As the longest Triple Crown race, the Run for the Carnations typically delivers some of the most dramatic closing bursts. The 12-furlong race is a grueling task for any horse, let alone one racing for the third time in five weeks, which often leads to dark-horse winners and contenders.
Thus, despite his status as an overwhelming favorite, California Chrome's run to history is anything but a formality. Chrome faces a stiff field of contenders, some of whom have either skipped the Preakness or both Triple Crown races entirely.
According to the race's official website, the post time for Saturday's Belmont Stakes will take place at 6:52 p.m. ET. Check out all the vital TV and scheduling info below, as well as the likeliest contenders to take home the final leg.
|Program||Time (ET)||TV Station|
|Belmont Park Live||2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.||NBC Sports Network|
|Belmont Stakes Coverage||4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.||NBC|
|Belmont Post-Race Show||7:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.||NBC Sports Network|
The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner remains the betting and sentimental favorite heading into the race. Though the Triple Crown drought has extended to 36 years, statistical analysis suggests that mere regression to the mean should produce a champion soon:
California Chrome vies for the Triple Crown on Saturday. The odds of the current slump? About 1 in 130. http://t.co/ihKCFA2wlE— FiveThirtyEight (@FiveThirtyEight) June 2, 2014
Chrome looks as likely to end the drought as any horse since Big Brown in 2008 or Smarty Jones in 2004. The horse has not lost a race since November, having reeled off six straight wins. Though his winning time at Churchill Downs was considered a bit slow, his blazing time at Pimlico diffused doubts about his viability.
Jockey Victor Espinoza has guided Chrome through an aggressive strategy that keeps him near the front of the pack, which could be challenging in an especially long race. Also, unlike many of the horses in the field, Chrome has never raced at Belmont Park.
Nevertheless, he has also defeated nearly every horse in the field, some as recently as three weeks ago. If Chrome runs like he did in the first two legs, he will be nearly impossible to catch.
Ride On Curlin
Sired by 2007 Preakness champ Curlin, Ride On Curlin certainly comes with a Triple Crown race-winning pedigree. After a second-place Preakness finish in which he closed strong on California Chrome, the Kentucky-bred colt has emerged as one of the primary challengers to history.
Though Ride On Curlin is an experienced horse, with nine races since elevating from maiden special weight, attrition will play as significant a role on his race as it will with Chrome. He is part of a select group that has chosen to run all three races, which could raise concerns about fatigue issues:
General a Rod, California Chrome, Ride On Curlin will be lone horses to compete in all 3 legs of the Triple Crown this year. #Belmont— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 31, 2014
Nevertheless, unlike Chrome, Ride On Curlin has raced at Belmont Park. He finished third at the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes, a Grade 1 race, back in October. Though he has not won anything besides an allowance or maiden special weight race, Ride On Curlin has also finished in the top three in seven of his past eight graded races.
Therefore, expect Ride On Curlin to be near the lead when the race hits the stretch run. Though he has yet to show the burst to win a high-level race, it appears his breakthrough is imminent.
Tonalist stands out as a potential second-level contender who could surprise. Having not raced in either the Derby or Preakness, he should be fresher than the vast majority of horses. Furthermore, similar to Chrome, Tonalist likes to stay out near the leaders the entire race. With a fast pace horse out of the race, he could stand to benefit from a slower lead pace:
With Social Inclusion not likely for Belmont, pace scenario just got a whole lot softer. Samraat, Tonalist, & California Chrome benefit.— Jeff Siegel (@HRTVJeff) June 2, 2014
Most strikingly, Tonalist raced and won at Belmont Park in his most recent race. Though the Peter Pan Stakes was only a Grade 2 race, Tonalist's victory there should provide valuable experience for the horse and jockey Joel Rosario.
Among the least experienced horses in the field, Tonalist has only run four races. While he has finished first or second in his last three outings, only the aforementioned race at Belmont was a graded race. Going up against a battle-tested horse like Chrome, Tonalist will need to prove more precocious than his track record suggests.
Still, his recent track record at Belmont is hard to ignore, and that alone makes him a horse to keep an eye on. In some ways, having never raced against Chrome before, it's hard to count out Tonalist without seeing him in action against the favorite.