The pieces are finally in place for Saturday's race at Belmont Park. The horses and jockeys set to take part in the 2014 Belmont Stakes have their post positions and will begin to make final preparations for the epic showdown in Elmont, New York.
The morning-line odds for each horse accompanied the glorious reveal of the post positions. California Chrome is the runaway favorite as he looks to become the first horse to win all three legs of the Triple Crown since Affirmed pulled off the amazing feat in 1978.
The Belmont Stakes' official Twitter account alerted horse racing fans to the full list of post positions and odds.
Here is the complete rundown of morning-line odds, post positions and predictions for every horse in the field.
|5||Ride On Curlin||12-1||3rd|
|10||General a Rod||20-1||9th|
Belmont Stakes Twitter Account
Predictions for Horses with Best Odds
California Chrome couldn't be coming into Belmont Park with more confidence. Well, we can't ask him to be sure, but that's certainly the feeling expressed by trainer Art Sherman.
"I feel more confident coming into this race than I did any race," Sherman told the Associated Press, via The Wall Street Journal. "I'm getting pumped up."
The winner of six consecutive races, California Chrome definitely looks the part of a champion. The consistency in his performances should guarantee at least a second-place finish, but he may have trouble holding off the competition in this one.
Ride On Curlin and General a Rod are the only horses other than California Chrome to run in all three Triple Crown races. The combination of horses new to the Triple Crown and colts that sat out the Preakness Stakes but ran in the Kentucky Derby—such as Commanding Curve, the predicted winner—will make for an incredibly strong and competitive field.
The dirt track at Belmont Park is merciless, and California Chrome is doomed should he fall behind at the start and miss his chance to make his signature push at the top of the home stretch.
It should also be noted that California Chrome was not the fastest horse at the Derby, a statistic pointed out by NBC Sports' Randy Moss on Twitter:
For those who care, based on @TrakusRacing data, CCurve ran 9 feet farther than CChrome. So CChrome ran race 54.09 ft/sec, and CCurve 54.04.— Randy Moss (@randy_moss_TV) May 5, 2014
Nasal strips, a No. 2 post and an excellent jockey in Victor Espinoza won't be enough to ensure California Chrome ends horse racing's Triple Crown drought. He will likely be edged in the final 1/4 mile of the race, but it won't be by more than a length or two. A heart-stopping photo finish is a strong possibility on Saturday.
Tonalist will have a lot of ground to cover running out of the No. 11 gate. The 1 1/2-mile track at Belmont Park won't do these horses any favors, and getting stuck on the outside could be far too physically taxing for this thoroughbred colt.
Tonalist is coming off a strong showing in the Peter Pan Stakes (Grade 2). He was slow at the beginning of the race but whipped the rest of the small field on the latter half and took home first prize on an incredibly smooth finish.
His form in that race surprised his own trainer, Christophe Clement.
According to Mike Kane, special to The Courier-Journal, Clement said, "I was a little bit surprised with the amount of speed he showed in the Peter Pan. Looking back at the replay, he broke slow. Then he was sent after that, which is probably why he showed so much speed."
Tonalist can't afford a slow start coming off the outside part of the track. A slow start would leave him with far too many horses to maneuver past as he works toward the inside. Tonalist can conserve energy by drafting during the race, but it could be a dangerous strategy for a horse that likes to get out in front.
Even if Tonalist and jockey Joel Rosario make a perfect run on Saturday, the competition will lock him out of a place in the top half of the field.
California Chrome, Commanding Curve, Ride On Curlin and Medal Count all have the ability to make late bursts and will be starting from favorable post positions. Tonalist is a great horse, but an even greater field will bury him in this one.
Wicked Strong has the second-best odds heading into the race at 6-1, and he will get his start at the No. 9 post.
Wicked Strong faces many of the same challenges as Tonalist, although he does have the benefit of experience at Belmont Park. He finished in first and second place on this very track at the beginning of his horse racing career. Wicked Strong's comfort level with the track should allow him to edge out Tonalist, but he will still fall short of some of the other competitors.
Wicked Strong's trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, provided some insight about where he expects his horse to settle in during the race, according to the New York Racing Association's Twitter account:
Jimmy Jerkens expects Wicked Strong, who breezed very well, to sit mid-pack or so.— NYRA (@TheNYRA) June 4, 2014
Sitting in the middle of the pack isn't such a dangerous thing in a relatively small field. Wicked Strong used that strategy to a similar effect in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished in fourth place. Even with the smaller field, however, Wicked Strong won't be able to improve on that result.
A fourth-place finish still guarantees a large cut of the $1.5 million purse, but it will be seen as a disappointing finish for this colt.