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California Chrome eyes Triple Crown at Belmont Stakes

California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win racing’s coveted triple crown when he competes in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win racing’s coveted triple crown when he competes in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday. (Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)

Only 11 horses have done what California Chrome is attempting when the Belmont Stakes is ran on Saturday afternoon.

The Belmont Park in New York is the final leg in thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown, following the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

California Chrome is looking to be the first horse in 36 years to reach that accomplishment. Affirmed was the last in 1978 to win the Triple Crown, one of the most coveted titles in sports. The other Triple Crown winners have been Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), and Seattle Slew (1977).

Not only is this a prestigious title, but prize money for this year’s race is $1.5 million, up from a million to last year’s winner.

Two years ago, I’ll Have Another emerged as a horse to possibly end the drought when he won the first two legs only to be scratched from the Belmont on the eve of the race due to tendinitis.

While the Belmont is not considered as famous or lucrative as the Kentucky Derby, the race is called the “Test of the Champion” by most racing insiders. The grueling 1 1/2-mile classic is a trial of endurance, speed and patience for man and horse.

California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman, understands the historic significant of Saturday’s race.

“You think about it, 36 years and nobody’s won the Triple Crown. It’d be quite an honor,” Sherman told Reuters News Service. “I’m hoping that we can get the final race. It would mean a lot to racing.”

Upon their arrival in New York, California Chrome’s connections have enjoyed celebrity status.

Jockey Victor Espinoza tossed the ceremonial first pitch at a New York Yankees game and was joined by Sherman and the horse’s owners to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Regardless of Saturday’s outcome, California Chrome will likely continue racing after the horse’s owner took out a hefty insurance policy.

“I want to keep him around for the Breeders’ Cup later on this year and I’d like to see him race as 4-year-old,” Sherman told Reuters on Tuesday. “I think he’d been an outstanding 4-year-old. That’s up to the owners but they just insured him for a lot of money and I don’t think they’d have spent that money if they didn’t plan on running.”

Reuters News Service contributed to this article.