If there's one thing we have learned about the Belmont Stakes in the past, it's that the track at Elmont Park has a way of ruining history. California Chrome is looking to become horse racing's first Triple Crown since 1978 this Saturday.
In the 35 years the Belmont has been run since Affirmed won the Triple Crown, 11 horses have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown but no one has crossed the finish line in first place in the final test.
A lot of explanations have been given for why the Triple Crown has been so hard to come by, but the answer is really simple: Elmont Park is a different animal than either the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs or Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.
The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1 1/2 miles, meaning it requires more strategy on the jockey's part to properly pace the horse before unleashing him down the stretch.
Whatever happens this weekend, it's going to be exciting and eventful. Here's all the information you need to find the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.
146th Belmont Stakes Schedule
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Time: Pre-race coverage beings at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network; main coverage starts at 4:30 p.m. ET on NBC; post-race coverage beings at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network
Post Time: 6:32 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
|5||Ride on Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
Note: Information courtesy of BelmontStakes.com
The Favorite: California Chrome
It's rare in a sport like horse racing, where dominance isn't often found, to see a favorite like California Chrome. He's dominated the first two legs of the Triple Crown, and enters the Belmont Stakes as an even-money favorite.
You can tell the field for the Belmont is getting more love than the Preakness, because California Chrome would actually cost you money for every dollar you bet in the second race of the Triple Crown.
Oh, in case you were worried that California Chrome would be winding down preparing for his fifth race in two months or was getting cocky—this assumes the horse knows how impressive his accomplishment thus far has been—Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form points out how well the three-year-old has looked in practice:
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
Some athletes reach a point where you just expect them to win every time they step on the field. California Chrome has only been in the national consciousness for one month, after destroying the field at Chruchill Downs, but that's been enough to warrant being one of the biggest favorites in horse racing history entering the Belmont Stakes.
The Upset-Minded Underdog: Commanding Curve
What would be the bigger story at the Belmont Stakes?
There are actually two or three horses capable of giving California Chrome a challenge, but Commanding Curve has been ascending this year. He started off slow with a sixth-place finish at the Risen Stars event in February, but placed third at the Louisiana Derby and was runner-up at the Kentucky Derby.
After sitting out the Preakness Stakes, Commanding Curve is taking one last shot at winning a Triple Crown race. This will be, by far, the longest track he's ever run. Churchill Downs was the previous long, so a lot of this race will depend on jockey Shaun Bridgmohan.
Lest you think that Commanding Curve will be out of his element on Saturday, just know the horse has been doing a fantastic job in practices leading up to the race, according to Claire Novak of Bloodhorse.com:
#BelmontStakes contender Commanding Curve also breezed this am, in company with Cost Affective. :47.38— Claire Novak (@BH_CNovak) June 1, 2014
We know that Commanding Curve can compete in a deep field with anyone not named California Chrome, so one stumble from the odds-on favorite out of the gate opens the door for the top contender to make a surprise run and play the role of spoiler.
The Dark Horse: Samraat
For some reason no one, not even the oddsmakers, are giving Samraat much respect leading into the Belmont Stakes. He's currently listed as a 20-1 underdog, but won the first five races of his career and finished second behind Wicked Strong (9-1 Belmont odds) at the Wood Memorial.
Even the Kentucky Derby was a strong showing for Samraat, who finished fifth at Churchill Downs. There are disadvantages to his style of running that will have to be corrected in order to make the late push.
Samraat, according to Mike Curry of AmericasBestRacing.com, is at his best when he starts out front and can put distance between himself and the rest of the field:
Samraat’s first three races were probably just an indication that he was faster than the opposition, much faster in fact. The Withers was the first time he was challenged at all early in a race and it is a great sign that he dropped right in behind the speed and waited until he was given his cue to put away a talented rival.
The fact Samraat does have some history of coming from behind bodes well for the Belmont Stakes, but the ability to pace himself early before making the final charge will be critical.
It's nice that Samraat was able to run that style at the Withers, a course that's just 1 1/16 miles. The Belmont Stakes is 3.5 furlongs longer than that, so stamina is even more important than speed.
This is going to be a difficult task, but track record and past performance indicates that if there's an upset to be pulled off, Samraat is the one to do it.
If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.