The 2014 Belmont Stakes cannot come soon enough.
The entire sport of horse racing is holding its collective breath to see if California Chrome can complete the trifecta of the Triple Crown on Saturday, June 7. In doing so, he would become the first horse to complete the feat in 36 years.
As we get closer to race day, it's becoming more and more apparent that one horse will be generating a large majority of the spotlight surrounding Belmont Park. But in the span of a couple of minutes, any contender in the field will have the opportunity of spoiling the day and winning it over the heavy favorite.
Let's break down fresh odds for the upcoming Belmont Stakes and preview the race.
|Ride on Curlin||5-1|
Odds via OddsShark.com
Note: Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
2014 Belmont Stakes Preview
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park Race Track; Elmont, New York
TV: NBC (coverage begins 4:30 p.m. ET)
California Chrome is at the forefront of the action entering Belmont, and it's not hard to see why.
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
He validated being the early favorite in the Triple Crown race at the Kentucky Derby with a resounding victory, and that came after four consecutive wins that totaled a margin of victory of 24 lengths. The two weeks' rest that was supposed to doom California Chrome at the Preakness only made for a more impressive run in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The horse has captured the national spotlight after his six-race win streak that will etch its way into the history books with lucky No. 7 at Belmont. And as he prepares in Elmont, New York for the 1 1/2-mile race, he's impressing even exercise rider Willie Delgado, 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.
But the Triple Crown finale is shaping up to include a number of serious threats—just as in the opening two stops.
First and foremost is Ride on Curlin, who was hot on California Chrome's tail down the stretch at the Preakness and looked able to catch him with a few more strides.
Ride on Curlin is the only other horse joining California Chrome in running all three Triple Crown legs, but he's showing no signs of wear, per Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch:
Liked Ride On Curlin this a.m., really picked up the pace through home straight, galloped final 1/2 in 1:00.55, handling T Crown grind well— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 29, 2014
The next biggest contenders are familiar names from the Derby and have an extra couple weeks of rest in the bag: Wicked Strong, Commanding Curve and Samraat.
All three finished strong at Churchill Downs, skipped the Preakness and are fully rested heading into Belmont.
Wicked Strong has long been a horse on the Triple Crown radar, and his fourth-place finish—although disappointing—wasn't poor. He was less than six lengths back of the victor at the finish. Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh is still convinced he could steal the show:
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
There's no doubting that California Chrome has his hooves full with all of these competitors. Many of the horses in the field are capable of pushing him through the end of those 1 1/2 miles, and perhaps catching him.
But then again, California Chrome has beat out just about every horse in the field at some point or another—whether it was at Churchill Downs or Pimlico Race Course.
The extra length of the 1 1/2-mile track could pose some problems, but it would be surprising to see California Chrome anywhere other than in control when the race reaches the final stretch.
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