The 2014 Belmont Stakes is shaping up to become one of the most memorable horse-racing events in recent memory. After cruising past the competition in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome is set to take on all challengers at Belmont Park in his bid for a Triple Crown sweep.
The atmosphere should be electric on Saturday as California Chrome stands on the verge of history. There are already some prestigious preparations being made for a possible watershed moment, as ESPN's Darren Rovell points out:
Whether or not a presidential phone call is made to Belmont Park depends on the horses set to challenge California Chrome's run of dominance. This table has the rundown on all of the key information for the 13 horses set to race in Elmont, New York.
|Potential 2014 Belmont Stakes Lineup|
|California Chrome||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza|
|Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||Shaun Bridgmohan|
|Commissioner||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano|
|General a Rod||Mike Maker||Rosie Napravnik|
|Kid Cruz||Linda Rice||undecided|
|Matuszak||Bill Mott||Mike Smith|
|Medal Count||Dale L. Romans||Robby Albarado|
|Ride On Curlin||Billy Gowan||John Velazquez|
|Samraat||Rick Violette||Jose Ortiz|
|Social Inclusion||Manny Azpurua||undecided|
|Tonalist||Christophe Clement||Joel Rosario|
|Wicked Strong||Jimmy Jerkens||Rajiv Maragh|
(Note: Lineup information in table updated as of Sunday, June 1)
California Chrome and the rest of the Belmont field can do all they want in preparation for this challenging race, but the post-position draw will go a long way towards deciding their fate.
Here is the necessary information for the can't-miss post-position draw.
The 146th Belmont Stakes Post Position Draw
Date: Wednesday, June 4
Time: 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Live Stream: Belmont Stakes—Live Stream Page
The Belmont Stakes is different from other races in that the oft-dreaded No. 1 post position—where horses are likely to get pinned on the inside rail from the start—doesn't immediately spell disaster for the thoroughbred with that draw.
The No. 1 post position is the winningest spot on the track at Belmont Park, with 23 previous winners galloping out of this position. The No. 2 and No. 3 posts feature 11 and 13 winners, respectively.
On a track as lengthy as the one at Belmont Park, starting out on the inside may allow those horses to save enough energy for a final push towards victory on the home stretch.
General a Rod is a late addition to the Belmont field. He will join Ride On Curlin and California Chrome as the only horses to race in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year. Trainer Mike Maker couldn't find a reason to not run General a Rod in the Belmont Stakes after some strong workouts. Via Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal:
I see no reason not to go. There was no reason to rush into a decision, in my opinion. We waited it out, and the horse told us to go… I felt good before the Preakness and I feel good before the Belmont. One of these times we’re going to have a clean run and go from there.
A clean run could make all the difference for General a Rod, as he showed improvement over the first two legs of the Triple Crown. He was unable to make a move in the Derby and finished in 11th place. However, he had a much better run at the Preakness, finishing in fourth place on the Pimlico Race Course.
General a Rod likes to push the pace, and if he can run unimpeded, he could surprise plenty of observers in New York with a top-five finish.
Maker isn't the only trainer hoping his horse gets a clean shot at running down California Chrome. Billy Gowan trains Ride On Curlin, one of the favorites in the Belmont Stakes based on his strong pedigree and second-place finish at the Preakness. Gowan believes Ride On Curlin has the bloodlines and stamina to conquer the dirt track at Belmont Park, if given the chance. Via Ed McNamara of Newsday.com:
"I hate to make excuses," Gowan said, "but he's never had a perfect trip and had some horrible posts. I've always thought his pedigree would take him a mile and a half."
Of course, all of this talk can be squashed if California Chrome is able to run the same type of race he's enjoyed in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Daily Racing Form's David Grening noted that California Chrome was back to his easygoing training style:
Assistant trainer Alan Sherman felt California Chrome was more than ready for the Belmont Stakes after training Saturday. As per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com):
"I couldn't ask for anything more. It was a perfect work," said Sherman.
California Chrome will need a perfect run if he is to survive the demanding one-and-a-half-mile dirt track at Belmont Park. The fact that this lengthy race comes at the end of the Triple Crown series doesn't do these horses any favors.
Both Commanding Curve and Ride On Curlin made late charges at California Chrome in the Derby and Preakness, respectively. This event is often more about outlasting the other horses than outracing them.
California Chrome's lack of prior experience at Belmont Park doesn't bode well for him. The length of the race requires expert timing and pacing in order to prevent a horse from running on fumes well before the finish line.
It will be up to jockey Victor Espinoza to make sure that he has an excellent feel for California Chrome on race day in order to bring home the August Belmont Trophy and complete the first Triple Crown victory in 36 years.