California Chrome seeks to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978, and the odds project him as the likeliest winner at Belmont Park. However, the favorite in Elmont has faced a gauntlet over the previous five weeks, and several horses from the field of 11 remain strong bets to deny horse racing fans a glimpse of history.
When: Saturday, June 7; post time at 6:52 p.m. ET
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Watch: NBC, or stream on NBC Sports Live Extra
|Belmont Stakes Field and Odds|
|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|
(Odds taken from BelmontStakes.com on June 5 at 1 p.m. ET)
While California Chrome ran to victory at the Kentucky Derby, critics pointed to his historically slow time in the race, with no clear factor to account for the sluggish speed aside from an underwhelming pace.
Fatigue could well prove to have an impact on the historic pursuit of the Triple Crown. California Chrome faces a third race in five weeks, and one that also required extensive travel, while other top competitors, including Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve, sat out the Preakness Stakes.
Going against a rested field, the 1 1/2 mile distance at Belmont Park could also be a concern. Though California Chrome likes to sit with the pack before making his move, some horses lose steam over the final quarter-mile in the longest of the three Triple Crown races.
Wicked Strong, who poses the chief threat as reflected in the odds, finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby. His trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, is based at Belmont Park and has trained Wicked Strong lately on the one-mile training oval there.
As Jerkens relayed to BloodHorse's Frank Angst: "We wanted to keep him on the training track to prevent him from going too fast. We wanted to keep that two-turn kind of a mind frame going into the Belmont, try to increase our chances of him settling early in the race and saving something for the end."
Angst likens it to Birdstone's training at Belmont Park in advance of his 2004 victory in the race.
Saving something for the end remains a concern for every trainer, but it marks a greater worry for California Chrome after enduring the most rigorous schedule of any competitor in recent weeks. Worse still, the favorite drew the No. 2 post position, which has not produced a winner at the Belmont since Tabasco Cat in 1994.
Peter Pan winner Tonalist will make his first Triple Crown start this season seeking to emulate Ruler on Ice in 2011, who won at Belmont Park after not racing in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness.
However, Tonalist drew the far outside post position, so racing over from No. 11 could prove a difficult hurdle even on the 1 1/2 mile track. He would be an excellent sleeper pick were it not for the unenviable post draw.
Two more strong competitors showed what they can do with speedy showings in the other Triple Crown races. Ride on Curlin finished second at the Preakness after Commanding Curve was runner-up at the Derby.
General a Rod rounds out the short list of likeliest winners in Elmont. He improved from an 11th-place Derby showing to finish fourth at the Preakness. The 20-1 shot will have to overcome an outside post position from No. 10.
California Chrome will enter Saturday with 3-5 odds on a Belmont victory, so betting the field seems a logical proposition.
Trifectas and superfectas will lure many bettors, whether straight or box, as Chrome will face the challenges of history and a hungry field led by Wicked Strong, Ride on Curlin, Commanding Curve and Tonalist.