Though the race gets the most attention, the post draw for the 2014 Belmont Stakes will hold significant implications in itself. While the starting position does not have nearly as much impact as in a larger field such as the Kentucky Derby, it still provides a means of planning for the horse and his jockey.
California Chrome will remain a heavy favorite, regardless of which post he draws. Nevertheless, looking back at historical precedents, we can draw some conclusions about the pre-race expectations for each of the 13 horses, based on which post they draw.
For those who want to see which gate each horse will start from, here's all the vital TV and live streaming info:
When: Wednesday, June 4 at 11 a.m. ET
Where: Horse Racing TV, TVG Network
Live Stream: Belmontstakes.com
Everyone knows that California Chrome is a strong challenger, but which horses could benefit most from a strong post position? Here's a look at Chrome's biggest challengers headed into Saturday's race.
Tonalist may not be on the radar of many after not racing in either the Derby or Preakness, but his most recent race was a win at Belmont Park in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes. Thus, he'll be fresher than virtually every other contending horse in the field:
"I think it's a good thing to come to the #Belmont with a fresh horse," on Tonalist having to be sidelined earlier in the spring.— NYRA (@TheNYRA) June 3, 2014
His success in a high-profile race suggests that Tonalist could be prepared to challenge the impressive Belmont field. Much like Chrome, Tonalist is a front-runner that likes to run with the pace-setters, which could have him running near the favorite down the home stretch.
Having never run against California Chrome, Tonalist represents the great unknown in Saturday's field. If he can repeat the type of race he ran in his May Belmont win, perhaps he could be the horse who spoils Chrome's run for history.
A descendent of 1999 Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic, Wicked Strong possesses the largest gap between his ceiling and his floor. After finishing fourth at Churchill Downs, the colt is looking to rebound and exhibit the form that led to a win in the Grade 1 Twinspires.com Wood Memorial Stakes.
Wicked Strong has proven erratic in grade races, with the high profile win at Aqueduct surrounded by two fourth-place finishes and a ninth-place showing at the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in January. For what it's worth, Wicked Strong appears closer to his peak as he returns from a five-week respite:
For what it's worth, I've never seen Wicked Strong's coat look as radiant as it did this morning & he looks like he's put on wt since Derby— Steve Haskin (@SteveHaskin) May 25, 2014
Considering what he is capable of, Wicked Strong must warrant serious consideration to win the race. He's as likely to finish out the top three as he is to win, but that is part of what makes him a dangerous threat to Chrome.
Ride on Curlin
Apart from Chrome, Ride on Curlin has been the most consistent horse of this year's top three-year-olds. The Preakness runner-up has finished in the top three in five of his past six graded races, but he has never won anything besides a maiden special weight or allowance race.
Nonetheless, it's clear that his breakthrough his imminent. Sired from 2007 Preakness winner Curlin, Ride on Curlin has the Triple Crown pedigree, and based on his pre-race form, he appears to have the talent necessary to defeat Chrome:
Our video dudes shot some AWESOME footage of Ride On Curlin on the way to the track, standing, breezing, and... http://t.co/yJTv7LjBUw— Claire Novak (@ClaireNovak) June 1, 2014
Ride on Curlin closed fast on the Preakness champ down the stretch, finishing just one-and-a-half lengths back. If he can provide a similar closing burst this week, the Belmont's 12-furlong length could give Ride on Curlin enough room to track down Chrome.