With plenty of time still left to wait out until the 2014 Belmont Stakes officially runs, anticipation is already at its peak.
California Chrome's pursuit of the first horse racing Triple Crown in 36 years has captivated the sports world and consumed the world of horse racing. After resounding victories at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome is seeing favorable odds to complete the trifecta and make horse racing history.
While many are expecting the colt to join Affirmed in 1978 as the last winners of the Triple Crown, the field is not short on contenders who are capable of spoiling the parade.
Let's break down everything you need to know about the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
2014 Belmont Stakes
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park Race Track; Elmont, New York
|Ride On Curlin||5-1|
Odds via OddsShark.com as of May 25
Note: Odds via OddsShark.com.
California Chrome's Pursuit
As if it were possible before, it's now out of the question to downplay the ability of California Chrome.
He entered the Triple Crown circuit sporting four consecutive victories by a combined 24 lengths. That made him a huge favorite entering the Run for the Roses, but doubt was still cast and many wondered what the elite competition would do to his chances.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
It didn't change much, as California Chrome took over down the stretch and won. It was more of the same at the Preakness, with perhaps a little more of a test in the closing furlong.
Now, California Chrome has a shot at making history by doing what the last 12 to win both the Derby and Preakness couldn't—win at Belmont and complete the trio.
After days of preparation at Belmont and plenty still left to go, California Chrome exercise rider Willie Delgado was raving about the horse's fitness, per NYRA.com's Sean Morris (via BelmontStakes.com):
Yesterday he pulled, and today he pulled farther. And then he pulled up and he wasn't even blowing out a match. Fitness wise, he's fit. Come the day of the race, like I always said, it's all up to him and God. I can't say enough. He's really, really improving. Like I've always said, after each race he got better. He's out on weight, he's gotten stronger.
If the horse is truly getting better from race to race, that's a promising sign. The Triple Crown is known to wear on any horse who tries to compete in all three, as only five weeks separate the first race from the third and final one.
California Chrome will need everything in the tank to get through Belmont's 1 1/2 miles and hold off a plethora of opposers.
Ride On Curlin's Redemption
After improving from the Triple Crown's first leg to the second, Ride On Curlin can only continue his improvement by being the first horse to reach the finish line on June 7.
He looks excited to be at Belmont for that chance, per the horse's official Twitter:
Hi Ho Belmont! pic.twitter.com/6n5JnscqhS— RIDE ON CURLIN (@RIDEONCURLIN) May 28, 2014
Ride On Curlin started slow in the Triple Crown circuit with a seventh-place finish at the Derby, which wasn't awful in a 19-horse field but far from the expectations. They were much closer to being reached with the second-place finish at the Preakness.
Giving California Chrome all he wanted and more down the stretch, Ride On Curlin cut the deficit considerably when it looked like California Chrome had the victory in the bag. With a few more furlongs, who knows what could've happened.
He will get that chance at Belmont Park, as the 1 1/2-mile track is noticeably longer than the previous two stops these horses have been at.
Will a Rested Horse Steal Spotlight?
With a quick look down the provisional list of contenders released on May 17, per Danonymous Racing, there are many familiar names for anyone who followed the Triple Crown's first two stops:
Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat are all names that have generated talk as a threat to California Chrome in the past and could do so again at Belmont.
There's one key constant between those four contenders—none ran in the Preakness.
Oh yeah, there's one more—Commanding Curve, Danza, Wicked Strong and Samraat all finished behind California Chrome, in that order, at the Kentucky Derby.
With five weeks of rest for each of these four and the experience of being close to California Chrome's heels at the biggest stage in horse racing, there's no doubt they all have been gunning for their next shot at the Belmont.
If the miles begin to wear on California Chrome and he shows signs of tiredness down the stretch, look for one of these names to be pushing him. With the longest track so far in the Triple Crown, it wouldn't be surprising to see that happen.