California Chrome is two-thirds of the way to becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 36 years; however, if history is any indication, the surging colt's toughest task still lies ahead.
After all, 22 horses have won the first two jewels of horse racing's prestigious circuit only to miss out on or fall short at the Belmont Stakes. It's no wonder, as the 12-furlong distance (1.5 miles) pushes contenders to the absolute limit.
Nonetheless, California Chrome will take aim at the sport's ultimate prize this weekend.
With post time on the horizon, we'll break down the projected field and the favorites to watch for at this year's Belmont Stakes.
|California Chrome||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza||1-1|
|Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||Shaun Bridgmohan||15-2|
|Commissioner||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||33-1|
|General a Rod||Mike Maker||Rosie Napravnik||N/A|
|Kid Cruz||Linda Rice||N/A||40-1|
|Matuszak||Bill Mott||Mike Smith||40-1|
|Medal Count||Dale L. Romans||Robby Albarado||14-1|
|Ride On Curlin||Billy Gowan||John Velazquez||5-1|
|Samraat||Rick Violette||Jose Ortiz||20-1|
|Social Inclusion||Manny Azpurua||N/A||33-1|
|Tonalist||Christophe Clement||Joel Rosario||15-1|
|Wicked Strong||Jimmy Jerkens||Rajiv Maragh||9-1|
Source: BelmontStakes.com. Odds via Oddsshark.com
Favorites to Watch For
California Chrome, 1-1
Having won six straight races coming in, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, Art Sherman's colt is the odds-on favorite to make history this weekend in Elmont, New York.
Although a poor post draw could potentially hurt California Chrome's standing with the oddsmakers heading into race day, no other contenders in this year's field lead anyone to believe that California Chrome won't finish the job this weekend.
On top of that, the favorite looked awfully impressive during preparations, as noted by 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
While many people have pointed out that California Chrome is a flawed horse, he's clearly the class of this field, and he and jockey Victor Espinoza will have plenty of time to work through traffic and pull ahead of the pack. The key question is whether California Chrome will finally run out of gas.
He hasn't shown anything in the previous two races that would suggest he's vulnerable late, and a three-week layoff is likely to boost his chances heading into the Triple Crown's most grueling leg.
Ride on Curlin, 5-1
Which contender has the best shot to upend California Chrome on Saturday?
Like California Chrome, Ride on Curlin has run in each of the past two legs of the Triple Crown, finishing seventh at the Kentucky Derby and second at Pimlico Race Course two weeks ago.
If the 1.5-mile distance troubles California Chrome, many people believe Ride on Curlin can come on strong late and dash any Triple Crown hopes.
But if there's a reason to doubt Ride on Curlin on Saturday, it's the fact that he hasn't broken through yet, settling for second at the Grade I Arkansas Derby and finishing third at the Grade II Rebel Stakes and the Grade III Southwest Stakes prior to that.
There's plenty of potential with Ride on Curlin, but he hasn't produced the results necessary to inspire confidence in bettors.
Commanding Curve, 15-2
Commanding Curve was somewhat of an afterthought coming into the Kentucky Derby, but following his second-place finish at Churchill Downs and a month to rest up, the oddsmakers like the colt to run hard at Belmont Park.
Likewise, trainer Dallas Stewart is confident his horse will turn in a strong showing this weekend, per ChurchillDowns.com's John Cox:
I think he’ll be fine to handle the distance. He had a great work today, he’s fit and I think the distance will fit him just fine. There are going to be some nice horses in there. Of course California Chrome is a really nice horse and will obviously be the favorite. Ride On Curlin is another solid horse in there that will be tough.
We’ll need a good trip. He needs to be close at the quarter pole. Approaching the quarter pole having only one or two horses beat probably won’t get it done. He needs to be a little closer and just have nice positioning turning for home.
Depending on which post Commanding Curve draws on Wednesday, the Kentucky Derby runner-up will have a shot to upend California Chrome over the extended distance on Saturday.
He was the favorite's toughest competition at Churchill Downs, and with two more furlongs to work with this time around, perhaps he'll spoil California Chrome's bid for history.
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