The anticipation is grinding to a halt. On Saturday, the 2014 Belmont Stakes will decide whether horse racing will celebrate the first Triple Crown in 36 years.
California Chrome has a chance to do just that with one more win. A seventh straight gallop to victory would be his third of the Triple Crown slate, ensuring his place in the sport's esteemed history by doing something that hasn't been done since Affirmed completed the trifecta in 1978.
Many signs heading into Belmont Park are pointing toward that happening, but there are also plenty of reasons California Chrome's camp could end up sorely disappointed at the end of the 1 1/2-mile trek.
Here's a look at the latest race odds, payout information and updates on the weather for the race.
|5||Ride on Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
Note: Post positions and odds courtesy of BelmontStakes.com
Note: Payout information courtesy of TheTripleCrown.com
Weather for Race Day
Those hoping for rain to play a role in California Chrome's pursuit of the Triple Crown are set to be disappointed.
According to AccuWeather.com's Alex Sosnowski, sunshine is expected for Saturday's race:
The weather at this year's Belmont Stakes and the 1.5-mile-long track will feature plenty of sunshine, low humidity and race time temperatures in the upper 70s to near 80 F with light winds.
The weather will be similar to racing conditions the Derby and Preakness earlier this season, though it will be warmer. Temperatures peaked in the lower 70s at Louisville, Kentucky, on May 3 and in the upper 60s at Baltimore on May 17.
Weather hasn't really played a role in the Triple Crown circuit thus far. Conditions were sunny for both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and a week of rain at Pimlico Race Course prior to the Preakness was outshined by premier conditions on race day.
Saturday is shaping up to be more of the same.
Every storyline entering the 2014 Belmont Stakes seems to revolve around one horse—or the potential dethroning of said horse.
California Chrome has earned every bit of the attention. After entering the Triple Crown circuit sporting four runaway victories, he's shown more of that same level of dominance over the last month.
In a loaded field of contenders at Churchill Downs, California Chrome was the cream of the crop. He pulled away down the stretch and left no doubt about his victory heading into the final furlongs.
It was a repeat performance at the Preakness, where he moved just one step away from history.
Heading into Saturday's race, California Chrome will start from the No. 2 spot, which doesn't bode terribly for his chances, as Belmont Stakes notes:
Since 1905, 11 winners of the #BelmontStakes have started from post 2, trailing only 1 (23), 3, (15), 5 (14), and 7 (13).— Belmont Stakes (@BelmontStakes) June 4, 2014
However, Belmont poses problems for any horse skilled enough to win the Triple Crown's opening two legs.
For starters, the length of the track is enough to throw off top horses. It's 1 1/2 miles, much longer than the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby and the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. Those extra furlongs may be the difference in the late runs contenders have been able to muster against California Chrome.
On top of that, the contenders have experience to pull from as they look to unseat the champion.
California Chrome's trainer, Art Sherman, admitted that winning on Saturday will be a tough task and noted some top contenders, per HRTV:
Alan Sherman said the Belmont could be the toughest race of TC. Said Tonalist and Ride On Curlin look to be his toughest opponents.— HRTV (@HRTVinsider) June 5, 2014
Ride On Curlin may be able to take advantage of the extra length. He seemed to be closing in on the champion at Pimlico in the final 200 yards. Who knows what difference a couple of extra furlongs would have made?
Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown?
Wicked Strong, Samraat and others have also posted strong performances against California Chrome in the Triple Crown circuit.
But there's one constant among them: All of the serious contenders have had a shot to defeat California Chrome at some point in the last month-plus, but they haven't taken advantage.
California Chrome has shown the ability to take over a race heading down the stretch. The biggest question entering Belmont is whether anyone will be able to catch him after he does so.