Belmont Stakes 2014: Post-Preakness Odds and Preview

Brendan O'Meara@@BrendanOMearaFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

Belmont Stakes 2014: Post-Preakness Odds and Preview

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    The field for the 145th Belmont Stakes breaks from the gate.
    The field for the 145th Belmont Stakes breaks from the gate.Al Bello/Getty Images

    California Chrome was sensational in how he won the 139th Preakness Stakes on Saturday. He used that "push-button" speed that Art Sherman, Chrome's trainer, always said he had.

    Chrome is the 13th horse since Affirmed (1978) to vie for the Triple Crown. All 12 before Chrome failed, some in heartbreaking fashion, while others were just confusing.

    For all those who knocked Chrome's final running time in the Derby, he came back with a vengeance in the Preakness. Now there will be a host of familiar faces that skipped the Preakness in hopes of running in the Belmont Stakes. 

    Will it be Chrome running into a buzz saw? Or are the horses awaiting him running into Chrome saw?

    Read on to meet the contenders, see their early odds and get acquainted with the top storylines heading into the 146th Belmont Stakes.

Schedule and TV Information

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    Palace Malice winning the Belmont Stakes in 2013.
    Palace Malice winning the Belmont Stakes in 2013.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Saturday, June 7

    2:30-4:30 p.m. ET: Belmont Stakes Prep, Ogden Phipps, NBC Sports and Live Extra

    4:30-7 p.m. ET: The Belmont Stakes and Metropolitan Mile, NBC and Live Extra

    7-7:30 p.m. ET: Belmont Stakes Post, NBC Sports and Live Extra

Likely Contenders and Odds

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    California Chrome vies for the Triple Crown.
    California Chrome vies for the Triple Crown.Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Belmont Stakes is called "The Test of the Champion" for a reason. It's the longest race any of these horses will ever run. For a few of them, it will be their third race in five weeks. It's one loop around Belmont Park, 1 1/2 miles, to truly test their endurance. 

    Many presumed horses in this field ran in the Kentucky Derby and elected to skip the Preakness Stakes for a chance at the Belmont. California Chrome faced new shooters in the Preakness and turned them away. He'll face some familiar faces who will have an extra two weeks' rest on him. Here's what the field may look like with odds provided by the author.

    • California Chrome, Even
    • Ride On Curlin, 6-1
    • Wicked Strong, 8-1
    • Commanding Curve, 10-1
    • Danza, 10-1
    • Social Inclusion, 10-1
    • Samraat, 15-1
    • Intense Holiday, 20-1
    • Tonalist, 20-1
    • Commissioner, 25-1
    • Kid Cruz, 50-1

Belmont Park Facts

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    Belmont Park is the largest track in the country.
    Belmont Park is the largest track in the country.Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Back before World War I, in 1902, August Belmont II and former Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney had a dream: They would build the most elaborate race track in North America, modeled after the great tracks in Europe.

    They found a plot of 650 acres on the border of Queens County and Nassau County. Three years later on May 4, 1905, Belmont Park opened its doors for the first time. On that opening day, August Belmont's Blandy went off at 7-1 and held off a late-charging 100-1 long shot.

    In 1919, Sir Barton became the first horse to win the Triple Crown. Since then, another 10 horses have won the three races—the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

    Belmont is nicknamed "Big Sandy" because it is big...and sandy.

    It's the largest track in the country with a 12-furlong (1 1/2 miles) dirt oval, a 1 5/16-mile turf course (Widener Turf Course), an inner turf course of 1 3/16 miles and 103 feet, and a one-mile training track.

    The single largest attendance record was set on June 5, 2004, when Smarty Jones lost the Belmont to Birdstone. An incredible 120,139 people came to see Smarty Jones win only to see him come up one length shy.

Top Storylines

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    Can Chrome win the Triple Crown?
    Can Chrome win the Triple Crown?Diane Bondareff/Associated Press

    Will California Chrome become No. 12? And what about those nasal strips?

    The question everyone wants to know. The question that everyone—including competitors want to see—can Chrome win the Triple Crown? There is no doubt who the best three-year-old colt is this year. Winning two classics such as the Derby and Preakness solidified Chrome as the head of his class and also makes him a very rich stallion prospect (not to mention a lock as Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse later this year).

    But can he do it? Yes, he can, but it won't be easy. He has the perfect running style for this distance. He can be on the lead, but as he proved in the Preakness, he can sit back a few lengths and draft in behind the leaders. He can accelerate when asked as he did in the Derby when he opened up by five down the stretch. In the Preakness, he ran away from the immensely talented Social Inclusion.

    Chrome has run 19.5 furlongs in three weeks. That's a grand piano on his back that no other horse can carry. Yes, he can do it, but for the over 100,000 people who will show up at Belmont Park, it's going to be a pulse-pounder, a nail-biter.

    And now there's a possibility he won't even run. What's that about? There could be an issue with him not being able to wear the nasal strips he's had over the last six races, per Gary Mihoces of USA Today. Imagine that, after running in California, Kentucky and Maryland, something as silly as equine nasal strips could derail Chrome's bid for the Triple Crown.

    Hopefully, a resolution is made that is satisfactory to the owners, because if they don't feel welcome, they may take their ball and go home.


    How will the Preakness skippers perform?

    The second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers from the Kentucky Derby all plan on running in the Belmont Stakes. Let's come out and say it: They wimped out of the Preakness. The three horses that ran in the Derby and wheeled back in the Preakness ran first, second and fourth. 

    Now with five weeks rest, will Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat roll to victory? That's unclear, but they are going to give Chrome the biggest challenge of his career. 

    This will be Chrome's 13th career race. Those who are superstitious and feel that's bad luck may want to back the Preakness skippers. Commanding Curve, Danza and Wicked Strong are all closers. If they get the pace they want, Chrome could be in trouble.


    Can Todd Pletcher win his third Belmont Stakes?

    Todd Pletcher may saddle as many as three horses in this year's Belmont Stakes. He's won one Derby and no Preaknesses, but he's got two Belmonts to his credit. He won in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice. Pletcher likes skipping the Preakness to take his shot at the Belmont.

    He's got Danza (the Arkansas Derby winner), Intense Holiday and Commissioner, second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

    Commissioner's sire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont Stakes in 1992, and his offspring tend to have more stamina than most. Commissioner—and Pletcher—could be dangerous come June 7.

Dark Horses to Watch

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    Tonalist won the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. The Peter Pan has been a nice prep for horses skipping the Preakness. Tonalist is interesting. In the nine-furlong Peter Pan, he was hustled to the lead in the early running and held on beautifully to win. There will be significantly more speed in the Belmont Stakes, but if he gets alone on the front end, it could spell trouble.

    Tonalist is by Tapit, the hottest sire on the planet. Tapit horses have been winning all over the place, and they go the distance. Tonalist is dangerous.



    Todd Pletcher's Commissioner is sired by A.P. Indy, the 1992 Belmont Stakes winner. These horses can run all day. Commissioner was bred specifically for these kinds of races.

    Pletcher has two Belmont wins in his holster, and Commissioner appears to have the bloodlines and the running style to threaten California Chrome.


    Social Inclusion

    Social Inclusion was a bit of a basket case prior to the Preakness Stakes. He was washing out—sweating profusely—prior to loading in the gate. Once in the gate, he reared up and banged around.

    Most expected him to get the lead, but he ceded it to Pablo Del Monte and Ria Antonia. Social Inclusion made an early move forcing Chrome to go with him at the half-mile pole. In just his fourth start, he still managed to finish third just as he did in the Wood Memorial.

    If he moves forward off that and his hooves stay sound, Social Inclusion must be respected in this spot.


    Commanding Curve

    He looked like he was dropped in at the eighth-pole the way he closed to finish the Kentucky Derby. He finished second that day, and with the extra running room in the Belmont, he could very well enjoy a similar trip. 

    His grandsire is A.P. Indy, so he's got that stamina in his blood. The way he closed in the Derby was evidence that he's going to like the extra distance. If he gets pace, he'll be flying late.


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    California Chrome carries the hopes of an entire country into the Belmont Stakes.
    California Chrome carries the hopes of an entire country into the Belmont Stakes.Molly Riley/Getty Images

    California Chrome

    Not to belabor the point, but Chrome's running style is perfectly suitable to this distance. If he can rest up and stay sound, Victor Espinoza just has to hit the button at the 3/8 pole and let Chrome run into the history books.

    But heavy favorites such as Big Brown and Smarty Jones met their match in this race, and Chrome will, no doubt, face his own set of challenges. If he can keep his cool in the crazed atmosphere that will be Belmont Park, then he'll have the reserves to make an honest effort in this Test of the Champion.


    Ride On Curlin

    We saw the real Ride On Curlin in the Preakness. Under the patient handling of Joel Rosario, he screamed down the center of the track. He got a whiff of Chrome, but that would be it. He's an exacta and trifecta machine. He runs hard every time. 

    Watch who Rosario chooses to ride in this race. He won the Peter Pan aboard Tonalist. If he chooses Ride On Curlin, there's reason to believe he'll run big again. Ride On Curlin's sire, Curlin, lost the 2007 Belmont by a whisker. It's in Ride On Curlin's blood to run hard for 12 furlongs, and his late run at Chrome in the Preakness could be a foreshadowing of things to come.


    Wicked Strong

    He was the second choice in the Kentucky Derby and finished, pardon the pun, strong, though a semi-distant fourth.

    He's another deep closer such as Ride On Curlin, so he'll need the pace in order to finish high on the board. He charged like a freight train to win the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Belmont, for all intents and purposes, is his home track, so he'll have a great sense of how the surface will feel below his hooves.


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    California Chrome will have a whole country on his side.
    California Chrome will have a whole country on his side.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    Tom Hammond, the NBC broadcaster who hosts the Triple Crown coverage, said it best toward the end of the Preakness telecast. He said, "The last horse to win the Preakness at [odds of] 1-2? Affirmed. Is that not an omen?"

    Affirmed, of course, was the last Triple Crown winner 36 years ago. It's time.

    • First: California Chrome
    • Second: Ride On Curlin
    • Third: Commissioner
    • Fourth: Commanding Curve