The 2014 Belmont Stakes will be one of the most exciting Triple Crown finales in recent history. Sometimes the race can be anticlimactic if there isn't a potential Triple Crown winner, but California Chrome is vying to pull off the feat for the first time since Affirmed in 1978 at Belmont Park.
What makes Elmont, New York's premier horse racing showcase so challenging is the sheer distance. At 1.5 miles (12 furlongs), it marks the longest test California Chrome has ever encountered. However, he's been able to win regardless of the circumstances with jockey Victor Espinoza in the irons.
This upcoming shot at immortality in the record books for trainer Art Sherman and California Chrome's connections will continue to experience an epic buildup. Once the race gets underway, though, it will be over in a flash.
Below is a look at the TV coverage and live stream information through NBC, so fans don't miss the potential landmark achievement. In addition to that is an overview of the purse and payouts, and a bit of detailed analysis on California Chrome and the rest of the prospective field.
2014 Belmont Stakes
When: Saturday, June 7 (Post time: 6:52 p.m. ET)
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Total Purse Payout: $1,500,000; Winner's Share: $800,000
|2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.||Belmont Park Live||NBC Sports Network|
|4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.||Belmont Stakes Coverage||NBC|
|7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.||Belmont Post-Race Show||NBC Sports Network|
|5||Ride on Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
Belmont Stakes Preview
Criticism beset California Chrome when he won the Kentucky Derby at a rather slow pace. The Preakness Stakes promised a swifter ride by nature, given the shorter Pimlico track. He managed to emerge victorious in Baltimore, staving off a furious charge by Ride On Curlin at the finish to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Although Ride On Curlin ran in the first leg of the Triple Crown, many of the contenders at Churchill Downs opted not to run in the Preakness, instead electing to rest up for the Belmont Stakes. According to the race's official website, Derby runner-up Commanding Curve will be in the field, along with Churchill Downs' No. 2 morning-line favorite Wicked Strong.
Those two alone are more formidable than any of the others California Chrome matched up with at Pimlico Race Course. Ride On Curlin, along with Social Inclusion, who finished in the money in Baltimore, will be back in action in Elmont, too.
So those eager for California Chrome's coronation may wind up disappointed, as there are plenty of entries attempting to play spoiler to the prohibitive favorite's dreams of racing into the record books. If the added distance is an issue, California Chrome isn't showing it in his final work leading up to race day, per the Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch:
California Chrome looks super in final Belmont prep cruises 4F in :47.47 with monster gallop out, :59.59, 1:12.76, 1:26.34 up mile 1:40.92— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 31, 2014
The buzz from that last workout was palpable, and Espinoza shared his thoughts on the preparation and what's changed for his exceptional horse since the Preakness.
"He’s a little stronger, has a little more weight on than the last time I saw him," said Espinoza, per The New York Times' Melissa Hoppert. "This morning it was just easy for him. It was nice for him to be able to stretch his legs and get some air in his lungs. He’s ready for Saturday."
There is something of a distance dilemma when fathoming how this race could play out. More time on the track—not to mention a bigger field, and thus further traffic issues—means more opportunity for things to go wrong.
On the other hand, a longer jaunt at Belmont Park should allow the true, quality race horses to emerge as the cream of the crop, competing as part of a compelling conclusion. California Chrome figures to be part of that cluster. The added strength should help him navigate the longer, tough terrain and at least have him in it to win it coming down the final straightaway.
Who will win the Belmont Stakes?
It's already been a magnificent run amid the Triple Crown season, but for California Chrome to fall short would be an undeniable disappointment for all involved. Nevertheless, this has created a strong buzz around horse racing and reminds the sports world how exciting this part of the industry can be when the right horse thrives at the perfect time.
A lot of factors meld together to make a Triple Crown bid possible. California Chrome's rise to prominence to date itself is awe inspiring as it stands now. He was just a $10,000 initial investment (h/t CNN.com's Matt Majendie).
California Chrome and Espinoza have an undeniable, winning chemistry, and the jockey was in this very same position with War Emblem back in 2002 but fell short. This is a chance for Espinoza's redemption, and for something that's become rarer than a once-in-a-generation triumph to occur. Plenty of capable competitors lurk, but the top favorite figures to be the class of Belmont Park on Saturday.