As soon as California Chrome crossed the finish line at Pimlico, the 2014 Belmont Stakes became a must-see event.
The winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes will try to become the first horse since 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Based on what he has shown in the past few events, it is easy to believe he will come through again to secure the biggest honor in horse racing.
However, 10 other competitors are attempting to play the role of spoiler, and each of them has enough talent to shock the world and come away with a win on this 1 1/2-mile track.
Here is a breakdown of the complete field and everything you need to know about the upcoming race.
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, New York
Post Time: 6:52 p.m. ET
TV: NBC (4:30-7 p.m. ET) NBC Sports (2:30-4:30 p.m. ET, 7-7:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: NBC Live Extra
|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|
The past two races for California Chrome have been simply outstanding, but he has been impressive for longer than that. The horse has won his last six starts with Victor Espinoza on board as his jockey.
Although some were concerned about a relatively slow time at the Kentucky Derby, it seemed to be due to the slow overall pace. He picked it up considerably at the Preakness Stakes when he needed to.
However, the fact that he is the best horse in the field does not always guarantee victory. Not only do the challengers have to deal with an incredibly long course, but they also have to show enough endurance to handle three major races in five weeks.
This has slowed down plenty of Triple Crown hopefuls in the past, but Art Sherman does not think it will be an issue for California Chrome. According to the Associated Press, via CBS New York, the trainer explained:
I thought he looked better now than he did after the Preakness. I couldn’t believe how much weight he put on. Going on the Triple Crown trail, it’s kind of rough. He’s an amazing horse.
He’s doing outstanding. I couldn’t ask for anything more right now. I’m just enjoying the ride he’s put us on.
Everyone on the horse's team, from the owner down to the jockey, is confident heading into Saturday. As long as nothing goes wrong from the start, California Chrome should be able to come through with another victory at Belmont.
When you're looking for a horse that can knock off the favorite, it is a good idea to start with one that did not compete at the Preakness.
According to Ed McNamara of Newsday, "If you’re planning to bet against Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, keep repeating this mantra: Fresh horses win the Belmont Stakes. Because they do. Its last eight winners sat out the Preakness, and only Ride On Curlin and General a Rod will be challenging 'Chromie' for the third time Saturday."
Wicked Strong skipped the Preakness after taking fourth place at the Kentucky Derby, a finish that was quite disappointing for the Wood Memorial winner. Jockey Rajiv Maragh struggled to get himself free, and he did not have a chance to push to the front until it was too late.
Starting at the outside post of No. 19 certainly did not help.
However, the talented horse has the late speed necessary to make it an interesting race. Coming into the race fresh will also help him stay strong on the final stretch while the favorite is starting to slide.
The No. 9 post will not be a huge deal on a race of this length, and Maragh will do his best to keep his horse in contention from start to finish.
If Wicked Strong has an advantage after skipping the Preakness, Tonalist should have even more confidence after missing the first two Triple Crown events. This makes him one of the few competitors California Chrome has not already beaten.
While Tonalist lacks experience, he showed quite a bit of ability with an impressive win at the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park last month. He will enter the upcoming race with plenty of confidence and an extra boost thanks to familiarity with the track.
Horse racing announcer Ed Burgart thinks Tonalist could be the top challenger for California Chrome on Saturday:
IMO, the horse that California Chrome has to beat in Belmont is Tonalist. I loved his Peter Pan win and Christophe Clement is great trainer.— Ed Burgart (@qheddie) May 20, 2014
Trainer Christophe Clement is happy with what his thoroughbred has shown in training:
Christophe Clement said he clocked Tonalist in company "just a touch under a minute" for just completed 5F move. "Perfect," Clement said.— HRTV (@HRTVinsider) May 31, 2014
With plenty of pure speed and the ability to get stronger as the race goes on, Tonalist can surprise everyone with a win from the outside post.
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