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Silver Charm Will Start No. 2 in Bid to Be No. 12

Belmont: Second post position doesn't figure to pose a problem as he tries to join 11 other Triple Crown winners.


ELMONT, N.Y. — Post position means almost nothing in a 1 1/2-mile race, especially when there are only seven horses in the field. Still, perhaps, it was an omen when Silver Charm drew the No. 2 hole Thursday for Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

The last time the gray son of Silver Buck, who will be trying to become thoroughbred racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, drew that post position was in his second start.

Running 5 1/2 furlongs against maidens last Aug. 24 at Del Mar, Silver Charm won at 2-5 odds, beating his entrymate, Gold Tribute, by 1 1/4 lengths under David Flores.

Of course, in his debut two weeks earlier, he also had left from Post 2 and finished a distant second, four lengths behind Deeds Not Words, a colt he demolished in the Kentucky Derby.

As expected, six others were entered to challenge the Derby and Preakness winner, but only four of them really count. Mr. Energizer, who was ridiculously supplemented by owner Robert Perez for $50,000, and Irish Silence have no chance and all they could possibly do is get in the way.

The Belmont boils down to whether Silver Charm can beat Free House again for what would be the fourth time in their six meetings; how Touch Gold will recover from his grueling trip in the Preakness; how Wild Rush fits after a big victory in the Illinois Derby and whether 12 furlongs will help Crypto Star.

"It's starting to sink in now that I'm going for the Triple Crown," said Bob Baffert, Silver Charm's trainer. "I don't think you can get a bad [post position] going 1 1/2 miles with seven horses around here.

"It's been fun. There's a couple of days left, but I'll be glad when it's over. There's been more media than I'll probably ever see in my life."

Silver Charm was established the 6-5 favorite by Mike Watchmaker, Belmont's morning-line maker, and Touch Gold and Wild Rush, who will race coupled as the Frank Stronach-owned entry, are 2-1. Touch Gold drew the rail and Wild Rush is in Post 4.

Third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness, Free House drew Post 6 and probably will be sitting second early behind Wild Rush. Free House is the 5-2 third choice. Then come Crypto Star (6-1), Mr. Energizer (30-1) and Irish Silence (50-1).

With a clean trip in the Preakness, Touch Gold might have been going for his second Triple Crown victory. Instead, he is a question mark because of the foot injury he suffered when he went to his nose at the start in Pimlico three weeks ago.

Trainer Dave Hofmans says his colt is doing well and hopes for clear sailing Saturday.

"To have a Triple Crown [winner] would be fantastic for racing," he said. "But Silver Charm's going to have to earn it if he wants to be put up there with Seattle Slew and Affirmed [the last two Triple Crown winners]. I hope we're on even terms with him turning for home and we'll go from there."

Trainer Richard Mandella, whose Dare and Go ended Cigar's 16-race winning streak in Del Mar's Pacific Classic last August, hopes to play giant-killer again with Wild Rush.

The son of Wild Again beat lesser horses by nearly four lengths in the Illinois Derby and has lost only once in five starts. Jerry Bailey, who has won a big race or two in his career, will be on the colt for the first time Saturday.

"I'll try and live with it," said Mandella when asked about the spoiler role. "I'd like to protest to the stewards. Baffert keeps handling that [Triple Crown] trophy like he's already won it."

Belmont Notes

The forecast calls for overcast skies Saturday but if rain does fall, it's not expected until nightfall. . . . The Belmont will be the ninth race on an 11-race card. . . . Every horse in the Belmont will carry 126 pounds.


Winning Belmont Post Positions

Best Post Positions 1905-1996 by number of wins:

Post 7: 11 wins

Post 2: 11 wins

Post 3: 12 wins

Post 5: 13 wins

Post 1: 21 wins


Belmont Stakes Draw

The field for Saturday's 129th Belmont Stakes :


P. HORSE JOCKEYODDS 1. a-Touch Gold McCarron 2-1 2. Silver Charm Stevens 6-5 3. Crypto Star Day 6-1 4. a-Wild Rush Bailey 2-1 5. Mr. Energizer Ortega 30-1 6. Free House Desormeaux 5-2 7. Irish Silence Velazquez 50-1


a-Frank Stronach-owned entry.

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