On Saturday, California Chrome will try to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner in horse racing history as he heads to the starting in the Belmont Stakes. Among the trainers who will be trying to beat him will be Louisville based Dallas Stewart. He trains 2014 Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve. Stewart also finished second in the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Golden Soul. He has had some success at Belmont Park before, winning the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Unbridled Elaine and the 2002 Gallant Bloom Handicap with Nasty Storm. Commanding Curve has not run since the Derby on May 3.
KENT TAYLOR: What signs do you see that Commanding Curve has improved since the Kentucky Derby?
DALLAS STEWART: He came out of the Derby great. He hasn’t backed up at all. He’s going to have three works leading up the Belmont and I think he’s put on some muscle. I love his attitude, his energy. Everything checks off good for me.
TAYLOR: You want a horse to earn the Triple Crown, I’m sure you’d love to see it happen, but not this year?
STEWART: I guess you could put it like that. I’m a fan of California Chrome. He ran great, but we’ve got a job to do: go up there and win the Belmont, and I think we’ve got the right horse.
TAYLOR: You don’t want to get greedy in this sport. You know how hard it can be. But after two straight second-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby, are you thinking that yours is still out there?
STEWART: Yeah. You see your horse running at the 1/8th pole and your like, “Man, please get there, please get there,” and you finish second. You’re humble and proud, but that’s one race you want to win for sure.
TAYLOR: What impresses you about California Chrome?
STEWART: That jock gives him such a good ride. His two races, he just put him in the right spot and kicked him home at the right time. He’s had beautiful trips, but this will be a totally different scenario.
TAYLOR: Were you offended by the comments about Churchill Downs that California Chrome owner Steve Coburn made after the Preakness?
STEWART: He slapped Churchill a little bit, and I thought a little of that was uncalled for. He probably could have just picked the phone up and called somebody over here if he was unhappy.
TAYLOR: People say that this sport needs a Triple Crown winner. How much of a boost would the sport get from one?
STEWART: It would help. Just the excitement, and it would generate more coverage. Just to show people that it can be done. It hasn’t been done in years. It’s a great thing. It’s everything in this sport that we dream that a horse can be accomplished.
TAYLOR: Where do you stand on moving the races of the Triple Crown back a little – the Derby the first Saturday in May, the Preakness the first Saturday in June, the Belmont the first Saturday in July?
STEWART: I like a little more time, I don’t think that does anything but help the horse. I understand the history of the race and appreciate the history of the race, but I’d like to have a little more time leading into the Preakness and then going on for the Belmont, if the horse is capable.
TAYLOR: How tough do you think this race is for jockeys?
STEWART: You listen to Jerry Bailey and those guys that have ridden that race and that race track for a long time. It’s a tricky spot. It’s got its little areas that you have to be careful in – wider turns – so you have to be familiar with it. We’ve got Shaun Bridgemohan. He’s ridden there quite a bit, so he knows the track and we feel comfortable about that.
TAYLOR: You’ve won plenty of big races. What would it mean to win this one with all eyes watching?
STEWART: We’re just focused on winning and just have to see how it plays out. It would be huge for us and huge for West Point Thoroughbred to show the partnerships that it can be done with a horse bought for a reasonable price.
TAYLOR: How will the race need to play out for Commanding Curve to win?
STEWART: Bridgmohan and I were talking; we just need to be in the right spot, not too far back, just kind of in the catbird seat, and just let it unfold a little bit. To be thinking about where we’re going around the turn and hopefully get a good trip.