Alameda Co. past home to multiple 'Crown' contenders

Byby Nick Smith KGO logo
Thursday, June 5, 2014
California Chrome fairgrounds
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There is a lot of excitement in the world of horse racing as a Northern California contender tries to become the first to win the Triple Crown since 1978.

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- "California Chrome" is the 3-to-5 early favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and become horse racing's 12th ever Triple Crown champion. Chrome, the Yuba City horse, will break from the number two post on Saturday. It's an 11-horse field in the 1.5-mile Belmont stakes and California Chrome will try to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since "Affirmed" in 1978.

And while Chrome edges toward racing history, an East Bay woman is watching closely as she remembers the ride of her life, when a horse out of the Alameda County Fairgrounds unexpectedly took her to the biggest venues in racing. The stables at the Alameda County Fairgrounds are home to some of the most beautiful horses anywhere and if you watch them, it's almost as if they're telling you they know it.

This weekend, the eyes of racing fans will be glued to the Belmont Stakes, where California Chrome, fresh off of a win at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, will try to gallop into history books. "It's his consistency," Shelley Riley told ABC7 News.

Riley ought to know because 22 years ago her horse "Casual Lies" called the track home while at the same time, making history of his own. He was the second horse from the fairgrounds track to capture the attention of the racing world. Kentucky Derby winner "Morvich," who took the Derby in 1922, was also housed at the fairgrounds.

Riley believes California Chrome, Casual Lies, and Morvich each have the it-factor. "People that don't even know horses turn and look. It's a star quality. They're larger than life," Riley said.

Casual Lies' amazing journey is catalogued in Riley's best-selling book, "Casual Lies, A Triple Crown Adventure." In the book, she details his second-place finish at the Kentucky Derby, third-place finish in the Preakness, and fifth-place finish in the Belmont -- all from the purchase of a yearling colt many rejected as undesirable -- for just $7,500.

It's one more thing that makes horseracing unpredictable and exciting. "You know there's nothing like a Kentucky Derby winner that goes on to win the Preakness and now you're going for a Triple Crown," Alameda County Fairgrounds spokesperson Jeanne Wasserman.