Belmont Stakes 2014: Gauging Top Threats to California Chrome's Triple Crown Bid

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIMay 23, 2014

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Victor Espinoza rides atop California Chrome #3 during the post parade for 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

We have a chance to witness history at the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the elusive Triple Crown.

Although, he won't be without plenty of obstacles.

After two sparkling performances at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome comes in to Belmont Park as the heavy favorite.

Here's a look at the race's contenders and updated odds, courtesy of

2014 Belmont Stakes Contenders and Odds
California Chrome-115
Commanding Curve+1200
Intense Holiday+3500
Kid Cruz+5000
Ride On Curlin+500
Social Inclusion+3000
Wicked Strong+1200

So, what are the chances California Chrome comes away with the final jewel of the Triple Crown?

Well, according to oddsmakers, they're pretty good; however, bettors and fans of the California-bred colt should be wary of this year's field.

Why's that?

The Belmont Stakes is a 1 1/2-mile race. The longer distance—the Kentucky Derby is 1 1/4 miles and the Preakness Stakes is 1 3/16 miles—will prove to be a formidable test for California Chrome.

Trainer Art Sherman gave his thoughts on the extra distance, according to his tweet from Claire Novak of

After all, even though he's made his signature surge to the front of the pack in the backstretch of the Triple Crown's first two legs, other horses have been able to close in on him over the final stretch.

ESPN's Richard Durrett tweeted his concern soon after the Preakness Stakes:

During the final furlong of the Kentucky Derby, California Chrome was out to a four-length lead. Belmont Stakes contender Commanding Curve significantly closed that gap, as California Chrome won by 1 3/4 lengths.

Another big closer in that race was Wicked Strong. This colt has tremendous closing speed and could have made a larger impact had his fortune been better—he started far outside in the No. 20 gate and had too much initial ground to make up.

Here's a refresher of how these horses looked in the Derby:

The same story can be told of the Preakness Stakes.

Once again, California Chrome burst to the front of the pack in the backstretch. Ride On Curlin surged from the outside down the final stretch, making up plenty of ground on the winner.

Here's a look at the race in its entirety:

With these horses capable of closing in on California Chrome in the waning yards of each race, the extra distance could be the undoing of this colt's bid for the Triple Crown.

Marcus Hersh of the Daily Racing Form seems to think one of these challengers will get the job done at Belmont Park:

These aren't California Chrome's only threats in the Belmont Stakes.

Newcomer Tonalist is very familiar with Belmont Park. This horse has great endurance, quickness and closing speed, which shined during his dazzling showing at the Peter Pan Stakes earlier this year.

Here's a look at Tonalist's performance:

With so many horses coming into the Belmont Stakes with legitimate chances to win down the final stretch of the race, and with California Chrome's lack of rest—this will be his third race in five weeks—the outcome is wildly unpredictable.

Post positions will certainly play another huge factor for all of these horses, and we'll have to wait and see if California Chrome's luck will continue in that regard.

One thing is for sure: We are in for a breathtaking—and possibly historical—spectacle this year at Belmont Park.