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Belmont Stakes tips - Can California Chrome win the Triple Crown?

California Chrome. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The experts at Timeform take a look at California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday evening (23.52).

It's now or never, or so the saying goes.

While it may be overly-dramatic to suggest that the American Triple Crown might never again be won should California Chrome (23:52 Belmont) fail on Saturday, the truth is that we would probably have to wait a long time to see a horse turn up in the Belmont Stakes with the kind of chance that Art Sherman's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner appears to possess. On paper, the Belmont appears to be the weakest-looking of the three races that make up America's thoroughbred Holy Grail. Of course, the Belmont isn't run on paper; it's run around two turns and 12 furlongs of the expansive Belmont Park dirt track, probably the most stamina-sapping of all the Stateside ovals.

There is no doubt that California Chrome is the most dominant three-year-old colt in America, on what we've seen so far. This is a horse that has defied everything about his modest pedigree, both in terms of class and stamina, but who now faces the ultimate test. Enough has been written about America's increasing reliance on breeding for speed and shortening distances of their better races, which I don't intend to add to here. Suffice to say, the Belmont is a unique test for modern US horses, and one that they are simply not bred to excel at.

Part of the story up to now has been that California Chrome isn't actually bred to excel at anything. This is a cheaply-bred racehorse that should be competing in modest claiming races at similarly modest tracks. And therein lies California Chrome's uniqueness: he simply was never going to be a classic winner. He was never going to stay a yard beyond a mile. He was bred for mediocrity, destined for it. Yet here he stands on the brink of history.

California Chrome is a freak, in the most flattering sense of the word. He hadn't looked anything special in one-turn sprint races as a two-year-old. His career only really took off when he started competing beyond a mile, looking simply unstoppable in the likes of the Santa Anita Derby, before becoming a dominant winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He will be going into unknown territory in the Belmont, but then so will the rest of the field. None of them are truly bred to stay this sort of distance, although, by US standards, there are a few that have a better-than-average chance of staying the mile and a half.

Tonalist looked impressive when winning the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont last time and the bottom of his pedigree is pretty stamina-laden, in US terms. Commissioner is another who could well outrun his odds, if the evidence of his pedigree is anything to go by. Commanding Curve ran the fastest final two furlongs in the Kentucky Derby, and missed the Preakness to be fresh for this task, while Medal Count has Dynaformer as his sire, suggesting that he could improve for a decent stamina test. Another that looks sure to run well is Wicked Strong, who should appreciate Belmont's long home straight.

Of course, these are all simply bit-part players in the California Chrome show.

This is a horse who has defied all the odds to reach this point. In the race that has been dubbed the 'Test of a Champion', we'll see if California Chrome has what it takes to push the envelope of his breeding as far as it will go. If he is to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, he will definitely have earned the right to that moniker.

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Belmont Stakes tips - Can California Chrome win the Triple Crown?

The experts at Timeform take a look at California Chrome's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday evening (23.52).

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