There's history on the line at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza have successfully completed the first two legs of the Triple Crown—the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes—and now a win at Belmont will complete the first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.
The third jewel of the prestigious accomplishment is a longer track than the Preakness, and the horses in competition for the top spot will need to maintain their stamina in order to oust the competition.
Chrome, now just one win away from the Triple Crown, comes in as the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes, via Odds Shark on May 20. But which horses should Chrome and Espinoza be wary of?
A full odds table is below.
|2014 Belmont Stakes Odds|
|Ride On Curlin||+500|
|OddsShark.com, as of May 20|
Ride on Curlin
Ride on Curlin—son of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin—was Chrome's main competition in the Preakness. Jockey Joel Rosario rode the colt brilliantly after Calvin Borel struggled to find a rhythm atop Ride on Curlin in the Kentucky Derby.
Rosario rode the colt to a second-place finish in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Chrome was just a bit faster in the final furlong, edging him out for the win.
Jennie Rees of USA Today points out that there was a positive to take away from the loss:
Through California Chrome’s victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Ride On Curlin has been among those in his wake throughout. The Churchill Downs-based colt has cut at his deficit, however, from 6¾ lengths when seventh in the Derby to Saturday’s 1½ lengths in the Preakness.
Now both are advancing to the June 7 Belmont Stakes, the 1½-mile Triple Crown finale at New York’s Belmont Park.
Will this steady improvement by Ride on Curlin mean success for the colt at Belmont? Rosario is clearly better suited to be the horse's jockey, so we might yet see more improvement from the duo.
Danza, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will be looking for revenge on Chrome after sitting out the Preakness.
The horse is already putting work in at Belmont, as he ran a solid 49 and 2/5 seconds in a half-mile workout on Sunday. Trainer Todd Pletcher was pleased with the outing, via brisnet.com: "Perfect, everything I wanted, nice and easy, just getting back in action."
With several weeks rest following the Derby, Danza should be prepared to put it all on the line in Belmont. With a few more light workouts, Danza will be up to speed for the race. Chrome and Espinoza will need to be on the lookout for this horse in the final portion of the race.
There's still no better horse in the field than California Chrome.
Since 1978, there have been 12 near misses at the Triple Crown. Chrome won't be the 13th horse to fail after winning the first two jewels.
Espinoza has now run two consecutive races by executing a perfect strategy. He allows Chrome to get out of the gate quickly before pulling off and sitting just behind the leaders. Once there's space between the leaders and those behind Chrome, Espinoza drifts outside and makes his sprint just after the final turn.
He had to make this sprint earlier at the Preakness because of Social Inclusion's early run, but Chrome was still able to maintain speed and cruise to the finish.
This is a longer track, and Chrome will be wearing a nasal strip, reports ESPN.com, so it will be interesting to see if the same strategy works out.
If it does, we'll witness history on June 7.