Just days remain before what might be one of the most memorable thoroughbred races in nearly four decades. The 2014 Belmont Stakes could mark a historic moment for the sport if California Chrome emerges and pulls off the Triple Crown.
Since 1978, no horse has captured the elusive title that Affirmed accomplished 36 years ago.
With the Golden State stallion already taking the crown at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the anticipation is once again at an all-time high in New York.
Some might believe the Triple Crown is already a given for California Chrome, but the loaded field tells another story. Colts like Ride On Curlin and Wicked Strong will once again try their hand at pulling off the ultimate triumph on Saturday evening.
With the race just days away, let's take a look at the entire field and projections for where each will wind up in the Belmont Stakes.
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In the horse racing world, California Chrome is reaching LeBron James' level.
The stallion is on the cusp of a historic feat that would elevate him into horse racing lore and place him firmly in the record books.
One of the biggest reasons for all of his recent success? Much like with James' headband, ESPN Stats & Info explains how important California Chrome's nasal strip is:
California Chrome's 1st 6 career races without nasal strip: 2 wins, $105K earnings. His last 6 races with nasal strip: 6 wins, $3.35M— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 19, 2014
Apart from the accessories, California Chrome has clearly been the strongest colt in every race this season. After dominating the field in the Derby, the stallion needed a strong finish to pull away in the Preakness.
With both huge wins in hand, the horse looks even stronger heading into Belmont Park.
Jockey Victor Espinoza spoke with reporters about his horse ahead of the race. “He’s a little stronger, has a little more weight on than the last time I saw him,” he said. “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.”
If California Chrome simply runs as strong of a race as he did at the Preakness, fans in New York will be in for a huge moment on Saturday.
Ride On Curlin
Maybe the third time's a charm.
After finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Curlin wound up as the runner-up to California Chrome at the Preakness Stakes. With just one more shot at taking down the Golden State colt, Ride On Curlin is ready to conquer one of the biggest feats in horse racing.
Trainer Billy Gowan spoke with Claire Novak of Blood-Horse about Ride On Curlin's breeze on Sunday:
I thought he went super. (Exercise rider Bryan Beccia) went just like I told him. I told him to go slow the first quarter and he went in :27, went the last quarter in :24. It was just what we wanted, mainly just to get some air into him. If I work him a half-mile he may get too speed crazy, so as long as he was going slow, that's all we needed.
Though he has yet to take down California Chrome during the first two jewels of the horse racing season, Ride On Curlin appears primed to put on a good show over the weekend.
If the colt winds up with a good post position on Saturday, look for him to contend at Belmont Park. Whether or not he can overtake California Chrome and accomplish the huge feat, Ride On Curlin is one of the biggest contenders heading into the race.
Who will win the Belmont Stakes?
Much like last year's Boston Red Sox team, Wicked Strong comes in as the lovable underdog to the horse racing throne.
The colt pulled off a huge win in the Wood Memorial leading up to the Kentucky Derby, but stumbled out of the gate and ultimately finished fourth in the main event. With another chance to take down California Chrome, expect Wicked Strong to work his way near the front of the pack and contend on Saturday.
After resting during the Preakness, the Centennial Farms stallion has a shot at ruining the dreams of a Triple Crown at Belmont Park.
If he finds his way up near California Chrome, it might wind up being a race to the finish as both impressive colts look to make history.
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