Racing industry banking on Triple Crown winner

Fri Jun 6, 2014 6:49pm EDT
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By Julian Linden

NEW YORK (Reuters) - California Chrome's fairytale bid to win the elusive Triple Crown has put U.S. horse racing right in the sporting spotlight. The sport of kings is suddenly popular again and everyone is giddy with excitement.

The horse and his oddball connections have become instant celebrities, with their every move broadcast on American television, newspapers and the internet.

Towns in California are being decorated in the horse's purple and green silks and school kids are making videos and rap songs about "Chromie".

His rags to riches story has captivated the country, giving fresh hope to the idea that anyone can strike it rich with hard work and a bit of luck.

More than 120,000 people are expected to cram into Belmont Park on Saturday to witness the colt's bid to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years while millions more will watch on television.

"Horses like this don't come out that often. He's truly a gifted horse - very athletic and it will be a big boost for the industry," said Martin Panza, the senior vice president of racing operations at the New York Racing Association (NYRA).

"When you can get 120,000 people out to Belmont Park, we're exposing a lot of people to the sport and the majesty of these horses running. So it's a positive thing."

No-one will be willing California Chrome on to victory more than the racing community, hoping a Triple Crown success will help revive the sport. Even the connections of rival horses have said they would love to see him win.   Continued...

California Chrome, winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, gallops during morning workouts at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York June 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton