Belmont stiffs and contenders

What would a Triple Crown win for California Chrome do for the sport of horse racing and for America?

Well, it would put everybody in a pretty good mood for about 45 minutes, maybe longer.

Everybody could stand a hero, especially since he can't talk.

Come Monday, the predictors of stock market doom, all those who hate our nation's guts, our creditors and the bozos over us at work, they'll still be there.

To win the Triple Crown, C-Chrome will have to defeat four halfway decent horses and six stiffs at the puzzling distance of a mile and a half.

If you think C-Chrome looked a little ragged at the end of the Preakness, imagine what a mile-and-a-half race could do to anybody going in a little tired.

To honor C-Chrome's fantastic achievements so far and to get in the right frame of mind for the big race, I just jogged a mile and a half after laying out the approximate scope and angles of the Belmont Park course in my neighborhood; if you could call that jogging. I carried nothing on my back or in my pockets outside of a phone number to call in case of emergencies.

A mile and a half is farther than you might think, much farther. It turns out it is exactly how far I routinely drive for groceries.

Here's what happened.

Going around what amounted to the first turn, I was moving so slowly, a dog approached and was able to sniff all around my feet and legs before deciding I posed no threat to anything he cared about. Going down what made do for the back stretch, a mail carrier and somebody in a truck asked if I was all right. Turning for home, which was still way, way down there, I drifted toward a water sprinkler. At the finish line I was almost running parallel to it toward the shade.

The Belmont field inside out

1. Medal Count (20-1): Still dirt poor.
2. California Chrome (3-5): Was 30-something-to-1 on future book.
3. Matterhorn (30-1): Belmont filler.
4. Commanding Curve (15-1): Caboose.
5. Ride On Curlin (12-1): Belmont is his second race after jockey Calvin Borel's bad Derby trip.
6. Matuszak (30-1): Lost seven in a row.
7. Samraat (20-1): A New York homer with speed.
8. Commissioner (20-1): Is in it for the parking spot.
9. Wicked Strong (6-1): Will be the trendy pick this week.
10. General a Rod (20-1): He has guts.
11. Tonalist (8-1): Beat six in slop.

Belmont Stakes picks

1. Ride On Curlin
2. California Chrome
3. Wicked Strong
4. Commanding Curve