The horse racing world is now just hours away from a potentially historic race getting underway.
While the Belmont Stakes is already considered one of the crown jewels of the Triple Crown, it is also the setting of the final race. If all goes well for California Chrome, it might also be the home of the first completed Triple Crown since 1978.
With a loaded field that includes Wood Memorial winner Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve, who placed in the Kentucky Derby, the win is far from a sure thing for the colt.
Before the horses enter the starting gate on Saturday evening, here's a look at the full race information and predictions for the illustrious race.
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, New York
When: Saturday, June 7 at 6:52 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Current Forecast: Mostly cloudy, 78 degrees
|5||Ride On Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
|1||California Chrome||Pedigree (Sire)|
|2||Ride On Curlin||Lucky Pulpit|
|4||Social Inclusion||Hard Spun|
|5||Samraat||Pioneer of The Nile|
|6||Commanding Curve||Noble Causeway|
|10||General a Rod||Tapit|
|11||Medal Count||Roman Ruler|
|13||Matuszak||Lemon Drop Kid|
Any conversation about the Belmont should start with California Chrome, so that's exactly where we'll begin.
Following a dominant run at Churchill Downs, the colt went out and accomplished that feat yet again at Pimlico. In search of history, most racing fans have high aspirations for Art Sherman's horse .
Thoroughbred consultant Ric Waldman spoke about just how rare the feat is for California Chrome to rise to dominance, via Michael Whitmer of The Boston Globe:
At the end of the day, he's still obscurely bred, and it will result in him having done more as a racehorse for him to develop some stallion value. If he'd have been mine I would have sold him before the Derby.
We're really dealing in odds, but you weigh the odds with the dollars. California Chrome cost $10,000 to produce. That's the beauty of it, the inexactness of it. A few people can pool their money, they can keep the horse when people are waving millions in front of them, then have that judgment confirmed by the horse's performance. It can happen. It's fabulous.
In jockey Victor Espinoza, California Chrome has a rider who knows all about coming into the Belmont Stakes with hopes of pulling off the Triple Crown. Given a second chance at accomplishing the feat, look for Espinoza to run a strong race mounted on the already famous horse.
Outside of California Chrome, two strong colts also hope to nail down a huge run to the top of the Belmont Stakes.
Ride On Curlin, the son of former Preakness Stakes winner Curlin, has come up short twice now against California Chrome during the Triple Crown races. Heading into the final leg, Ride On Curlin has now emerged as a possible dark horse, as Tom Pedulla of The New York Times points out:
The horse does not look the part of one of the top 3-year-olds in the country. The trainer oversees only four horses, and his fortunes took such a horrible turn two winters ago that he had none to work with. The owner has a passion for racing but lacks a budget to match.
And yet Ride On Curlin, the Preakness runner-up trained by Billy Gowan and owned by Daniel Dougherty, has an opportunity to be an improbable spoiler when California Chrome aims to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and the first since Affirmed in 1978 in the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
As for the final spot on the podium, expect a former winner in the lead-up to the Derby to once again shine.
Wicked Strong, who captured the hopes of horse racing fans after a win at the Wood Memorial, comes into the race with aspirations of another memorable victory.
J.J. Hysell of The Courier-Journal believes that Wicked Strong is currently the most likely horse to end California Chrome's hopes of a Triple Crown:
After a mild stumble out of the gate at the Derby hurt his chances, look for Wicked Strong to navigate his way near the front of the pack. Though he might not end up overtaking California Chrome, Wicked Strong should be a horse to watch as the Triple Crown comes to a close.
Predictions: 1. California Chrome, 2. Ride On Curlin, 3. Wicked Strong
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.