The post positions and field are finally set for the 2014 Belmont Stakes, which is shaping up to become one of the most dramatic horse racing events in recent memory. California Chrome and 10 other thoroughbred horses are all set to line up Saturday for the longest race in the Triple Crown series and the chance to make history.
The excitement is palpable heading into Saturday's Run for the Carnations. The list of potential challengers to California Chrome's dominance has narrowed, now that Kid Cruz and Social Inclusion are no longer in the Belmont field.
Here is a rundown on all of the necessary info for the Belmont Stakes schedule.
146th Belmont Stakes Schedule
Where: Elmont, New York
When: Saturday, June 7
Post Time: 6:52 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, (Coverage begins 4:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
The full list of races taking place at Belmont Park on Saturday can be found here.
Now that you know where to train your eyeballs on Saturday, here is a fresh look at the post positions, including predictions on how each horse will finish the race.
|5||Ride On Curlin||3rd|
|10||General a Rod||9th|
Predictions and Analysis
Commanding Curve will claim victory in the Belmont Stakes. He has the staying power to run down California Chrome on the home stretch and is working with plenty of rest after skipping the Preakness Stakes.
Commanding Curve faced long odds at the Kentucky Derby but showed an enormous burst at the end of the race. It looked like Commanding Curve ran out of track at Churchill Downs in his bid for a come-from-behind victory. This certainly won't be an issue at Belmont Park.
Dallas Stewart, Commanding Curve's trainer, believes that California Chrome is beatable despite his two excellent showings in the Triple Crown series thus far.
"There are a handful of horses that are capable of beating him even on his best day at this distance," Stewart told the Associated Press (h/t The Wall Street Journal). "The horse has really had two perfect trips. It may or may not happen on Belmont day. If he gets in a little bit of trouble, how is he going to handle it?"
That being said, jockey Shaun Bridgmohan—who commandeered Commanding Curve in the Derby—will have to engineer a perfect race of his own in order for Commanding Curve to take first place. The race will come down to the wire, but Commanding Curve will edge California Chrome by the width of a nasal strip as the Triple Crown dreamer falters just before the finish line.
California Chrome isn't hurt by a post on the inside rail in this event. Normally, a starting post on or near the inside rail can demolish a horse's chances before most high-caliber races begin.
When large fields and long tracks come into play, horses galloping from inside posts can get pinned along the rail, unable to make the necessary moves and adjustments to steer clear of their competitors.
California Chrome's No. 2 post is dangerously close to the inside rail, but history shows that the Belmont Stakes bucks this particular bit of horse racing conventional wisdom.
The No. 1 post is actually the winningest post position in Belmont Stakes history. Twenty-three horses have taken first place by riding the inside rail. The No. 2 post is a fine spot and has produced 11 winners of its own.
This is a great sign for California Chrome, as the horse is untested at this length. By starting out on the inside, jockey Victor Espinoza won't have to make a drastic move in order to ensure his colt covers as little ground as possible.
Ride On Curlin will be right on California Chrome's tail throughout this one. Trainer Billy Gowan believes his horse might be at his best at Belmont Park, as per the New York Racing Association's Twitter account.
"I thought all along this might be his best distance," says Billy Gowan of Ride On Curlin.— NYRA (@TheNYRA) June 4, 2014
The Preakness Stakes runner-up has favorable odds and is capable of a strong burst out of the middle of the pack on the final turn.
Medal Count's backers have to be ecstatic about the way things are lining up for their colt. He drew the historically successful No. 1 post and might have the best jockey in the field for the 1 1/2 mile track at Belmont Park. Via Daily Racing Form's Marcus Hersh:
Robby Albarado is the win percentage king of mile-and-a-half dirt races among jockeys this Belmont: 18-6-4-1. Rides Medal Count.— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) June 3, 2014
An experienced, confident jockey can make a huge difference in a high-stakes race like the Belmont. While California Chrome will be completely in sync with Espinoza, Medal Count has the benefit of a jockey who knows how to time moves on 1 1/2 mile tracks.
The ability to conserve energy without falling too far behind requires a delicate balance and excellent understanding of how a track plays out. Albarado is the perfect jockey to make sure Medal Count trots away from Belmont Park with a well-deserved chunk of the $1.5 million purse.
Which horse's chances were improved most by their post position?
The race will be difficult for the horses slotted on the outside. They can't stay wide for long and expect to have anything left in the tank at the end of this 1 1/2 mile journey. This will prove especially difficult for Tonalist and Wicked Strong, who are likely to have disappointing finishes despite their strong odds.
A California Chrome loss could be a huge blow to horse racing. Fans and obsessives alike will be disappointed by another horse failing to complete the historic Triple Crown feat. California Chrome's humble beginnings and colorful owners have made him an icon of sorts throughout this miraculous run. He's on a six-race win streak, but the Belmont Stakes will be the greatest challenge this chestnut colt has faced yet.
California Chrome's relatively slow Derby-winning time opened the door for criticism and is a sign that this horse doesn't have the legs to close out a race like the Belmont. His Triple Crown hopes may come to an end Saturday, but he will still be remembered for putting together a remarkable winning streak in thoroughbred horse racing.