Wicked Strong, Tonalist Rated Top Threats to Favored California Chrome
Many Rooting Interests for Gulfstream’s Belmont Stakes Watch Party
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – When California Chrome takes to the track Saturday for a quest to complete a sweep of the Triple Crown in the 146th Belmont Stakes, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner will clash with a strong contingent of rivals that wintered at Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows Training Center.
Seven of California Chrome’s 10 challengers in the third leg of the Triple Crown raced and/or trained at Gulfstream and its state-of-the-art training center in Palm Beach County.
Wicked Strong and Tonalist, both of whom raced during Gulfstream’s Champions Meet, were rated second and third, respectively, in the morning-line behind the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, who was installed as the 3-5 favorite during Wednesday’s post position draw for the 1 ½-mile classic.
Wicked Strong, who was set at 6-1 by the Belmont linemaker, closed to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby after stumbling while breaking from the No. 19 post position. The Jimmy Jerkens-trained colt, who trained at Palm Meadows, prepped for the Derby with a victory in the Wood Memorial (G1) after racing twice at Gulfstream Park.
Tonalist, rated third in the Belmont line at 8-1, broke his maiden at Gulfstream in his second lifetime start on Jan. 18 before finishing second in an entry-level allowance behind Constitution, who went on to win the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1). The Christophe Clement-trained colt followed up his Gulfstream races with a four-length score over Commissioner in the Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont.
Todd Pletcher-trained Commissioner, who captured a Jan. 3 entry-level allowance over highly regarded Top Billing before running in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream, was also entered to challenge California Chrome in the third leg of the Triple Crown. Belmont entrants General a Rod, Medal Count, Matterhorn and Samraat also wintered at Gulfstream or Palm Meadows.
Mike Maker-trained General a Rod captured the Gulfstream Park Derby before finishing second in the Fountain of Youth, third in the Florida Derby, 11th in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness. Dale Romans-trained Medal Count, who captured a Jan. 12 allowance and finished 6th in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, checked in eighth in the Kentucky Derby. Pletcher-trained Matterhorn, off the board in his only Gulfstream start, and Rick Violette-trained Samraat both trained at Palm Meadows during the winter.
Manny Azpurua-trained Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Preakness Stakes, was not entered for the Belmont Stakes. Instead, Rontos Racing Stable’s 3-year-old colt was entered in the $500,000 Woody Stephens (G2) , a seven-furlong sprint on the Belmont undercard. Social Inclusion launched his career with a 7 ½-length debut victory and a 10-length length open-allowance win over Honor Code in track-record time at Gulfstream before finishing third in the Wood.
Also on the Belmont undercard: Palace Malice, who captured the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1) in his 2014, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Met Mile (G1) and My Miss Sophia, who broke her maiden at Gulfstream on March 9, is rated at 6-5 for the Acorn (G1).
In addition to offering live racing Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Belmont Stakes Watch Party. Giveaways, food and drink specials, and a chance to win one of three $100 betting vouchers for the Belmont Stakes are among the events scheduled. Post time for the Belmont Stakes Day card is 11:35 a.m. and first post for the live card is 1:25 p.m. Advance wagering on the Belmont will also be available on Friday.