It is well-known that the Triple Crown is overseen by forces that inhabit the heavens and keep the series sacred. They are the gods of the Triple Crown and they will not allow any horse that is not truly worthy to sweep the series. They are protectors of the most prestigious club in sports, the one that welcomed Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1970s and no other horse since. The gods have stopped Kauai King, Forward Pass, Real Quiet, Funny Cide and others. It is indisputable that a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner cannot win the Belmont without their blessing.
This week, our Bill Finley sat down with the gods (there are three) to discuss California Chrome and his quest to join racing's immortals.
Bill Finley: Well, let's get right to the question everyone wants answered: Will you allow California Chrome to win Saturday?
Triple Crown God #1: It was a tough call, and we went back and forth for hours, but in the end we decided that we would. This horse took all of us by surprise because he was far from a great horse until the San Felipe. But since, he's been fabulous and looks like he has developed into a great horse. We will not stand in his way.
BF: So does that mean he's a winner Saturday:
TCGod3: Let me take this one. The answer is no. We don't determine who will win, we just determine who cannot win. Funny Cide was 11 for 38 lifetime, 6 for 30 after the Belmont and ended his career at Finger Lakes. How would it have looked if he joined a list that includes Secretariat, Citation, War Admiral, Whirlaway? We couldn't have let that happen. That's what we do. War Emblem? A Triple Crown winner? Please. Who do you think made him stumble at the start?
Once we decide not to stand in the way of a horse, it's still up to the horse. We loved Spectacular Bid in 1979. Triple Crown God 2 bet $1,000 across on him. As far as what happened to him, you'll have to ask some of the other gods. There are plenty of gods who don't like cocky people and Spectacular Bid's trainer Buddy Delp didn't have a modest bone in his body.
BF: Do you take likability into account? Nobody wanted Big Brown to win because of his connections, and look what happened to him in the Belmont. This group with California Chrome just exudes niceness.
TCGod2: It's horse racing, not a popularity contest. The horse could be owned by Genghis Khan. We don't care. The horse has to be worthy of the title Triple Crown winner. Nothing else matters. Look, none of us liked Rick Dutrow or that IEAH Stable crew, but that's not why we stopped Big Brown. The horse didn't have the heart of a champion, which you saw when he cried "no mas" in the Belmont and pulled up.
BF: There is renewed talk of changing the format of the Triple Crown, adding extra time between the races. Your thoughts?
TCGod3: Anyone who would change the Triple Crown would draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Are they out of their minds? The Triple Crown has never been more popular, and it's the only thing in the sport that isn't in the toilet ... and they want to change it? The Triple Crown is supposed to be hard, and there's nothing harder for a horse than to win three races over a span of five weeks, the last one at a mile and a half. They risk cheapening the accomplishment, and that cannot happen.
TCGod1: They might also want to keep in mind that we had a good relationship with the gods of plague and pestilence and a few other nasty things and wouldn't be afraid to call in some favors. You really don't want to mess with us.
BF: How are you going to play the race?
TCGod1: I can't take California Chrome at 2-5, but I love the exacta with him over Wicked Strong. That horse looked great in the Wood and I didn't think he got a great trip in the Derby. I'm hoping for a $10.60 exacta payoff.
BF: How do gods get bets down?
TCGod3: Used to be hard before the Internet. Now we have a Twin Spires account.
BF: What do you guys do in years when no horse is going for the Triple Crown?
TCGod2: We fill in for vacationing gods. Watch a lot of TV. Triple Crown God #3 was hooked on "Breaking Bad."
BF: You guys going to the race?
TCGod1: Gonna be too crowded, and have you seen those prices for good seats?
BF: So is California Chrome going to do it?
TCGod2: Maybe, maybe not. But he's not going to have to worry about us.