Belmont Stakes recap

by TCI 4 years ago

Jon and Joel have returned to the studio from their trip to the Belmont Stakes and the end of another Triple Crown season. They talk about why California Chrome came up short, and offer some reasoning as to why it continues to be elusive after 36 years. They also discuss why Tonalist, who was #1 on the TCI Top 10 two weeks ago, was the one to get it done.

Watch it. Comment.


  • JR

    Hi Joel,

    After all these years following you, where is your home base for TCI Kentucky?

    Now on to the race, needless to say I was sadden by CC loss, I had Tonalist in exactas but with CC, as well as tri’s and had CC where he could come in first, second or third. However, still had those nagging feelings about Medal Count and the Dullahan thing. In my previous post, the interview with Pletcher, I felt he just didn’t convey to me that Comm. had a real shot of hitting the board.

    You were absolutely right with everything you said!!!!:) Now tell me, wasn’t CC2 just like Golden Soul at the end, despite CC2 having a better pedigree and race record.

    Joel, I watch a lot of racing on the weekends, and I have seen a lot of jockey inquiry’s for horses who got shoved, bumped, pushed in the next path all because their forward progress was impeded. Stewards make a call and horses have been dq and some are placed lower in final order because of the incident.

    Are there any rules regarding the TC that a jockey’s inquiry is not allowed? I ask this because of Rosie, in the Peakness on Bayern when she said he was squeezed so hard his front legs were off the ground I believe. Now Joel, how in the devil is that not impeding forward progress, needless to say loss of stride, and lengths, it was over for him. Or is, all inquires only allowed after you break from the gate and are fully engaged in the race?

    Joel, did you actually see CC quarter grab? Did you see him after the race on the walk back to the barn? I read Steve Haskins tweet that it was a sizable chunk of flesh. I don’t consider that a minor hang nail. Joel, Public Relations and marketing can be a touchy thing, during times like this, and to minimize is not out of the realm of possibility for several reasons. I know because I spent my professional life in this field. My gut tells me, it had an affect. Now I’m not discounting fatigue, pedigree or dosage. However, pain can be a factor, since CC can’t speak we will never know. Victor did say he knew something was not right, he didn’t act the same out of the gate.

    Joel, we as humans, our body tells us through pain what not to do, like jumping rope on a badly sprained ankle that signal is sent quickly to the brain. Despite everything CC only lost by a couple lengths. I call that if you will, out racing his pedigree, I didn’t notice him backing up did you?

    In the end, he demonstrated great heart and determination through adversity, and that is the mark of a champion in my book.

    Take care my friend,
    Kind Regards,

    • Joel Cunningham

      Hey JR!

      We are based out of Lexington, KY. I think Pletcher always liked Commisioner, but it’s hard to be glowing over a colt that had run so badly in 3 straight races this Spring. He did sound encouraged about his Peter Pan effort and said as much in interviews. I colt like Commissioner is not flashy, he’s a bit of a plodder/ real move to “wow” anyone. This just happened to be his style of race. Honestly, he may never run that good for the rest of the year as the distances get shorter again. We’ll see…I do think he has the pedigree to improve into a nice older horse..much like horses such as game On Dude, Ron the Greek, etc who were just ok 3yos but developed into great older horses.

      Commanding Curve looked great physically before the race, but he did get a bit hot with kidney sweat in the post parade. I do believe he’s going to prove to be a much better horse than Golden Soul, but like I was saying before the race, deep closers that want to take back and make that big late run don’t fair as well in this kind of race, and that’s the way it played out…finishes get flat at marathon distances unless you are a horse like Calidiscopio who is bred to be a true marathoner that excels at that trip…none of these North American horses really were bred to excel at it, some just handled it better than others. You have to be in prime position to take the Belmont S. at the quarter pole IMO, and most of the recent winners were in that position. The final 1/4 mile much of the time is simply a run of attrition, with everyone laboring to the wire. Nothing dynamic, as we talked about. So, CCurve was too far back with too much to do in this style of race, as was Samraat who I felt ran a terrific race. Nobody has talked about his performance, which was bizarre…he broke well and looked like he was going to take the lead, then all of the sudden he takes back and almost instantly loses a ton of ground to drop back to next to last. Then he comes running again…who knows how well he would have run had his rider kept him up close in a better position?? That was a sneaky good performance by Samraat, and perhaps he factors into the outcome with a better ride/trip.

      Bayern did get a bad-luck start to the Preakness. Much of that is circumstance, when a horse on your inside and outside come together and sandwich you. It’s more bad luck than anything, and an uncontrollable thing most fo the time. Jockeys really can’t be faulted for the initial few strides a horses takes out of the gate, which is why you never see inquiries and foul claims in those situations. It’s just part of the game. But in general, if there is a legit foul in a race, isn’t doesn’t matter the importance of the race the stewards must review it. Now, I do feel like since it’s an objectice call/process that many times you will see a big race not get changed…like Will Take Charge in the Oaklawn Handicap earlier this year. By rule, you could argue that he fouled Golden Lad, but since that horse was fading out of the race at that time and didn’t get any piece of the placings, I think the stewards were reluctant to take such a good horse like WTC down. Just my opinion that the stewards have a harder job in big races…last year’s Arlington Million is an example of when they did the right thing by taking down the foreign horse that fouled Real Solution late.

      JR, the whole foot thing with Chrome will long be debateable. I didn’t see it live, but I saw many photos from different angles. We have to remember that these are 1200 lb athletes, and it’s my opinion that based on what I could tell that it was a superficial wound and not anything that would have caused him to be hurting enough to run a subpar race. Even right after ther wire Victor told Donna Brothers that he felt fine underneath him and no excuses, he was just flat. When I hear that it tells me the horse if obvious far from lame of favoring a part of his body, and the flat comment is a prime description of a normally-brilliant horse that had no punch due to the distance. I’ve heard it plenty of times before with horses that just cannot kick it in like usual at a distance that’s beyond their reach. Just my opinion, but unless we learn more about the severity of his foot in the coming days, then I’m going to continue to have that opinion about it.

      Backing up is not what I expected. Smarty Jones didn’t back up. So good horses don’t necessarily fade, they run to the wire. The difference is that the brilliance is taken from them at this distance that’s beyond their reach. They get flat and the ones that finish better are the ones that can find more bursts to grind it out. Commissioner found it, so did Tonalist, Medal Count did more so than most, Wicked Strong even showed good stamina but just lost ground early and didn’t handle the middle part of the race as well as others (like Samraat)…I think he had settling issues and that caused him. So again, I firmly believe it’s the distance capability and the difference in the way these races this long are run that causes brilliant horses like Chrome to go flat.

      I agree that Chrome showed determination of a champion and ran as well as he could. He’s the best 3yo out there, and he outran his pedigree to the best of his ability. He deserves a ton of credit for that. It was far from a bad effort, he gave his best IMO and showed he’s a champ.

  • 1JoeP

    Hi Joel – You were right on target with your Belmont analysis. Tonalist and Commissioner ran great races, and Medal count was not far behind. Wicked Strong ran a solid race, however he didn’t get the job done. California Chrome was very competitive, 1 1/2 is not his preferred distance. Hoping Chrome gets a prep at SA in the fall so he can compete in the BC Classic at his home track. He would have a legit shot going 1 1/4 on his favorite track. Looking forward to your Breeders cup coverage.

    • Joel Cunningham

      Thanks Joe! Kudos to you as well!

      It should be a lot of fun watching Chrome duel it out with Game On Dude in the coming months in California! First meeting, according to Art Sherman, could come over the Polytrack in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Then, like you mentioned, you can be sure to see him pointed to the BC Classic over the SA track we know he loves, and that could mean a local prep in the Awesome Again, or possible they will want to travel to hit one of these big 3yo purses around the country like the Pennsyvania Derby. We’ll see! He’ll surely get a break for now, but can’t wait to see all of these nice 3yos later this year as they develop. Always a fun thing for me to pay attention to!

  • JR

    Hey Joel,

    I have read even through CC injury could be healed up in 3 weeks, that the area of the wound could remain tender for several weeks. Based on what you told Joel P, Art said he might head to the Pacific Classic. that’s what Aug. 24th. Does that seem to you like hopeful thinking on his part? I haven’t heard if the Dude is going again in the Pacific, have you heard anything?

    I listened to Rick Violette after the race, I think, he was just a little surprised also about Samraat. God, these races are enough to drive you to drink :)!!!

    I too will look forward to the Breeders Cup, it will be great if CC could win it. However, I don’t keep up with the foreign contenders, I certainly hope you will.
    Joel, are you going out to sunny Calif. for it?

    Anyway Joel, thank you for everything and I always appreciate you answering my questions, and giving me your honest opinion at all times. You know me, I will always give mine, good, or bad.:)

    Take Care

    • Joel Cunningham

      Yes JR, we look forward to going back to LA this fall for the Breeders’ Cup! Art made the comment before the Belmont that CC would get a rest and then may target the Pacific Classic, but I’m sure it’s all subject to change and they’ll run when the horse tells them he’s ready. I would bet Game On Dude targets the race again since he’s the defending winner and wouldn’t have to ship out. What a matchup that would be since they both have similar styles!

  • Owen

    Hi Joel, If Tonalist hadn’t gotten sick maybe we would have our Triple Crown winner.

    • Joel Cunningham

      Hi Owen! You never know but I do believe he’s one of the elite classic horses of this crop. Definitely not a fluky winner of the Belmont like we’ve seen in some past years. I think he’ll prove to be top-class from 1 1/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles, and I think he’s unquestionably the early favorite for the Travers no matter who shows up.

      I honestly believe he’s better than Calfornia Chrome at 1 1/4 miles or further, which would have made him tough in the Derby with that belief. The Preakness would have been tough with the way Chrome ran over that track, but too bad we didn’t get to see that matchup due to Tonalist getting sick before the Wood Memorial.

      I can only hope we see the rivalry continue later this year. Then maybe there will be an undisputed idea of who the best 3yo of this crop really is. I do believe that Chrome — much like Constitution at Gulfstream — is so brilliant that it would be harder for Tonalist to catch him at 1 1/8 miles or under unless he got the proper pace set-up. So that just shows the difference in these horses in terms of their style and the various sweet spots in distance.

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