There are plenty of variables that can shape the outcome of a horse race, and the 2014 Belmont Stakes is no different. The number of horses in the field, jockeys, weather conditions and health can all change in the days leading up to the finale of the Triple Crown. This doesn't even take into account the dreaded post position draw, which can dash a horse's chances before the race even begins.
However, there is one safe constant that is utilized to pass judgment on a horse's race-day capabilities: the pedigree.
No pedigree can ensure a horse gallops his way to victory in any given race, but it can prove invaluable as a measure of its overall potential.
Here is the latest lineup for the Belmont Stakes, complete with pedigree information for each thoroughbred.
|2014 Belmont Stakes Lineup and Pedigree|
|California Chrome||Lucky Pulpit||Love The Chase|
|Commanding Curve||Master Command||Mother|
|Commissioner||A.P. Indy||Flaming Heart|
|General a Rod||Roman Ruler||Dynamite Eyes|
|Kid Cruz||Lemon Drop Kid||Layreebelle|
|Ride On Curlin||Curlin||Magical Ride|
|Samraat||Noble Causeway||Little Indian Girl|
|Social Inclusion||Pioneer of the Nile||Saint Bernadette|
|Wicked Strong||Hard Spun||Moyne Abbey|
Ride On Curlin has one of the stronger pedigrees in this year's field. He is the offspring of Curlin, a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. He may not bear a resemblance to his sire, but he seems to have the same competitive spirit. Trainer Billy Gowan was amazed that Ride On Curlin was available for a paltry $25,000 considering his vaunted bloodlines. Via Ed McNamara of Newsday.com:
"I figured with that kind of pedigree, for that price there had to be something wrong," said Gowan. "But the vets checked him out and he was fine. It must have been his conformation."
That $25,000 is still much more than the paltry sum that Steve Coburn and Perry Martin ponied up for California Chrome. They snatched up their prize-winning colt for just $10,000 between the mare and the stud fee, as per Tim Sullivan of The Courier-Journal.
Of course, California Chrome—offspring of the unheralded Lucky Pulpit and Love The Chase—will have to defy history as well as his own pedigree in order to win at Belmont Park. Daily Racing Form's John P. Sparkman penned an excellent analysis on how well California Chrome's bloodlines compared to previous Triple Crown winners:
California Chrome is from Lucky Pulpit’s fourth crop, and though he has shown some promise from a relatively modest opportunity, there is no way to argue that Lucky Pulpit is anywhere close to the same class as either a racehorse or sire as the sires of the 11 previous Triple Crown winners.
Despite the underwhelming genetic makeup, California Chrome is still the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes.
It should also be noted that new shooters Matterhorn and Tonalist are both the offspring of Tapit, which has made for an interesting rivalry of sorts and can be viewed as a sort of "race within a race" at Belmont Park.
Tonalist made waves with a huge four-length victory at the Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 2) on May 10. He also finished second in the allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park on February 22. Matterhorn found himself trailing his relative in both of those races, finishing in fourth and 10th place, respectively. Matterhorn did best Tonalist in a maiden special weight race at the Aqueduct Racetrack in November 2013.
If Matterhorn can finish ahead of Tonalist at the Belmont Stakes, it would count as something of a mini-upset and even the series between the two colts.
If California Chrome can pull off the spectacular and take first place at the Belmont Stakes, the victory would prove to be even more amazing considering his underwhelming pedigree. Secretariat and Seattle Slew—Triple Crown winners in the 1970s—are buried deep within his bloodlines and could be an ancestral explanation for this horse's surprising display of strength and speed in 2014.
However, the focus remains on recent bloodlines. The humble beginnings make for a great narrative, but California Chrome will need every ounce of his energy in order to come out on top on the 1 1/2 mile track at Belmont Park.