Belmont Stakes 2014: Early Odds and Analyzing Top Contenders

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMay 20, 2014

IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR LONGINES - California Chrome, ridden by jockey Victor Espinoza, wins the second leg of the Triple Crown as he runs away with the 139th Preakness Stakes, Saturday, May 17, 2014, in Baltimore, MD. Longines, the Swiss watchmaker known for its famous timepieces, is the Official Watch and Timekeeper of the 139th annual Preakness Stakes and the Triple Crown. (Diane Bondareff/Invision for Longines/AP Images)
Diane Bondareff/Associated Press

After successfully winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown hopes are still alive for California Chrome as he enters the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

We haven't seen a Triple Crown winner in 36 years, with Affirmed being the last horse to accomplish the feat in 1978.

Could this be the year the drought finally ends?

After all, California Chrome marks the 13th horse to win the first two jewels of the Triple Crown since Affirmed won all three races 36 years ago, according to a tweet from SportsCenter:

If any horse had a great shot, it's certainly California Chrome with veteran jockey Victor Espinoza on the reins.

Wynn Las Vegas' John Avello recently posted his early Belmont Stakes odds, with California Chrome coming in as the early favorite, according to Jennie Rees of USA Today, via The Courier-Journal.

Here's a look at the contenders and their corresponding odds:

2014 Belmont Stakes Contenders and Odds
California Chrome5-6
Wicked Strong8-1
Commanding Curve10-1
Ride On Curlin10-1
Social Inclusion20-1
Intense Holiday22-1
Kid Cruz40-1
Ring Weekend40-1
The Courier-Journal

That's quite a strong field.

California Chrome may be the favorite; however, he's going to need to keep up his endurance for such a long race.

The Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles, and the Preakness Stakes is a 1 3/16-mile race; however, the Belmont Stakes is a total of 1 1/2 miles—the longest by far of the Triple Crown.

This may possibly be California Chrome's biggest Achilles' heel. This notion was also tweeted by Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison:

Sure, the California-bred colt has been magnificent over the first two legs of the Triple Crown, winning by well over a length each time. Although, he's been tested both times down the final stretch.

According to a tweet from Claire Novak of, trainer Art Sherman doesn't appear too worried about the distance:

In the Kentucky Derby, Commanding Curve made up some ground near the end of the race, and in the Preakness, Ride On Curlin was able to do the same.

Both of those horses are set as early contenders for the Belmont Stakes.

Wicked Strong is yet another great closer. He wasn't a large factor in the Kentucky Derby simply because of an unfavorable draw, forcing him to start from the far outside with lots of ground to cover.

Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form certainly likes Wicked Strong at Belmont, according to his tweet:

Tonalist is a newcomer to the Triple Crown races. He is very familiar with Belmont Park, winning there earlier this year at the Peter Pan Stakes.

During that race, he showed a great amount of speed, endurance and closing ability. Here's a look at his sparkling performance:

Winning the Triple Crown is a very formidable task, and this strong field makes it all the more daunting for California Chrome.

We'll have to wait for the official post positions to be announced to make sound predictions for the upcoming race. But, as it stands right now, California Chrome enters as the big favorite—with very good reason.