Enough of the Triple Crown talk. Enough lamenting of history, wringing of hands, reliving past failures. We all know what is at stake, but now it's time to put our money where our mouths are and make some predictions.
So below, I'll do just that. We can't completely avoid the Triple Crown talk, of course, but we'll try to focus on the race itself rather than the years and years of history weighing down upon it like a ton of bricks.
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Coverage Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET
Post Time: 6:52 p.m. ET
|5||Ride on Curlin||12-1|
|10||General a Rod||20-1|
1. California Chrome
This is the most talented horse in the field, and it doesn't seem particularly close. We all know why he can win—the six straight victories, the impressive runs at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, the fact that everyone who sees this horse run gushes about him after.
But there are reasons he could lose, too, which Dick Jerardi of the Philadelphia Daily News writes:
There are a few reasons that suggest he can't win, including the 21st century phenomenon of horses running in the Kentucky Derby, passing the Preakness and then winning the Belmont Stakes. It has happened seven times in 14 years, most likely because training methods have changed so much in recent decades. The best horses do not run three times in 5 weeks except during the Triple Crown.
The Triple Crown races are 70 yards shy of 7,000. But it is the Belmont Stakes, the run at the mile-and-a-half oval that is Belmont Park, that it so perplexing. Back when Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed were winning those three Crowns in 6 years, mile-and-a-half races were fairly common.
Be pragmatic all you like, but remember that, at his best, California Chrome will not be beaten. If he gets a good line, if he runs well, he won't lose. Sometimes you have to ignore years of a Triple Crown doubt, forget that past disappointments, push out of your mind all of the things that could, and have, gone wrong.
Sometimes, you have to bet on talent prevailing. This is one of those times.
2. Wicked Strong
Wicked Strong is a talented horse, and one that seems well-suited for this particular race. If he gets a clean trip from the outside, he'll give California Chrome all he can handle. He won't have quite enough left in the tank to pull out the win, but he'll give us drama.
3. Commanding Curve
Commanding Curve's run at the Kentucky Derby is worth remembering, when he came from near the back and finished second. In that race, he didn't quite have enough to catch Chrome. The same should happen in this race, though expect him to really draw close to Chrome and Wicked Strong down the stretch. There will be a moment in the race where you'll believe Commanding Curve will win, but he'll just lack the final bit of speed needed to win or finish second.
The Peter Pan Stakes winner will probably be a popular choice for bettors, and he has a real shot at winning this race. Even with an outside draw, as trainer Christophe Clement told HorseRacingNation.com:
I don't let myself worry about [the post]. I've just got to worry about the horse. Rosario will come tomorrow and we'll discuss it, and we'll deal with it. The plus is you're in the gate last. He's a really, really big horse with a long stride, so he can basically run his own race without worrying about anybody else.
This is a talented horse, yes, but I don't think it will quite challenge the top three in this race.
5. Medal Count
Medal Count was a popular horse in the Kentucky Derby but finished a disappointing eighth. Stamina doesn't seem to be an issue for Medal Count, but it's arguable this is simply a better horse on synthetics or grass. It will show in the Belmont.
Commissioner's second-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes might arouse some excitement for this horse, but it was a very distant second.
7. Ride on Curlin
Ride on Curlin is a great horse, yes, but his finish at the Kentucky Derby (seventh) seems like the more likely result here than his run at the Preakness (second). Plus, if we are talking about stamina concerns for California Chrome after running both the Derby and Preakness, well, they have to apply to Ride on Curlin as well.
8. General a Rod
The Preakness run was better than he showed the Derby, but General a Rod has yet to show he has the talent to win in a race of this magnitude or distance.
Matuszak has hit the board in the last three races, yes, but he won't come close to it here.
Samraat was in the running in the Kentucky Derby before he withered down the stretch, a disturbing notion considering there will be an additional quarter-mile to run at the Belmont. He'll provide early speed, but don't expect much else.
Maybe the added distance will help Matterhorn. Maybe. But nothing in his recent races suggests he's the type of talent capable of winning this race.