Belmont undercard packs quite a punch, too

Under exercise rider Willie Delgado, California Chrome finishes up a morning workout Friday.
Under exercise rider Willie Delgado, California Chrome finishes up a morning workout Friday.(Garry Jones/AP)

NEW YORK — The 146th Belmont Stakes is the race everybody wants to see, but Saturday’s undercard is also worth catching, with 10 of the 13 races on the card stakes races, and $8 million in purses on the line.

From a purse standpoint, it will be the second-largest race day in the US this year, behind only Breeders’ Cup Saturday.

To put the money in perspective, the purse for the Belmont Stakes was $1 million from 1998 until this year, when it was bumped to $1.5 million. On Saturday, four races at Belmont Park will offer purses of at least $1 million: the Belmont, Metropolitan Handicap ($1.25 million), Knob Creek Manhattan ($1 million), and Ogden Phipps ($1 million). Two other races offer $750,000 purses.


“I think what’s great is we’re going to get a huge racing crowd here that’s going to get to see the best of what we have in racing, so that’s terrific,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who will start two horses in the Belmont (Commissioner, Matterhorn). “It’s arguably as good a card as we’ll ever have in the US, minus some Breeders’ Cup, which is run over two days now.”

Pletcher also trains Palace Malice, who won the 2013 Belmont Stakes and will run in the 121st Metropolitan Handicap, an 8-5 favorite looking to pad a résumé that already includes six wins in 15 starts and nearly $2 million in earnings.

Seek Again is the early favorite in the 113th Knob Creek Manhattan, run over 1¼ miles on turf. Beholder (7-5), Princess of Sylmar (9-5), and Close Hatches (5-2) are all strong contenders in the 46th Ogden Phipps, a race for fillies and mares 4 years and older.

The first race on the card is set for 11:35 a.m., and the weather forecast should result in a fast track: high of 83, no rain expected.


Mr. Popularity

Barn 26 was a popular spot to be Friday morning, with the cameras and the activity giving even the curious passerby a good guess as to who was hiding behind the wall. Barn 26 is where California Chrome is based, and after another light 6 a.m. workout, he was being led around the barn, stopping often for pictures.

The horse didn’t look nervous. What about the people behind him?

“A little bit. Getting there, yeah,” said assistant trainer Alan Sherman. “Nothing seems to bother him too much, though. He’s pretty cool.”

California Chrome is also 30 pounds heavier since before the Kentucky Derby, so he’s as strong as he’s ever been.

“The horse is doing great, I couldn’t ask for anything more from him,” Sherman said. “I think if he runs his race, he’ll be pretty solid.”

Join the club

Patrice Wolfson has watched 12 horses win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes since the horse she owned, Affirmed, did the same in 1978. Her colt added a win in the Belmont, making him the last Triple Crown winner. Wolfson enjoys being referred to as the owner of the last Triple Crown winner, but said she’s OK at the possibility of losing that title. More than OK, in fact. “I think it’s the first time that it would be fine to have him join [the Triple Crown club], because there’s something about the horse I really like,” Wolfson said. “He reminds me a little bit about Affirmed, but he’s really the kind that the public has taken to, and I don’t want them to be let down.” Wolfson said she hopes to be joined at Saturday’s race by Steve Cauthen, who rode Affirmed to victory in the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont in 1978 as a baby-faced 18-year-old.


Michael Whitmer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.