Yankees reliever Shawn Kelley hopes California Chrome closes out Triple Crown bid

Shawn Kelley is directed off the field after

Shawn Kelley is directed off the field after being kicked out of the game against the Los Angeles Angels during the eighth inning in Anaheim, Calif., Monday, May 5, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Chris Carlson

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Along with a hopeful horse racing nation, at least one Yankees pitcher is eagerly awaiting Saturday's Belmont Stakes -- and Shawn Kelley is going to do whatever he can to make sure he's in front of a television at post time.

Kelley, a horse racing buff from Louisville, Kentucky, is slated to begin a minor-league rehab assignment in Trenton, New Jersey, on Saturday as he attempts to recover from a back injury.

The Double-A Thunder are hosting Altoona at 7 p.m. The big race is set to go off at 6:52.

"I'll make sure I watch it," Kelley said. "I won't miss it."

Kelley said he is pulling for California Chrome to become the 12th horse to capture the Triple Crown.

"I want it to happen," Kelley said. "I think it will, barring something freakish. I hope it does. I've been pulling for it with Big Brown, Smarty Jones . . . "

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Kelley, 30, said he had little choice but to become a horse racing fan growing up in the shadow of Churchill Downs. He has been to the Kentucky Derby twice.

"Even if you don't like it, you're still aware of it, especially with the Derby," Kelley said. "Louisville pretty much shuts down the Monday before that weekend. It's just like a party for a week straight in the city. Everybody knows somebody that has a Derby party."

Kelley said he has tried the Derby's famous mint juleps, but prefers another Kentucky staple.

"I like bourbon," he said. "I'd rather just have bourbon than a mint julep."

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