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Blog - EVENTS/TRAVEL

California Chrome at Belmont Park, the site of his attempt at history on Saturday. (Photo by NYRA/Susie Raisher)

If there’s one thing horse racing isn’t short on it’s statistical information. Stats abound, whether about individual horses, certain race tracks or even a given stakes race.

Nowhere have the stats been analyzed more often or more thoroughly than in the Triple Crown races, and this Saturday California Chrome will try to etch his name in the history books by winning his seventh consecutive race and the elusive Triple Crown.

He’s already beaten improbable odds in his race toward history. Out of all of the Thoroughbred foals born in North America in 2011, California Chrome was one of 19 to make it in the Kentucky Derby starting gate and the only one to win. That’s defeating odds of 25,500-to-1 or .00393 percent.

According to Kentucky Derby statistics, he had an 11.5-percent chance of winning after running in the Santa Anita Derby, a 9.5-percent chance of winning from post 5, and a 38.1-percent chance of winning as the favorite.

In the Preakness California Chrome defeated similar odds. Far less than 1-percent of his crop even ran in the Preakness and he became the only winner. As the favorite, he had a 51-percent chance of winning, but as the Kentucky Derby winner his chances were much slimmer: 23.7-percent. Breaking from post 3 gave him a 10.4-percent chance of wearing the Black-Eyed Susans. It turns out the stats meant nothing and the flashy Cal-bred again crossed the finish line in front.

California Chrome is now faced with his biggest challenge to date in the Belmont — winning the longest race of his career off of the second-shortest rest of his career, against many opponents that are much fresher. The colt has proven himself to be at the top of his crop, but he is now attempting to reach the pinnacle of the sport, a place no Thoroughbred has visited since 1978. With only 11 Triple Crown winners in 139 years of the series, you might guess that there are some serious odds he has to beat this time and you would be right.

AFFIRMED WINS THE 1978 BELMONT AND TRIPLE CROWN

affirmed

First run in 1867, the Belmont Stakes has 147 years of history, more than any other Triple Crown event. The 145 editions of the race rank behind only Keeneland’s Phoenix Stakes (161 editions) and Woodbine’s Queen’s Plate (154 editions) in North America. Of the 145 runnings, 40 horses won the Belmont and at least one other Triple Crown race. Preakness winners account for 29 of those 40, so in that respect California Chrome has a 20.9-percent chance of winning the Belmont. But obviously only 11 of those had also won the Kentucky Derby.

The Belmont has been won 20 times by a horse whose name begins with the letter C, more than any other letter. It has also been won by chestnut-colored horses 54 times, just behind the 55 bay winners. These stats give Chrome a 13.8- and 37.9-percent chance of winning, respectively. Just two Cal-breds have won the third jewel for a 1.4-percent shot that California Chrome must overcome.

Post position is another factor that can affect the Belmont outcome. Post 1 has the most wins and the highest percent of winners, but like the first two jewels horses breaking from there have not done well recently. Most have finished toward the back of the pack with Empire Maker and Touch Gold the only two winners since 1992. Posts 7, 5 and 3 also have a high win percentage but the remaining gate positions have a six- to 10-percent strike rate. In breaking from post 2, California Chrome has a 10.2 percent chance to win, but he'll have to defeat 20 years of history as no horse has won from gate 2 since Tabasco Cat in 1994.

BELMONT STAKES POST POSITION STATS

Post Position

2014 Entrant

Most Recent Winner

Number of Starts

Number of Wins

Win Percent

Last Year’s Result

1

 Medal Count

Empire Maker (2003)

108

23

21.3%

Frac Daddy, 14th place

2

 California Chrome

Tabasco Cat (1994)

108

11

10.2%

Freedom Child, 13th place

3

 Matterhorn

Union Rags (2012)

106

15

14.2%

Overanalyze, 7th place

4

 Commanding Curve

Summer Bird (2009)

100

10

10%

Giant Finish, 11th place

5

 Ride On Curlin

Da’ Tara (2008)

92

14

15.2%

Orb, 3rd place

6

 Matuszak

Lemon Drop Kid (1999)

87

7

8%

Incognito, 4th place

7

 Samraat

Drosselmeyer (2010)

74

13

17.6%

Oxbow, 2nd place

8

 Commissioner

Jazil (2006)

64

6

9.4%

Midnight Taboo, 12th place

9

 Commissioner

Afleet Alex (2005)

49

4

8.2%

Revolutionary, 5th place

10

 General a Rod

Thunder Gulch (1995)

33

2

6.1%

Will Take Charge, 10th place

11

 Tonalist

Sarava (2002)

24

2

8.3%

Vyjack, 8th place

12

 N/A

Palace Malice (2013)

10

1

10%

Palace Malice, 1st place

13

 N/A

N/A

6

0

0%

Unlimited Budget, 6th place

14

 N/A

N/A

3

0

0%

Golden Soul, 9th place

California Chrome also must beat his jockey’s odds. Victor Espinoza had a 20-percent win rate in both the Derby and Preakness thanks to his victories aboard War Emblem but he carries a 0-for-3 record in the Belmont Stakes. Fortunately, Espinoza has been riding at Belmont since Saturday to gain some more experience on the track.

Seattle Slew and Citation defeated the largest Belmont fields in capturing the Triple Crown — each faced seven rivals, while the average number of foes that a Triple Crown winner has vanquished in the final jewel is just 5.4. The overall average field for the race is just 7.5, but with increased interest in winning the Triple Crown races, the field has averaged 10.3 horses over the last 15 runnings. Barring the unexpected, 10 rivals will attempt to deny California Chrome’s historic triple, meaning he will have to beat a total of 37 horses in the three races, more than any Triple Crown winner.

No matter how daunting the task might seem, one certainty is this: California Chrome has had no trouble beating the odds in his Triple Crown quest so far. On Saturday, in a true “Test of the Champion,” we will all find out if he can do it one more time and take his place among the legends of American turf.

Image Description

Christina Moore

A Midwest native, Christina Moore grew up loving horses and racing, leading to her degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois. She later got her master’s degree at the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program. Christina interned at Keeneland and Del Mar while also working as a freelance writer before joining the America’s Best Racing team in March 2014.

Image Description

Christina Moore

A Midwest native, Christina Moore grew up loving horses and racing, leading to her degree in Animal Science from the University of Illinois. She later got her master’s degree at the University of Arizona's Race Track Industry Program. Christina interned at Keeneland and Del Mar while also working as a freelance writer before joining the America’s Best Racing team in March 2014.

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