ELMONT, N.Y. - Fostering a superstition born on the first stop of the Triple Crown, Belmont Park presented the connections of California Chrome with two saddlecloths upon his arrival - one bearing the proper spelling of the colt's name and one deliberately misspelled "Califorina Chrome".
The tradition started when Churchill Downs accidentally misprinted California Chrome's name on the saddlecloth for his Kentucky Derby preparations. After donning the mislabeled cloth in the lead-up to the Run for the Roses, the homebred son of Lucky Pulpit went on to a smashing victory in the race, lending credence to the idea that there was some magic in the mistake.
Two weeks later, Pimlico followed suit by giving Art Sherman another misspelled saddlecloth, as the trainer believed it to be good luck. After another resolute victory in the Preakness, Sherman and company requested that a "Califorina Chrome" saddlecloth be made up for the Belmont Stakes, to ensure nothing deviated from the prior legs.
However, one thing will be different this time around. Sherman and his son Alan, along with jockey Victor Espinoza, have pledged to auction off the signed saddlecloth and donate the proceeds to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - a children's hospital and research facility dedicated to advancing cures and means of prevention of pediatric catastrophic diseases.
"We've always donated to St. Jude's," said Alan Sherman. "Today he wore the correctly spelled cloth but we have the other one tucked away and ready to be autographed and donated."
Although donating the saddlecloth is unprecedented as far as the superstition goes, it could hardly be construed as bringing bad luck.
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