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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The connections of California Chrome are growing in confidence about the prospects of their horse winning the elusive Triple Crown.
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner needs to win the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 7 to become just the 12th horse and the first in 36 years to complete U.S. horse racing's Triple Crown.
The 1 1/2-mile (2,400 meters) Belmont Stakes is the longest and most grueling of the three races but California Chrome has not put a foot wrong since arriving at Belmont Park.
On Wednesday, he galloped over two miles, and his regular exercise rider Willie Delgado said the horse was in great shape after the workout.
"He pulled up and he wasn't even blowing out a match. Fitness wise, he's fit," Delgado told reporters. "He's really, really improving. Like I've always said, after each race he got better. He's out on weight, he's gotten stronger."
While the final field for the $1.5 million race won't be decided until next week, early indications are that California Chrome could face up to 10 rivals, including Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve and Preakness Stakes runner-up Ride On Curlin.
Danza, which finished third in the Kentucky Derby, has already been ruled out of the Belmont but the connections of Matterhorn, Matuszak and Medal Count have all indicated they will enter their horses.
"It's going to be a tough race; they're all good horses," said Alan Sherman, the son of California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman.
"All we have to do is just do our thing and have him run his race and I think we'll be all right."
Reporting by Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue