It will have been 36 years -- a lifetime for many -- since Affirmed last accomplished the feat, closing out a golden era that saw three horses do in in five years. The great Secretariat in 1973 and Seattle Slew in 77.
Since then, there has been no shortage of horses that have come close, only to fall off the precipice where California Chrome now stands -- The Belmont Stakes.
At a mile and a half, it is the longest of the Triple Crown races, a distance most of these horses will never run again.
Smarty Jones. Real Quiet. Silver Charm. All had the lead late in the Belmont, only to be run down by history before they hit the wire. Others have been close as well.
So is California Chrome the one to break the streak? He's fast, has a quick turn of foot and has been brilliant since being united with jockey Victor Espinoza, winning six in a row.
There will be questions, the distance being No. 1. His breeding isn't really suited for it either. But he might be good enough to overcome all that. From a betting perspective, it's smart to play against him. He will be completely overbet because people want to see history made. So there will of course be better value in some of the others.
The horse he reminds me most of is Smarty Jones, who came agonizingly close. From a fan's perspective, I will be rooting hard for him. From a betting perspective? I will try to profit from his demise.
If you want to play him, tris and supers are the way to go. If not? Pick 3s and pick 4s could be very profitable.
Here are some potential plays:
California Chrome wins: Like the Preakness, the value will be in the hoses behind him. The same horses who ran behind him in the Preakness -- Ride on Curlin and General A Rod should be used, along with Wicked Strong, Tonalist, Commissioner and the Derby runner-up, Commanding Curve.
Deeper tickets should consider throwing Matterhorn, Samraat and Medal Count on the bottom.
So the tri tickets would look like this: 2 with 4-5-8-9-10-11 with 1-3-4-5-7-8-9-10-11. For supers, to go cheaper, drop Ride on Curlin to third and go 2 with 4-8-9-10-11 with 4-5-8-9-10-11 with 1-3-4-5-7-8-9-10-11.
Don't expect to get rich off these tickets, but with the right combo you could do OK
California Chrome loses. This is where I plan to go. I will use Wicked Strong as my key horse in first and second in trifectas with Chrome, Ride on Curlin, Commissioner, General A Rod and Tonalist. On some tickets I will throw ALL in third. I don't see Chrome missing the board unless there is a Big Brown type of race, but if does, it will pay box cars.
The bet would look like this: 9 with 2-4-5-8-10-11 with 2-4-5-8-10-11. Then 2-4-5-8-10-11 with 9 with 2-4-5-8-10-11. Wicked Strong is rested, ran better than he looked in the Derby and should handle the distance.
The other value in beating him is in the pick 3s and 4s.
Race 8: 5-6-9
Race 9: 1-6-9
Race 10: 1-6-7-9
Race 11: 4-5-8-9-10-11
For a .50 ticket, that's $108.
If you want to go cheaper, you can consider singling Palace Malice (1) in race 9.
In reality, the best bet is buy a souvenir $2 win ticket and keep it if he wins.
Either way, history will be challenged, and the world will be watching.