The 2014 Belmont Stakes will feature one horse attempting to make history while the other 10 attempt to play the role of spoiler.
California Chrome is the one on the brink of immortality as he attempts to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. After impressive showings at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, there is certainly plenty of people who think the last leg will be a piece of cake.
However, factors like the extra travel, track length and simply bad luck often cause upsets at Belmont. Fans want to see history, but another win for the favorite is far from guaranteed.
Here is a full look at the field for the upcoming race with a breakdown of the favorites.
|1||Medal Count||Dale Romans||Robby Albarado||20-1|
|2||California Chrome||Art Sherman||Victor Espinoza||3-5|
|3||Matterhorn||Todd Pletcher||Joe Bravo||30-1|
|4||Commanding Curve||Dallas Stewart||Shaun Bridgmohan||15-1|
|5||Ride On Curlin||Billy Gowan||John Velazquez||12-1|
|6||Matuszak||Bill Mott||Mike Smith||30-1|
|7||Samraat||Rick Violette||Jose Ortiz||20-1|
|8||Commissioner||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano||20-1|
|9||Wicked Strong||Jimmy Jerkins||Rajiv Maragh||6-1|
|10||General A Rod||Mike Maker||Rosie Napravnik||20-1|
|11||Tonalist||Christophe Clement||Joel Rosario||8-1|
California Chrome (3-5)
It is certainly not surprising to see California Chrome as the odds-on favorite in this event. Not only has he won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but he has won a total of six races in a row since Victor Espinoza became the full-time jockey.
The six starts are also the same amount of time that the horse has used a nasal strip, which featured some controversy but was ultimately approved by the New York Racing Association.
As a result, California Chrome will be able to go into the next race with a consistent approach that has worked for him so many times before. Although the track is longer, everything else will be the same as he attempts to bring home another win.
His owner, Steve Coburn, certainly is confident heading into the New York race, via Tim Wilkin of the Times Union:
Coburn: "There's not a doubt in my mind, this horse (@CalChrome) will win the Triple Crown." No shock there. Has been saying that all spring— Tim Wilkin (@tjwilkin) June 2, 2014
Meanwhile, it is important not to overlook the post position, which has affected plenty of major races over the years. The inside post could theoretically force him into a bad situation, but Brian Monzo of WFAN thinks he will be fine:
I like the post position for Chrome (2), no speed around him..should be able to get to a comfortable position if he breaks clean.— Brian Monzo (@BMonzoWFAN) June 4, 2014
As long as California Chrome can get a clean start, he has a great chance of completing his bid at a Triple Crown.
Wicked Strong (6-1)
After an impressive win at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong was relatively disappointing at the Kentucky Derby with his fourth-place finish. However, the pure talent of this horse is what makes him such an appealing contender.
Wicked Strong has a lot of speed and is one of the more well-trained horses in this competition. David Greening of the Daily Racing Form notes his obedience:
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
The key in this race is for jockey Rajiv Maragh to have a better run than he did at Churchill Downs. Things did not go well due to the fact that he was trapped near the back of the pack and could not move toward the front until the very end.
With a smaller field and a longer track, this will be less of a problem at Belmont. Horse racing expert J.J. Hysell also believes that the post will help out:
Post position not crucial in #BelmontStakes, but it's a good spot for Wicked Strong.— J.J. Hysell (@trifectabox) June 4, 2014
Maragh will do his best to get off to a good start and remain near the front of the pack before making his move late. If things go according to plan, Wicked Strong can give California Chrome a run for his money.
One of the biggest mysteries in this race will be Tonalist, who has only made four starts in his career. The thoroughbred missed the previous two Triple Crown races, but he won the recent Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont.
Which horse has the best chance of beating California Chrome?
The familiarity with the track will certainly help, as well as the ability to really push it late in races. This will allow him to go strong in the final stretch, which will be where most horses are fading on the 1 1/2 mile track.
Still, even his owner is not sure what to expect in the upcoming race. According to Joe Drape of The New York Times, Robert Evans explained, "We don’t really know how good he is. It’s a little hard to tell off that. He ran really well last time and he seems to like the track, and he’s doing well, so we’re hopeful."
The lack of experience will be a problem with zero career starts in a Grade 1 race. If things start to go wrong early, we have no idea how the horse will react.
On the other hand, Tonalist will be fresher than most of the competition. This could help him have the energy to make a late close in this long race.
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