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Secretariat exercise rider on California Chrome

Charlie Davis exercising Secretariat

The former exercise rider of famous racehorse Secretariat says California Chrome has an excellent chance of being the next Triple Crown Winner by winning Saturday's Belmont.

Charlie Davis is best known as the exercise rider for Secretariat, but his days in the saddle date back to when he was a small boy. Davis worked with horses Quill, Riva Ridge, and a stable-full of other greats. He worked as an advisor with the Disney film on the movie “Secretariat,” and traveled with the crew for filming at Keeneland and Churchill Downs. Davis knows racing, and he knows racehorses.

Charlie Davis believes California Chrome, a descendent of Secretariat, "has a pretty good chance" of winning the Belmont, which would make the horse a Triple Crown Winner. "If he runs like he did in the first two," Davis says, "the Belmont is a mile and a half. That's real, real different." Davis has some ideas how the jockey could work California Chrome to take the distance to win.

Davis says his only worry is at the gate, at start-up. Once on the track,"keep him to the outside," he says. "If he can get to the outside, and get to the front. Don't let him get too far ahead of the others, and once you're there, keep looking back." He recalls how Secretariat ran faster with each quarter. "The next quarter (he ran) he was fast, but the next one he was a little fast, then a little faster than that." Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by a world record 31 lengths and in 2:24 to become the 1973 Triple Crown winner.

Charlie Davis relates how Secretariat and he had a bond. "He would just look around and say, 'I'm the man,'" Davis laughs. He sees some of the horse's personality passed down to California Chrome. California Chrome, Davis explains, loves to run, just like his forefather.

Davis will be watching the Belmont from a friend's home in Florida, where he now resides. "I hope he wins," he says. "But you can have the best horse, the best trainer, the best joc, exercise boy, everything; it's really all up to God. If you ain't got that, you got nothing, baby." Training a great racehorse is a team effort, from owner to trainer, exercise boy and jockey. But when it comes down to race day, fate and luck play a hand as well.

"I hope (California Chrome) runs easy, like he's been doing," Charlie Davis says. "And I hope he wins."

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