Will California Chrome become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978?
Oddsmakers sure think so.
Before the post-position draw takes place Wednesday (11 a.m. ET), and odds shift dramatically, California Chrome has already been dubbed the heavy favorite according to the latest Vegas odds.
This comes as no surprise after the California-bred colt's sparkling performances at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes—both of which he won by at least 1 1/2 lengths.
The contenders at Belmont Park, though, comprise the strongest field California Chrome has faced. Filled with horses of great endurance and closing ability, the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes will certainly prove to be a formidable test for the Triple Crown hopeful.
Here's a look at the latest odds prior to the post-position draw:
|2014 Belmont Stakes Odds Prior to Post Position Draw|
|Ride On Curlin||11-2|
|General A Rod||22-1|
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com.
California Chrome is the overwhelming favorite right now, but that could certainly change after the post-position draw.
Part of his success in the Derby and the Preakness was due to his favorable starting positions, beginning the races in the No. 5 gate and No. 3 gate, respectively.
Should his luck continue in the Belmont Stakes draw, we have a great chance of seeing the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
So far, go good in California Chrome's camp. According to a tweet from The New York Times, he's looked good during Belmont workouts:
David Grening of the Daily Racing Form tweeted his impression:
On the other hand, if California Chrome's draw is unfavorable, it will not bode well for the favorite; a poor starting position can severely hinder the possibility of success for even the strongest horses.
After all, Belmont Park has not been kind to favorites. Since 2000, only two favorites entering the Belmont Stakes have emerged victorious—Point Given in 2001 and Afleet Alex in 2005.
Also, the last two horses with Triple Crown aspirations to race at Belmont Park didn't fare particularly well—in fact, their bids both ended with eerily inauspicious results.
Here's a look back at the occurrence:
In 2012, I'll Have Another had his Triple Crown hopes dashed after a tendon injury forced him out of the race only a day prior.
Making matters worse for California Chrome, jockey Victor Espinoza doesn't exactly have a glowing record at Belmont Park, with just two wins in 67 races there, according to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News.
That doesn't much matter to Espinoza, who told Bossert, "That's my record? 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."
The Vegas odds may favor California Chrome right now, but the historical odds are heavily stacked against the colt.
Obtaining a favorable starting position will be a breath of promise for California Chrome's owners, Espinoza, racing fans and bettors alike.
Will the odds continue to shift in California Chrome's favor during Wednesday's draw, or will it crush the hopes of another potential Triple Crown champion?
We'll know soon enough. Stay tuned.