Triple Crown hopes are still alive for California Chrome following the 2014 Preakness Stakes.
The Kentucky Derby winner put on another sparkling performance, winning the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths over Ride On Curlin.
Now with two of the three Triple Crown jewels under his belt, California Chrome has his sights set on the Belmont Stakes.
We haven't seen a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and SportsCenter tweeted a statistic that doesn't bode well for the California-bred horse:
Lucky number 13? California Chrome is 13th horse to win both Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes since last Triple Crown in 1978.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 17, 2014
To make matters worse for California Chrome, he appears to be facing the strongest field yet.
DRF Derby noted potential Belmont Stakes contenders in a series of tweets:
(4/4) Newcomers to Triple Crown series in #Belmont would be Tonalist + Commissioner, who ran 1-2 in G2 Peter Pan at Belmont— DRF Derby (@DRFDerby) May 18, 2014
Let's break down these contenders.
The performances of Ride On Curlin and Social Inclusion are still fresh in our minds. They finished second and third, respectively, in the Preakness Stakes.
Ride On Curlin came on very strong down the final stretch and gave good chase to California Chrome.
Here's a quick refresher of the race:
Some great competition returns from the Kentucky Derby as well.
Commanding Curve was another horse giving California Chrome a nice chase down the backstretch. During the Derby, California Chrome had a four-length lead built up, and Commanding Curve closed the gap by a sizable margin.
Wicked Strong could also be a fierce competitor. He has great closing speed and may have been a larger factor in the Derby if it weren't for his unfortunate No. 20 post position.
Here's a look at the full race:
We have a couple of newcomers in the third leg of the Triple Crown as well.
Tonalist is very familiar with Belmont. Earlier this year, he won the Peter Pan Stakes in decisive fashion, leaving the entire field in his wake.
Here's a look at his dazzling performance:
Of course, post positions will be an extremely heavy factor for Belmont Stakes contenders. A poor position can quickly thwart the chance of success for a favorite.
Taking all of the known possible contenders into consideration, here's how the 2014 Belmont Stakes could shake out:
|5||Ride On Curlin|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions
Aside from Tonalist, California Chrome has raced against—and beaten—the Belmont Stakes' top contenders. There's no reason to think he can't do it again.
Expect the speedy Tonalist to give a great chase; however, California Chrome has simply looked too strong to be caught down the final stretch.
It's a good possibility we could see our first Triple Crown winner in 36 years in short order.