In 36 years, 12 horses have attempted to win the Triple Crown at Belmont Park. All have failed. Will California Chrome be any different?
The last horse to enter the Belmont Stakes having won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes was Big Brown in 2008:
Prior to Belmont, he was a perfect 5-0 in his career. Once he hit Elmont, New York, though, the invincibility faded. Big Brown couldn't finish, with jockey Kent Desormeaux easing the colt for the final half-mile.
That illustrated the frailty of one's Triple Crown pursuit. In a matter of seconds, a horse can go from untouchable to helpless. So many things have to go right just to win one Triple Crown race, let alone two or even three.
Maybe it's delusion, or maybe it's the truth, but California Chrome does feel different. He's got the speed, he's got the jockey, he's on a great run, and his preparation couldn't be going any better, per Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times:
About 6:35 a.m., he emerged from the barn as camera operators, photographers and reporters ran alongside and followed his every move. His ears were pricked the entire time, and when he reached the racetrack, he put his head down and went to work.
Several hundred people watched as California Chrome, with jockey Victor Espinoza aboard, turned in an electric performance, breezing a half-mile in 47.69 seconds and covering 5 furlongs in 59.93 before galloping out in 1:12.95. The people lining the rail cheered as he motored past.
According to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News, the long line of Triple Crown failures isn't the only history California Chrome will have to worry about. Victor Espinoza has won just two out of his 67 races at Belmont Park.
"That's my record?" Espinoza said. "I don't even know. I don't follow records and I don't really care about records. I just care about the horses I ride."
And course, California Chrome isn't merely racing against history. On Saturday, he'll have to best what is a stacked field of top contenders. Commanding Curve finished second at the Kentucky Derby. Ride On Curlin, Wicked Strong and Tonalist are among the other top horses. Commanding Curve and Wicked Strong also skipped the Preakness Stakes, so they'll be extra fresh for Saturday's race.
Here's a look at the post positions for the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
|1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado|
|2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza|
|4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan|
|5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez|
|9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh|
|10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik|
|2:30 p.m.||Belmont Park Live Coverage||NBCSN|
|4:30 p.m.||Belmont Stakes Live Coverage||NBC|
|7 p.m.||Belmont Stakes Post-Race Show||NBCSN|
The post time for the Belmont Stakes is scheduled for 6:52 p.m. ET on Saturday, according to the race's official website.
Fear not, race fans, for NBC and NBC Sports Network will have the entire day covered.
At 2:30 p.m, NBCSN will carry pre-race coverage, which will be picked up by NBC starting at 4:30 p.m. Once the race is over, fans can head back to NBCSN for all of the post-race coverage they can handle.
According to The Weather Channel, Mother Nature shouldn't be raining on the parade at Belmont. Throughout the afternoon and into the early evening, the forecast calls for a zero percent chance of precipitation. The high will get to 82 degrees around 3 p.m. and then steadily drop from there. At around race time, the temperature should hover around 78 or 80 degrees.
Now, things can obviously change in a hurry, but for the time being, it looks as if California Chrome will have optimal conditions for his Triple Crown pursuit. The dirt track should be fast for the horses involved, allowing the Derby and Preakness winner to do maximum damage with his so-far impressive speed and even better finishing kick.
You'd hate to see wet, muddy conditions dull the race and overall spectacle of Saturday's events.