.

How California Chrome breaks from post 2, and how much pressure other riders apply, will be crucial. Rick Violette trains Samraat, who should be part of the early pace. “California Chrome is going for history,” Violette said, “and we’re all trying to throw something in his way.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: S. Maness 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit 5 Top 7th Inning
Cleveland 1
Seattle 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Oakland 6
San Francisco - WP: J. Affeldt 4 FINAL
Colorado - LP: C. Friedrich 2
Arizona 1 Bottom 6th Inning
San Diego 3
San Francisco 4 Top 3rd Inning
Colorado 2
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 10 8:05
Calgary 18
Indiana 79 1st OT 0:27
Chicago 79

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close