California Chrome Triple Crown 2014: Dangerous Long Shots in Belmont Field

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California Chrome Triple Crown 2014: Dangerous Long Shots in Belmont Field
Al Bello/Getty Images

When War Emblem lost his bid to win a Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes in 2002, he wasn't defeated by Proud Citizen, Sunday Break or Perfect Drift.

Each of those horses were considered among the best of the field. Sarava, a 70-1 underdog is the horse that emerged victorious in the final Triple Crown race that year.

Could the same type of thing happen to California Chrome on Saturday at the 146th Belmont Stakes?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that California Chrome has a shot to become the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes since Affirmed in 1978.

Victor Espinoza, the same jockey who rode War Emblem, will again be in the saddle for California Chrome.

For what it's worth, Espinoza doesn't think history will repeat itself. Per USA Today, Espinoza talked about being more confident this time around:

I'm more confident this time than in 2002. ...

With War Emblem, he only had one way to go: in the front. It was not that easy for me to ride him; it was difficult (which is) typical when you have a front-running horse. You don't have many options. If something happens, that's it. Your chances are gone.

With California Chrome, it's different. I have a lot of options with California Chrome. I believe I have a better chance than I did in 2002 because I have a different kind of horse.

Here's a look at the odds, per Belmont Stakes' official Twitter account.

As much as primary threats like Social Inclusion and Ride on Curlin must be watched as potential spoilers, there are a few long shots who could channel their inner Sarava on Saturday.

Here's a look at odds per the official Belmont Stakes site:

Belmont Stakes 2014—Post Positions and Odds
Post Horse Odds
1 Medal Count 20-1
2 California Chrome 3-5
3 Matterhorn 30-1
4 Commanding Curve 15-1
5 Ride on Curlin 12-1
6 Matuszak 30-1
7 Samraat 20-1
8 Commissioner 20-1
9 Wicked Strong 6-1
10 General A Rod 20-1
11 Tonalist 8-1

 

General A Rod, 20-1 

Garry Jones/Associated Press

General A Rod will start from the 10th position, which could work in the horse's favor on Saturday. With more room to operate and less pressure as a major underdog, he may be in a better temperament.

At the Preakness, he started from the second spot. He was smashed in the middle of the pack at the eighth spot at the Derby. The extreme inside and middle start points didn't work well.

He finished 11th at the Derby and fourth at the Preakness. 

The horse has shown flashes throughout the year. In five starts, he has finished in the top three on three different occasions. That's including a win at the Gulfstream Park Derby.

Distance is always a concern at the Belmont, but General A Rod could perform well in his first outside post position during the Triple Crown races.

 

Medal Count, 20-1

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Trainer of the 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, Billy Turner had an interesting thought about the prospects at the Belmont Stakes. Per Ed McNamara of Newsday, Turner said:

"I think some of the horses who skipped the Preakness will be formidable foes."

Medal Count is one of those horses. 

The Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three Triple Crown races, so it stands to reason that a horse that hasn't run recently might have an edge.

The problem with Medal Count is that he hasn't yet had a strong performance in a Grade 1 race. He did finish second at the Blue Grass in April, which helped him punch his ticket to the Derby, but he didn't beat any horse that'll run in the Belmont in the process.

Still, he will have had nearly two months of rest between competitions. In a marathon like the Belmont, that energy reserve could be the fuel for an upset.

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