The final leg of the Triple Crown is often the most unpredictable, but everyone wants the best tips regarding who will win.
California Chrome comes into the 2014 Belmont Stakes as the overwhelming favorite after winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, but that does not guarantee success for the colt at Saturday's event.
Five of the last six winners of the Belmont Stakes entered the race with at least 10-1 odds. Big Brown was the last Triple Crown-hopeful to compete at Belmont Park in 2008 (I'll Have Another was scratched in 2012), but he ended up losing to Da'Tara, who was almost a 40-1 underdog.
This randomness is what makes the upcoming race so exciting, although everyone seems to have an opinion on who will win. Here is a look at the full field as well as a breakdown of who the experts think will end up in the winner's circle.
|2014 Belmont Stakes Field|
|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|
Most Popular Picks
Ride On Curlin
For those looking for a bit more of a payout for their winner, Ride On Curlin might be a worthwhile selection at 12-1.
The Preakness runner-up had to come from the outside post at Pimlico to finish in second, while receiving the No. 18 post at the Kentucky Derby ended up dooming him to a seventh-place finish. With the No. 5 post at Belmont, however, his trainer Billy Gowan sees Ride On Curlin as a top contender, via Mike Farrell of the Associated Press:
I feel good about my post. My horse is doing really well. He's sound. He's happy. He's eating everything, so we're ready to roll.
Hopefully, another five-sixteenths of a mile and we'll be able to catch him as opposed to the Preakness, but that Chrome is going to be hard to catch.
Meanwhile, Tom Pedulla of the New York Times writes that Ride On Curlin is a legitimate threat this weekend:
Even California Chrome trainer Art Sherman noted that Ride On Curlin is one of the tougher opponents, via Marcus Hersch of Daily Racing Form:
If the talented thoroughbred can run the race he is capable of, he can come through with an upset victory.
As the No. 2 favorite in this race, Wicked Strong has as good of a chance as anyone in the field to knock California Chrome out of the winner's circle.
One positive factor is that he skipped the Preakness Stakes after a fourth-place finish at the Kentucky Derby. This kept the horse fresh, something that might end up being a problem for the favorite, according to NESN.com:
California Chrome and his handlers also have to deal with fatigue because this horse could be worn down. He was shipped from California to Churchill Downs in Kentucky, to Pimlico in Maryland, and now he is off to New York for the Belmont. Then you have to factor in all the extra attention that California Chrome has been getting because of his success, and that has to make him expend more energy than usual because this is all new to him.
Going straight from Churchill Downs to Belmont Park will remove much of the stress that a Triple Crown contender usually has to deal with at this time of year.
While this only gives Wicked Strong an advantage over a few horses, his pure speed will take care of the rest. He has proven himself in the past with a win at the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, and he has the talent to come through with another big win.
Rick Snider of the Washington Post thinks that this will lead to a win at Belmont:
Mike Valenti of 97.1 the Ticket in Detroit also put his faith in Wicked Strong:
The horse has the skill that is necessary to win, and he should be able to challenge for the victory in this difficult race.
While there are other top competitors in the field, the smart money remains on California Chrome after coming into the race on a six-start winning streak.
Reid Cherner of USA Today provided 13 reasons why the favorite will win the Triple Crown, noting that the most important factor is that he is simply the best horse in the field:
A full house doesn't win every hand but you have to bet it like it does. California Chrome hasn't just proved to be better than anyone else he has proved to be markedly better. You can factor in speed figures, trainer, jockey, owner, competition and distance and talent can trump them all. California Chrome is not a lock to win the Triple Crown but if he doesn't it is more likely that he somehow lost the race rather than someone flat out outperformed him.
Meanwhile, the mathematics-based FiveThirtyEight notes that we are basically due for a Triple Crown winner after so many failed attempts:
On the other hand, plenty of people, both inside and outside the horse-racing world, simply think he will win on talent alone:
Unless something goes wrong, California Chrome has all the skill necessary to come through with a win at Belmont, giving him the coveted Triple Crown.
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