The 2014 Belmont Stakes might be home to history, as California Chrome is seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
Chrome and jockey Victor Espinoza dominated the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and they put on an excellent show during the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Now it all comes down to one final race.
The post positions draw can have a huge impact on how a horse runs at Belmont. A favorable position is a boost for horses in contention. A less than favorable position will leave other horses in the back of the pack. Here's how the post positions draw set the field:
|5||Ride on Curlin|
Belmont Stakes Draw Broadcast
Now that the post positions have been announced, those waiting for Saturday's epic race should have a better idea of how everything is going to play out. Just in case you don't, everything included below should help you out.
Below are the lineup odds, as well as a breakdown of a few favorites.
|Ride on Curlin||12-1|
Belmont Stakes Draw Broadcast
No Belmont Stakes discussion can occur without mentioning California Chrome as the favorite. The colt has dominated the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, and judging by those performances, this third jewel should yield similar results.
That assumption makes even more sense when you consider how well the horse's pre-race workouts have gone, via David Grening and Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form:
After schooling in paddock, California Chrome galloped a tad more than 2 miles, picking it up the last 1-2-mile or so. Just like always— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 29, 2014
California Chrome looks super in final Belmont prep cruises 4F in :47.47 with monster gallop out, :59.59, 1:12.76, 1:26.34 up mile 1:40.92— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 31, 2014
In reference to Grening's tweet, that's what Chrome and Espinoza have done all along. They start off just quick enough to stay behind the leaders. When space is inevitably made between the lead group and the group in the back of the race, Chrome begins to make his move.
Espinoza encourages the horse to go outside and begin making up ground. By the final turn of the race, Chrome is in a full gallop. He rushes past the horses ahead of him and maintains his speed to put distance between himself and those behind him.
This strategy has worked exceptionally well for the duo in the first two jewels—it'll be interesting to see if they can do it yet again.
The conversation for favorites really has to begin with Chrome. Given his success in the past several weeks, it's hard to pick against him.
Ride on Curlin
Ride on Curlin will have gone through five jockeys in the last five races after the Belmont. It's astounding that he has had a different jockey for each jewel of the Triple Crown circuit—Calvin Borel in the Kentucky Derby and Joel Rosario in the Preakness.
Now he'll be ridden by John Velazquez. Velazquez has won the Belmont Stakes twice, so that type of experience should aid the colt. Rosario had led him to a promising finish at Pimlico after Borel struggled atop him at Churchill Downs.
Velazquez will give Ride on Curlin an extra edge in the event, but trainer Billy Gowan thinks the horse's composure is what sets itself apart from the field, via HorseRacingNation.com:
One good thing about the horse is that he's easy to ride. He relaxes when he gets around horses, and he doesn't get speed crazy or anything. He can pretty much ride him any way he wants to. I've told all his riders that. He's probably the easiest horse you've ever ridden in your life. He showed that today. He was nice and relaxed. He doesn't get too worked up about anything, but when you ask him he's still full of run.
While it normally takes some time for a jockey to adjust to riding another horse, Velazquez seems to already have clicked with Ride on Curlin. This video from the NYRA shows just how strong of a horse Ride on Curlin is:
The field cannot overlook this horse at the Belmont Stakes. He has continually improved despite new jockeys at every turn, and the way the horse is able to handle itself will help it to keep extra energy on reserve for a final burst.
Behind Chrome, Ride on Curlin has to be considered one of the favorites.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens is running Wicked Strong hard in his pre-race workouts. They have stuck to the training track for the most part, but Jerkens is keeping Wicked Strong busy in the days leading up to the Belmont Stakes.
By all accounts, it's working. Wicked Strong has been very fast in workouts, via Frank Angst of ESPN.com:
In two breezes at the training track to date since the Derby, Wicked Strong worked five furlongs in 1:01.84 May 18, eighth fastest of 20 moves at the distance that day; and one mile in 1:39.59 May 25 in the only work at the distance that day. Jerkens, who is stabled away from the main track at Belmont and typically uses the training track, was pleased with the one-mile work in which Wicked Strong galloped out 1 ⅛ miles in 1:54.
The NYRA also captured a great photo of just how fast Wicked Strong has been moving in workouts:
Wicked Strong skipped the Preakness after not winning the Kentucky Derby, so the colt has had plenty of rest heading into Saturday's event. All the training will help the horse get accustomed to the atmosphere of Belmont, and that's something that might have an impact on the race itself.
Chrome is still the favorite, and I'd even pick Ride on Curlin ahead of Wicked Strong. But this colt has a chance to finish in the money.