Is this the year? Is this year's running of the Belmont Stakes when the Triple Crown drought dating back to 1978 is finally brought to an end? Will we all be feeling sweet relief on Saturday or another year of despair?
These are the questions at this year's Belmont, as California Chrome, for a few minutes on Saturday night, will hold the hopes of an entire sport on his back. History could be made, and you won't want to miss it.
Below, you'll find all the viewing information and any other info you might need to ensure you are in the loop come Belmont time. We'll also take a look at what might work against California Chrome's quest for the Triple Crown. After so many years without a horse accomplishing the feat, a touch of realist thinking is in order.
But just a touch, because what's life without hope?
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Coverage Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET
Post Time: 6:35 p.m. ET
|1||11:35 a.m.||HRTV/TVG||Allowance N2X|
|3||12:40 p.m.||HRTV/TVG||G3-Jaipur Invitational|
|5||1:54 p.m.||HRTV/TVG||G2-Woody Stephens|
|7||3:14 p.m.||NBCSN||G1-Ogden Phipps|
|8||4 p.m.||NBCSN||G1-Just A Game|
|9||4:48 p.m.||NBC||G1-Met Mile|
|11||6:52 p.m.||NBC||G1-Belmont Stakes|
|12||7:40 p.m.||HRTV/TVG||Easy Goer|
NYRA Condition Book
|5||Ride on Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
How the Fates Might Conspire Against California Chrome
Any number of things might prevent California Chrome from finally ending the Triple Crown drought.
A poor start. Getting clumped up in the pack. A bad trip. The increased distance. Some type of injury. Weariness after running the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness against a much fresher field. Bad luck. Or simply "one of those days."
And then there's the fact that horses these days rely on medications such as Lasix, which often causes the horses to need weeks of recovery between races, as Bill Finley of ESPN.com notes:
When Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978 no one raced on Lasix and most trainers relied on little more than hay, oats and water. The Belmont was Affirmed's 16th career start and his seventh as a three-year-old. He raced nine times as a two-year-old. With that sort of campaign and seasoning leading into the Belmont the three-races-in-five-weeks situation was a piece of cake.
Though California Chrome is a veritable iron horse by modern standards with 12 career starts, the type of campaign Affirmed had is unimaginable these days. These horses are not trained to run three times in five weeks and they're not able to withstand the punishment. By the time they get to the Belmont, the Triple Crown hopefuls are not the same horse.
Maybe California Chrome is strong enough to overcome the odds, but plenty could go wrong. That much seems certain.
Still, it seems unlikely that one of the horses in the field will beat California Chrome if he's at his best. After six straight wins, his superior talent isn't being questioned, nor should it be. If he's shooting on all cylinders, he'll win.
It's really that simple.
But there will be challengers. Commanding Curve will probably be a popular dark horse, coming in at 15-1 odds after his second-place finish at the Kentucky Derby. He gained ground down the stretch of that race, so surely he'll have enough in the tank on the longer track to surpass Chrome, right?
Well, not so fast. Closers don't fare as well at the Belmont as you might expect, and finishing second in the Kentucky Derby doesn't automatically translate into Belmont success. Commanding Curve has a strong finishing kick, but he might need to stalk a bit more early on if he's to remain close enough to win in the end.
Wicked Strong is a dangerous horse as well, though even his trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, readily admits an upset in this race will likely be predicated on California Chrome having a bad day, per Amanda Duckworth of ESPN.com.
"Obviously, California Chrome is going to need to have a bad day," he said. "It'll take a combination of things to beat him, that's for sure. One of our horses will have to run the race of their life, and California Chrome will have to throw in a clunker."
Horses such as Ride on Curlin and General a Rod can probably be ruled out if you put any stock in the weariness argument against California Chrome winning the race. Both horses competed in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, so they aren't any fresher than the Triple Crown hopeful.
But contenders such as Wicked Strong, Tonalist and Commanding Curve should be more refreshed and energetic. They have the talent to pull off the upset, though its unlikely any horse will beat Chrome if he's at his best.
Plenty can go wrong for California Chrome at the Belmont. Whether any of it comes to fruition is another matter entirely. History says it will.
Hope says it won't.