It won't be long until we know if we'll finally see the 36-year Triple Crown drought end, as Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome is set to take the track for the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, June 7.
Since Affirmed earned the coveted Triple Crown in 1978, 12 horses have won the first two legs only to fall at Belmont Park, 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
California Chrome and veteran jockey Victor Espinoza have a great shot at accomplishing the feat.
The duo put together masterful performances at Churchill Downs and Pimlico.
California Chrome has made some great breaks out of the gate, and Espinoza has consistently put his horse into position to make their signature break in the backstretch.
Still, not only does the Belmont Stakes feature the strongest field yet, the 1 1/2-mile track will be a large test for the endurance and closing ability of California Chrome.
Let's take a look at the race's potential contenders and updated odds, courtesy of OddsShark.com:
|Ride On Curlin||+500|
Even though California Chrome is a big favorite, a huge test looms large.
The Belmont Stakes has been the Achilles' heel of many Triple Crown hopefuls, as the longer distance can pose a problem. Richard Durrett of ESPN tweeted his concern soon after California Chrome won the Preakness:
Perfect ride for California Chrome. Sure hope horse can handle Belmont distance. We'll be fun to watch.— Richard Durrett (@espn_durrett) May 17, 2014
Also, California Chrome will be racing for the third time in five weeks, and he'll be facing several well-rested competitors. Owner Steve Coburn appeared disgruntled by that fact during an interview with Rick Snider of The Washington Post.
Said Coburn, "There are people out there trying to upset the apple cart. They don’t want a Triple Crown winner. They want a paycheck [because the Belmont winner’s share is $600,000]."
Of those competitors, Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong and Ride On Curlin appear to present the biggest threat.
Down the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby, both Commanding Curve and Wicked Strong were passing horses, as each features a great deal of endurance and closing speed.
Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form tweeted his prediction for the upcoming race:
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
Ride On Curlin did the same during the Preakness, giving good chase to California Chrome in the waning yards of the race.
This horse has garnered plenty of attention after his Preakness showing, and ESPN analyst Todd McShay likes his chances in the Belmont Stakes:
Can California Chrome be beat? If so, I'll go with Ride on Curlin.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) May 17, 2014
Depending on how post positions shake out, any of these horses could surely end the California-bred's Triple Crown bid.
Another horse to watch is Tonalist.
He dazzled earlier this year at Belmont Park, winning the Peter Pan Stakes in decisive fashion. He's well rested, as this will be his first Triple Crown race this year.
Here's a look at his sparkling performance at Belmont:
Despite all of these solid contenders, California Chrome is the favorite for a reason.
He's already beaten most horses in the field. We'll simply have to wait and see if he has enough gas left in the tank to do it once more.