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Belmont Stakes 2014: Biggest Obstacles in California Chrome's Triple Crown Push

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  California Chrome #3, ridden by Victor Espinoza, races with the field during the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 17, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

The Belmont Stakes is the only race standing in California Chrome's way of winning the Triple Crown, but it's the toughest challenge to date.

The California-bred colt needs one more victory at the Triple Crown, which would make him the first horse to achieve that honor since 1978. According to SportsCenter's official Twitter page, he's the 13th horse to have won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

After galloping to a 1 1/2-length victory at Pimlico, his sixth straight triumph, California Chrome will enter Belmont as the sizable favorite. As of Thursday, May 22 at 2 p.m. ET, OddsShark gives him -115 odds to notch another victory under his saddle.

That doesn't mean, however, that the road is easy to once again leading the pack at New York. Some interesting challenges await the Triple Crown pursuit.

 

2014 Belmont Stakes 

When: Saturday, June 7 

Where: Belmont Park, Long Island, New York

TV: NBC (coverage beings at 4:30 p.m. ET)

 

Tough Competition

LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 01:  Wicked Strong runs on the track during the morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

For starters, the competition is poised to intensify at the Triple Crown's final leg. Many of the top contenders from the past two events are slated to perform at Belmont.

The Downey Profile provided a sneak preview of the possible early contenders, a who's who of horse racing's top names.

Command Curve and Ride On Curlin, the runners-up from California Chrome's last two victories, are each expected to take the track. Wicked Strong and Samraat are also rested after sitting out the Preakness while Social Inclusion showed promise at Pimlico.

There is one less foe to worry about after trainer Todd Pletcher decided to withdraw Danza, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. He explained his choice to Newsday's Ed McNamara.

"Just in general I think he was a little tired from the spring campaign," Pletcher said. "I just sensed he wasn't 100 percent after that breeze. He's lost a little weight, has a little skin disease. Nothing major, just a little R and R should fix it."

The Preakness was not praised for its below-average field of 10 competitors, but that shouldn't be a problem at Belmont.

 

Quick Turnaround

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  California Chrome #3, ridden by Victor Espinoza, races accross the finishline to win the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 17, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With the Belmont Stakes slotted for Saturday, June 7, California Chrome will have to compete in his third race in his weeks.

Before the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome had not ran on less than a four-month layover. 

Meanwhile, his adversaries are almost all fresher after skipping one of the Triple Crown festivities. The only other horse expected to compete in all three races is Ride On Curlin, who will be saddled by a different jockey, according to the Daily Racing Form's David Grening.

The other trainers shunned one of the major showings to enhance their chances elsewhere. With the Triple Crown on the line, Art Sherman wasn't going to relegate the heavy favorite to the sidelines, forgoing a chance at history and substantial payouts.

To Chrome's credit, he has yet to show any signs of fatigue. He bolted to the finish line during the Preakness, displaying incredible breakaway speed to settle a stalemate with Social Inclusion.

Alan Sherman, Art's son, also conveyed excitement about the colt's initial practice jog on Wednesday to the New York Daily News' Jerry Bossert.

He actually surprised me with how good he was feeling this morning. It's amazing how quick this horse is bouncing back off of these big races he's run in. He was dragging me around the shedrow. He drug Willie around the track, today he was really feeling good.

Still, such a heavy workload factors into the dozen horses who fell one win shy of the Triple Crown over the past 36 years. It'll take another rousing performance to best a loaded field at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

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