NEW YORK (Reuters) - While the vast
majority of American racing fans are desperate to see California Chrome
win Saturday's Belmont Stakes and complete the elusive Triple Chrome,
his rivals' connections face a bittersweet prospect.
As devoted race fans themselves, most would love nothing more
than to see a horse end the 36-year Triple Crown drought, knowing
that it would help raise the profile of the sport in the United
But with $900,000 on offer to the winner and the prestige of winning
one of America's oldest and most revered races, none of the rival
connections have any fears about spoiling what would be one of the
biggest moments in American racing.
"I'm a racing fan like everybody else," said Billy Gowan, the
trainer of Ride On Curlin, who finished second to California Chrome
in the Preakness States. "I've always wanted a Triple Crown, but
hopefully not this year.
"If we can win it and he runs second, that'd be fine."
Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown, which is considered the
ultimate test for American race horses because it is restricted to
3-year-olds who have to compete in three races in five weeks, all in
different states, over different distances and invariably against
Only Ride On Curlin and General a Rod will have taken on California
Chrome in all three legs of this year's Triple Crown, prompting
complaints from the Triple Crown hopeful's outspoken co-owner Steve
Coburn that others out to spoil the occasion.
"If I'm not mistaken triple means three, like a triple decker ice
cream, three scoops," Coburn growled. "Yet they will sit out the
first two just to screw things up in the last one."
Dallas Stewart, who trains the Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding
Curve, was among four of Saturday's 11 Belmont entrants that ran in
Kentucky but skipped the Preakness to keep their colts fresh for the
final leg in Elmont, New York.
"Basically, you're just concentrating on your horse and trying to
get that feeling that you can win," Stewart said. "It's not like
you're trying to upset something special. I don't personally think
"I just want to train my horse to win the race and let everything
fall where it may. That's my job, and that's what I do."
Don Little, the president of Centennial Farms, which owns Wicked
Strong, also defended the decision to miss the Preakness after their
horse finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby.
An impressive winner of the Wood Memorial in April, Wicked Strong
looms as the biggest threat to California Chrome over the 1 1/2-mile
(2,400 meters) of the Belmont, the longest race of the series.
Wicked Strong was named in honor of last year's Boston marathon
bombing victims and the owners have pledged to give a chunk of his
prizemoney to a charity supporting the survivors.
"California Chrome has does wonderful things for racing and he's
already a winner in our eyes," said Little. "But if we're fortunate
to defeat him on Saturday, we have a great cause behind Wicked
New York local Len Riggio, the owner of Samraat, also rejected the
romantic notion of wanting to see another horse another win a race
that he has been chasing his entire life.
"I don't mind being called a winner," Riggio said. "And if what
comes with it is being a spoiler, then I'll remember the winner."