California Chrome's Triple Crown bid remains alive and well following the 2014 Belmont Stakes post-position draw on Wednesday.
The field has been narrowed to 11 horses following the late scratch of Social Inclusion, according to a tweet from Childs Walker of the Baltimore Sun:
Social Inclusion officially out of Belmont Stakes per owner Ron Sanchez.— Childs Walker (@ChildsWalker) June 4, 2014
With the race's contenders now in place, owners, trainers, jockeys and fans anxiously awaited their fates during the post-position draw.
Here's a look at each horse's starting position and early odds:
|5||Ride On Curlin||12-1|
|10||General A Rod||20-1|
With the starting positions now set, and the odds shifted, which horses are considered to be the top contenders at Belmont Park?
Let's take a glance.
1. California Chrome (3-5)
Yes, this is an obvious choice.
California Chrome remains the favorite after drawing the No. 2 post position on Wednesday.
No stranger to starting on the inside, the California-bred colt won the Kentucky Derby from the No. 5 post and the Preakness Stakes from the No. 3 gate.
Starting a little further inside at Belmont Park shouldn't be an issue for California Chrome, as a smaller field will provide some additional early room to maneuver, and it also makes it far less likely that the colt will be caught against the rail.
The obstacles California Chrome must overcome are his lack of rest, the longer race length (the Belmont Stakes is a 1.5-mile race) and strong field of closers.
This will be California Chrome's most difficult test yet, but he's still the favorite until proven otherwise.
2. Ride On Curlin (12-1)
An Impressive Workout by California Chrome Electrifies Belmont Park http://t.co/RhwvgNXVpA— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 2, 2014
Should California Chrome stumble on Saturday, expect Ride On Curlin to reap the benefits.
This horse is perfectly suited for a longer race, given his high level of endurance and significant closing speed.
After starting in the No. 10 position at Pimlico, he made up plenty of ground, only to fall short of California Chrome after the two battled down the final furlong.
With a very friendly starting position in the No. 5 gate at Belmont Park, Ride On Curlin should be able to settle in near the front of the pack with ease, making his late-race burst even more threatening to the field.
After all, trainer Billy Gowan certainly thinks his colt is suited nicely for the upcoming race, per a tweet from the New York Racing Association:
If any contender is likely to unseat California Chrome, it appears as though Ride On Curlin has the best shot.
3. Wicked Strong (6-1)
"I thought all along this might be his best distance," says Billy Gowan of Ride On Curlin.— NYRA (@TheNYRA) June 4, 2014
This colt may be the field's best closer.
Wicked Strong has a great amount of endurance and can really turn it on down the final stretch of a longer race.
At Churchill Downs, Wicked Strong faced the daunting task of starting from far outside in the No. 20 gate. He ran the majority of the race well off the rail, and despite a nice closing surge he was only able to finish fourth.
While he starts outside again at Belmont Park from the No. 9 post, the small field makes it easier to settle inside sooner. This will help salvage his endurance and get him closer to the front of the pack for a late burst.
Wicked Strong has looked calm and collected of late, according to a tweet from David Grening of the Daily Racing Form:
Barring any unforeseen setbacks or in-race issues, expect Wicked Strong to be among the top finishers at Belmont Park.
Wicked Strong was perfect in gate schooling session on training track this morning. Went in twice, stood quietly pic.twitter.com/r5iWpjuv9J— David Grening (@DRFGrening) June 4, 2014
Commanding Curve and Tonalist both possess the closing ability necessary to contend as well. Samraat could be a factor if the race's pace isn't blistering. After those horses,though, the field drops off rather significantly.
Although, as we learned from Commanding Curve's improbable performance in the Kentucky Derby, anything is possible and long shots can't be counted out.
Race day is almost here—hang onto your hats.