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Ben Smith

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Associated Press
Recent history suggests California Chrome will falter at the Belmont Stakes as he makes a run to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Siding with history guarantees victory

I am here to calm all your fears.

I am here to tell you that precedent is a sham and history is a punk and a bully, the way Joe Pesci was a punk and a bully in “Goodfellas.” I am here to tell you that last evil quarter-mile at Belmont Park is not the Green Mile, no matter what you’ve heard or from whom you’ve heard it.

Your winning ticket does not go to die there. Your dreams, either, or at least the dreams of a 77-year-old trainer and a couple of Joe Blows who bought the progeny of an $8,000 mare and a $2,500 stud, and now stand on the threshold of immortality because they did.

That’s the back story to California Chrome, the remainder-bin 3-year-old who goes off as the 3-5 favorite Saturday to win the Belmont against nine other nags. If he wins, he’ll become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

History says it won’t happen, of course. Twelve other horses have come this way since 1978, and stuff happened to all 12. So why should it be different this time?

I’ll tell you why.

It’s because I’m saying it won’t be different this time.

I’m saying Joe Pesci may be a circus clown, but he’s kind of a scary circus clown, and I ain’t crossin’ him. If history says something bad is going to happen, then something bad is going to happen. And it’s been 12 different kinds of bad where this day is concerned.

Remember Spectacular Bid back in 1979, for instance?

The Bid led by three lengths at the top of stretch that day, and for a moment it looked as if he’d follow Seattle Slew in ’77 and Affirmed in ’78 to make it three straight Triple Crown winners. But he pulled the equine version of Mario’s Slowing Down in those long, long final furlongs, and that was that.

Same thing happened to Real Quiet in 1998, who led by four lengths at the top but got caught at the wire because jockey Kent Desmoreaux took him out too fast.

Ditto Smarty Jones in 2004 and Silver Charm in 1997.

On and on it goes. Big Brown (2008) and Charismatic (1999) succumbed to injury late in the race. I’ll Have Another (2012) never even made it to the starting gate because of injury. Alysheba (1987) got bumped off-stride in traffic, and War Emblem (2002) stumbled and almost fell out of the gate.

A dozen times, some calamity has ensued. And I’m saying it will again.

And why is that a good thing?

It’s a good thing because what I know about horses you could fit in a horse’s withers, whatever they are. It’s a good thing because every horse I’ve ever picked has turned out to be a tube of Elmer’s with hooves.

It’s a good thing, because a proclamation from me is the kiss of death (or, in this case, a reverse kiss of death).

And because the last time I put down a couple of bucks on a horse’s nose, it was last year’s Kentucky Derby, and the horse was named Frac Daddy.

He finished 16th. Out of 19 starters. A can of Alpo could have run faster.

And Cali Chrome?

He’s dead meat, too. Trust me.

And then, go bet the heck out of him.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.