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Big Weekend of Stakes Action

Commanding Curve at Churchill Downs before the KY Derby Photo credit: Chad Harmon

June 05, 2014 · By Erin Birkenhauer · Share

The buzz around the Belmont Park backstretch is out of this world. Will California Chrome become the first Triple Crown winner since the 70s? Or will there be a curve in the road over “Big Sandy” in Saturday’s $1,500,000 Belmont Stakes (G1).

As WPT Chief Operating Officer Tom Bellhouse said to Andy Serling at a press conference earlier this week, “We’re in it to win it with Commanding Curve, but we love California Chrome.”

There’s always a level of confliction for owners of Belmont contenders when a Triple Crown is on the line. We all know how hard it is to win a Triple Crown race, so who wouldn’t want to win the final jewel? But at the same time, we’ve all been waiting since 1978 to see a Triple Crown winner.

Following Commanding Curve’s second place finish in the Kentucky Derby, WPT president Terry Finley and trainer Dallas Stewart made the decision to bypass the Preakness and take dead aim on the Belmont Stakes with the son of Master Command. He shipped up to New York from Louisville last week, and worked very well over the surface over the weekend.

“He has a good feel for the track,” said Stewart. “Overall I couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing. His weight is good, and I think he’s gotten stronger even since the Derby. He’s a smart horse who knows how to take care of himself, he lays down for a nap every day after training. It doesn’t seem like there’s much pace in the race, so we probably won’t be as far back as we were in the Derby. I’ll leave that up to Shaun though, he knows this horse.”




Earlier in Saturday’s card, Mike Stidham trainee Ground Transport looks for his third straight stakes win in the $500,000 Brooklyn Handicap (G2). A son of Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, Ground Transport has one goal in the Brooklyn, to take them gate to wire. He won the Drosselmeyer, the local prep for the Brooklyn on the lead with Hall of Famer John Velazquez up and has been training as strong as ever at Arlington Park.

On Friday, Twilight Eclipse takes on a full field in the inaugural $200,000 Belmont Gold Cup Invitational run at two miles on the turf. He’s bounced back quicker than expected following his trip to Dubai in March, and we hope to use this race as a springboard to the premier long distance turf races this summer. The ultimate 2014 goal for the 5-year-old Tom Albertrani trainee is the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“It’s been an amazing past few weeks for our Partners and this weekend could be icing on the cake,” said Terry Finley. “We’re very live in all three stakes at Belmont and have eleven horses slated to run this weekend. I love seeing how engaged and enthusiastic our Partners are not only about their horses, but the sport as a whole.”

Saturday, June 7 Belmont Television Coverage (Post time is 6:52 ET)

12am California Chrome: The Unlikely Champion, NBCSN

2:30pm Belmont Prep, NBCSN

4:30pm The 146th Belmont Stakes, NBC

7:30pm Belmont Post-Race Show, NBCSN

Click here for info on all WPT runners this weekend.