There is no doubt that Saturday, June 7 will be a monumental day for horse racing. The 2014 Belmont Stakes will either feature the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years or one horse will upset the favorite and go down in history for dashing the hopes of fans looking to make a national hero out of a three-year-old thoroughbred.
The majority of pre-race hype is centered on California Chrome, a chestnut colt looking to become the first horse to win all three legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed pulled off the miraculous feat in 1978. California Chrome will not be without worthy challengers and various obstacles in his quest to make history, but he is still the odds-on favorite heading into the race in Elmont, New York.
Take a look at the full list of odds for the horses set to make the Run for the Carnations, as well as predictions on how the favorites will finish at Belmont Park.
|Ride On Curlin||5-1|
|General a Rod||N/A (late entry, odds not updated)|
Note: Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com and updated as of Sunday, June 1.
Three races in just over a month is a grueling schedule for a modern-day horse. To make matters worse for the exhausted thoroughbreds, the Belmont Stakes is the longest race in the Triple Crown series at 1 1/2 miles (12 furlongs). The top of the home stretch is where California Chrome made his move in the previous two races, but he may run out of gas before the finish line in this one.
Commanding Curve's trainer, Dallas Stewart, believes the distance is key to upsetting California Chrome, as these horses are unfamiliar with a race of this distance and magnitude, per Jack Shinar of BloodHorse.com: "These horses are all untested at this distance. It will be a matter of stamina and which horse takes to it."
Where will California Chrome finish at the Belmont Stakes?
The difficult length will be the downfall for California Chrome in the Triple Crown finale. Commanding Curve made a late charge in the Kentucky Derby, and Ride On Curlin did the same after swooping in from an outside position at the Preakness Stakes.
Via Cathy Rainone of NBCBayArea.com, Richard Migliore, an analyst for the New York Racing Association, also notes that experience at Belmont Park is crucial for these horses, as familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt in horse racing: “Out of the 11 Triple Crown winners, all competed at Belmont Park before the final Triple Crown race. Obviously California Chrome needs to win, but he never ran at Belmont before.”
California Chrome won't be ready to make the final push at the Belmont Stakes, leaving the door open for an upset finish from Commanding Curve and a disappointing end to his Triple Crown bid.
Prediction: second place
Ride On Curlin
A good post position for Ride On Curlin could make all the difference for this muscular colt at the Belmont Stakes. Ride On Curlin was forced to start from the outside in both the Derby and the Preakness but still managed to make strong moves to the inside. He garnered a seventh-place finish and second-place finish in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, respectively.
If Ride On Curlin gets a favorable position at the Belmont, it should almost guarantee a favorable result, considering how strong he's looked in training leading up to the big race. Via 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
He's made some excellent moves in races despite the fact that he's gone through a slew of jockeys in his career. John Velazquez will ride atop Ride On Curlin for the Belmont Stakes, and he will be the thoroughbred's fifth jockey in his last five races, as per Jennie Rees of The Courier-Journal.
This lack of familiarity could curtail Ride On Curlin's attempt at a Belmont victory. The length of the race means jockeys have to time their moves perfectly in order to leave enough energy for the grueling finish. The new partnership between Velazquez and Ride On Curlin does not bode well in this regard.
Ride On Curlin is one of just two horses—the other is Belmont latecomer General a Rod—tailing California Chrome through each leg of the Triple Crown. Despite showing the ability to make a late push at the Preakness Stakes, Ride On Curlin will find himself with a great finish that still falls just short of catching the California-bred colt.
Prediction: third place
Wicked Strong will be well-rested after skipping out on the Preakness to make a run at a portion of the $1.5 million purse available in New York. He's got at least one top horse racing analyst in his corner in the form of InTheMoneyPost.com's J.J. Hysell.
Wicked Strong does have the experience at Belmont Park coming into this weekend's race. He garnered first- and second-place finishes in two Maiden Special Weight races on the lengthy track in 2013, as per Equibase.com. The familiarity with the dirt track gives this horse a special advantage unavailable to top contender California Chrome.
Despite the fortunate experience, Wicked Strong will still find it difficult to make a move over the other top horses in this year's race. There is a strong mix of both fresh and battle-tested horses in the field at Belmont Park, and Wicked Strong's fourth-place finish at the Derby left plenty to be desired. Don't expect this top contender to fall far behind top of the pack, but a relatively uneventful finish is to be expected for this horse on Saturday.
Prediction: fifth place