History will be on the line during Saturday's Belmont Stakes as California Chrome has an opportunity to capture the elusive Triple Crown, but the best competition horse racing has to offer will look to prevent that from happening.
Many horses have tried and failed to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed last did so in 1978; however, there is no question that California Chrome is special. He may very well change the landscape of horse racing Saturday, so even the most novice of fans simply can't afford to miss the action.
Luckily, they won't have to, as plenty of coverage will be available for the race itself as well as pre-race analysis and post-race reaction.
Here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch the 146th Belmont Stakes, along with a full breakdown of the field and the horses who could halt California Chrome's run toward the record books.
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Post Time: Saturday, June 7, at 6:52 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
Belmont Stakes Post Positions
|Belmont Stakes Lineup and Odds|
|1||Medal Count||Robbie Albarado||Dale Romans||20-1|
|2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||Art Sherman||3-5|
|3||Matterhorn||Joe Bravo||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||Dallas Stewart||15-1|
|5||Ride On Curlin||John Velazquez||Billy Gowan||12-1|
|6||Matuszak||Mike Smith||Bill Mott||30-1|
|7||Samraat||Jose Ortiz||Rick Violette||20-1|
|8||Commissioner||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||20-1|
|9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||Jimmy Jerkens||6-1|
|10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||Mike Maker||20-1|
|11||Tonalist||Joel Rosario||Christophe Clement||8-1|
*Odds courtesy of BelmontStakes.com and current as of Saturday, June 7 at 7 a.m. ET
Belmont Stakes TV Coverage Info
|Belmont Stakes TV Schedule|
|2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.||Belmont Park Live||NBC Sports Network|
|4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.||Belmont Stakes Coverage||NBC|
|7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.||Belmont Post-Race Show||NBC Sports Network|
Horses to Watch
Although California Chrome has seemingly been far superior to the rest of the field through the first two Triple Crown races, winning all three legs is elusive for a reason. The Belmont Stakes differ significantly from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in that it is the longest race by a significant margin at 12 furlongs.
Running that distance is foreign to all the horses involved, so California Chrome isn't alone in that regard, but it is a major X-factor since it is nearly impossible to predict how California Chrome will react. If he runs the same race that he did in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, then it may not be enough to win this time since stamina will play an even bigger role.
California Chrome also doesn't have an ideal post position at No. 2, but that shouldn't hinder him too much in an 11-horse race. According to Gary Mihoces of USA Today, jockey Victor Espinoza is comfortable with the post, and he plans on letting California Chrome dictate the race:
This time I was not really concerned about the post. It's a long race, so the post does not mean much. But out of the two (post), there's a short way to make the turn, so I'm happy. ... I never have a strategy how I'm going to ride California Chrome. Every race he goes, I'm just going with the flow.
That strategy has been quite effective through two races, and it is easy to see why Espinoza has the utmost confidence in California Chrome. The dazzling colt is a huge favorite to win Saturday's race, and he clearly deserves that distinction.
So much has to go right in order for a horse to win a Triple Crown, so turning the trick won't be easy for California Chrome, but he may very well have a better chance than any other horse has since the legendary Affirmed.
Wicked Strong entered the Kentucky Derby as the contender with perhaps the best chance of knocking off California Chrome. He unfortunately fell short as he finished a somewhat disappointing fourth, but there are several reasons to believe that Wicked Strong will mount an even stiffer challenge than he did at Churchill Downs.
For starters, Wicked Strong had to break from the far outside of the Kentucky Derby field, which caused some issues. Starting that far outside in a 19-horse field is extremely difficult in terms of getting early positioning. Had Wicked Strong gotten a more favorable draw, it is entirely possible that he would have been better-positioned to push California Chrome late.
Also, Wicked Strong's handlers decided against running him in the Preakness Stakes, which means he is fresh and well-rested. In a 12-furlong race like the Belmont Stakes, that could mean the difference between California Chrome winning the Triple Crown and Wicked Strong playing spoiler.
Most of the betting money figures to go on California Chrome, but Rick Snider of the Washington Post Express has a feeling that Wicked Strong has what it takes to usurp the overwhelming favorite:
Wicked Strong has all the makings of a post-hype sleeper in that there is very little intrigue surrounding him after he was one of the darlings entering the Kentucky Derby. Wicked Strong didn't get a good trip in that race and still finished respectably, so don't be surprised if he has enough in him upset California Chrome.
Among the newcomers who did not run in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes, Tonalist very much looks like California Chrome's main competition. It is difficult to gauge how he stacks up against the rest of the field since he hasn't run in many big races, but with two wins in his past three races including a Peter Pan Stakes triumph, he is a definite contender.
Perhaps the biggest reason to consider Tonalist as a spoiler candidate is the fact that California Chrome's camp has taken notice of him. According to HRTV, California Chrome's assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, views Tonalist as a true threat to the Triple Crown:
Tonalist is very much a wild card with just four career races to his credit, but he has been quite impressive and may have an advantage over some of the other horses since there is less tread on his tires, so to speak. Since this is an endurance race, that could definitely be a factor.
Some relative unknowns have come from out of nowhere to win the Belmont Stakes in the past due to the unpredictable nature of the race. If California Chrome falters, then Tonalist may be the main beneficiary.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter