Belmont Stakes 2014 Favorites: Projecting How Top Horses Will Finish
On Saturday, all eyes will be on the big chestnut colt, California Chrome, as he faces 10 rivals who all have one goal in mind—to deny him horse racing's greatest and most elusive prize, the Triple Crown.
Many great horses have tried gallantly and failed in the Belmont Stakes, falling one race short of horse racing immortality. Since parimutuel wagering came to New York in 1940, 33 horses have gone off as the odds-on favorite, as California Chrome is nearly assured to do. Of those 33, only 12 have won.
The last time horse racing had a Triple Crown on the line in 2008, Big Brown shocked the world, failing to finish the race as the heavy favorite. California Chrome will have a serious test ahead of him as he tries to join the likes of Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed and become only the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.
Here is a look at the likely favorites, along with their morning-line odds in Saturday's Belmont Stakes and predictions on how they will fare.
5. Commanding Curve
Projected Finish: 7th
Commanding Curve made a massive step forward in the Kentucky Derby to finish second, and while he was making up ground at the end, he was not making much of a dent in California Chrome's margin of victory.
West Point Thoroughbreds CEO Terry Finley expressed his confidence in the colt after the post position draw to the New Haven Register: “California Chrome is a special horse and a star, but Commanding Curve is such a neat horse. He’s fresh, he’s trained well and Dallas has him ready to run a strong race.”
Though he may have had the excuse of a troubled trip in the Louisiana Derby, he still needs to prove that he is legitimately a top-tier contender. His Kentucky Derby runner-up effort may have been a fluke performance.
4. Ride On Curlin
Projected Finish: 5th
Ride On Curlin redeemed himself in the Preakness Stakes with a runner-up effort after a terrible trip compromised his chances in the Kentucky Derby. While his race in Pimlico was a good one, the concern at this point is that the rambunctious, high-strung colt is over the top.
The rigors of the Triple Crown can wear on a horse. With three races in five weeks, eventually the grind can catch up, and a horse will start to fade. Though Ride On Curlin started the week at Belmont Park strong, he has given less and less of a stellar appearance on the track and may have peaked at Pimlico.
Projected Finish: 6th
Tonalist is a fresh face to the Triple Crown scene after bursting into the picture with an impressive victory in the Peter Pan Stakes in his last start. While it was a very good effort, it came over a totally different surface than what he will likely run over on Saturday.
For the Peter Pan, the track was sealed and sloppy after taking quite a bit of rain. He excelled over that wet surface, and it remains to be seen how much that contributed to his winning performance. He has hinted at some serious talent but remains relatively unproven.
2. Wicked Strong
Projected Finish: 2nd
Wicked Strong may have all of the tools to play the spoiler on Saturday. After a strong fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip, he got a well-deserved break, shifting his focus to this race, the Belmont Stakes.
By skipping the Preakness, he has an advantage over California Chrome in that he is coming in fresh and will be poised for a peak performance. In addition, though the quirky colt has a tendency to be erratic in the stretch, the long Belmont Park stretch will allow him ample time to straighten out and launch his bid.
The one knock against this colt is that he can get worked up around large crowds. With more than 120,000 people expected at Belmont Park on Saturday, he will need to be on his best behavior.
1. California Chrome
Projected Finish: 1st
California Chrome will try to make history on Saturday, and while the demanding distance of 1 1/2 miles remains a major question mark, this colt may be something special.
While he is not bred to handle a mile-and-a-half, he was not bred to go a mile-and-a-quarter either and made it look easy in the Kentucky Derby. This colt came from modest beginnings and at a certain point, his pedigree no longer becomes a factor in the equation of what he can or cannot accomplish.
While some horses wilt under the demands of the Triple Crown, he seems to be relishing the grueling schedule. Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form tweeted that he appeared to be "feeling good" in his gallop on Thursday morning.