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:
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
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:
|Ride On Curlin||10-1|
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:
Longest race to come!! @belmontstakes has been the Achilles heel for possible triple crown winners. One day I'll be at a race w/ the wife— Brian Robison (@Brian_Robison) May 17, 2014
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 BloodHorse.com, trainer Art Sherman doesn't appear too worried about the distance:
On distance,challenge of Belmont Stakes,Sherman:"these push-button horses, you don't have to worry about. You just see how the race unfolds"— Claire Novak (@BH_CNovak) May 18, 2014
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:
Recall tweeting day after Derby that Cal Chrome would win Preakness & lose Belmont to Wicked Strong. Standing by that. WS by 3/4.— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) May 19, 2014
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.