At times seen as the second-class citizen of the Triple Crown season since pride is usually the only thing at stake at this point, this year's Belmont Stakes is going to command more attention than it has in a long time thanks to the presence of stud California Chrome.
After cruising to a victory at the Kentucky Derby and holding off the field at the Preakness Stakes, California Chrome is on a mission to become the first thoroughbred to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978.
There are a total of 13 horses in the race, including California Chrome, vying to win the final leg of horse racing's Triple Crown. If the three-year-old from the Sunshine State is going to make history, he will certainly have to earn it against the likes of Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong, Samraat, Medal Count and Social Inclusion, to name a few.
In order to prepare you for the event, here is a look at what to watch for along with all of the information you need to know about the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
146th Belmont Stakes Schedule
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park (Elmont, New York)
Time: Coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. ET
Post Time: 6:32 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|2014 Belmont Stakes: Post Positions and Odds|
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Note: Post positions and odds courtesy of BelmontStakes.com
Top Storyline: California Chrome vs. History
If there's a reason no one has won the Triple Crown in 36 years, it's because the horses are being groomed for one specialty. Being able to sprint on the shorter tracks at Churchill Downs and Pimlico give the speedsters an advantage.
The Belmont Stakes is the most difficult portion of the Triple Crown races due to its length. California Chrome has been the best runner at 10 furlongs or less.
As impressive as his current six-race win streak is, California Chrome did show some cracks in his armor at the Preakness Stakes. Social Inclusion was matching him stride-for-stride before the final stretch, though Chrome's jockey Victor Espinoza did a masterful job of keeping his horse fresh for the last turn.
Speaking of Espinoza, he has been in this position before and was unable to come through in the final race, as noted by NESN.com:
Espinoza has done a phenomenal job of working with California Chrome throughout the first two races and he also has experience on his side. However, recall that Espinoza missed out on the Triple Crown in 2002 with War Emblem, finishing eighth in the Belmont after winning the first two jewels.
Even acknowledging the fact that the site is referring to two different horses, the jockey plays just as much of a role in the outcome of these races as the thoroughbred.
There's also the question of how much ammunition California Chrome has left in the tank. The Belmont Stakes will be his sixth race in 2014 and fourth since April 5. That's a lot of pressure to put on one horse's body.
Then there is the competition. Specifically, the horse to watch appears to be Commanding Curve, who finished (a very distant) second to California Chrome at the Kentucky Derby before skipping the Preakness to properly prepare for Saturday's event.
According to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News, Commanding Curve has been very impressive in practice sessions so far this week:
When you see a horse come this far and dominate the way California Chrome has, you almost hope the other racers don't try to pose a challenge so that history can be made. Unfortunately, that's not the way things work, otherwise we would have seen another Triple Crown winner within the past three decades.
If anyone has what it takes to end the historic drought, it's California Chrome. All eyes will be on the young stud as well as Espinoza on Saturday.
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