One race stands between California Chrome and the history books.
On Saturday afternoon, 11 horses will take the track at Belmont Park in hopes of donning the carnation blanket after a grueling 1 1/2-mile stretch.
California Chrome has much more on the line.
Should the colt emerge victorious in the 2014 Belmont Stakes, he will become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
Since Affirmed last achieved the feat in 1978, 12 other horses have entered this race with the same aspirations—none prevailed.
The 146th running of the Belmont Stakes promises to be one for the ages, as a very strong field will attempt to thwart California Chrome's Triple Crown bid.
While we impatiently await for post time, let's take a look at the prize money breakdown of the race's $1.5-million purse and predict how each horse is likely to fare.
2014 Belmont Stakes Prize Money and Predictions
|2||5||Ride On Curlin||12-1||$280,000|
|9||10||General a Rod||20-1||—|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions
Odds courtesy of BelmontStakes.com.
Prize money courtesy of TheTripleCrown.com.
Top Contender Analysis
The California-bred colt isn't only looking to earn the biggest paycheck of the day—he's looking to go down in history as the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.
Possibly the strongest horse-jockey combination at Belmont Park, California Chrome and Victor Espinoza have put together two sparkling performances at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Even after very little rest, California Chrome has looked sharp during workouts. David Grening of the Daily Racing Form sure came away impressed:
Hard to go against California Chrome after watching that work.— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 31, 2014
Espinoza has been patient atop California Chrome. The pair have been solid out of the gate, and Espinoza prefers to settle the colt in just behind the leaders. He maintains this position through the majority of the race, only to burst to the front around the final turn.
With plenty of endurance, California Chrome has been able to surge to a seemingly insurmountable lead twice now, as fast closers haven't been able to make up enough ground to catch him from behind.
A look back at the Kentucky Derby shows exactly what this horse is capable of:
Starting in the No. 2 post at Belmont Park will give Espinoza plenty of options out of the gate. This will work in his favor and should result in a Triple Crown victory.
Ride On Curlin
Should California Chrome falter, Ride On Curlin may be the horse to benefit.
We witnessed his remarkable closing speed at the Preakness Stakes. Starting outside in the No. 10 gate, Ride On Curlin made up plenty of ground quickly down the final furlong of the race.
Coming from outside, he followed California Chrome to the front, and the pair surged down the final stretch without either gaining or losing ground.
Here's a look back at the tremendous duel between California Chrome and Ride On Curlin at Pimlico:
Starting in the No. 5 gate at Belmont Park will serve Ride On Curlin nicely, as he will find himself in better position to start and better position to make a run near the race's end once more.
Should he run a solid and consistent race, there's no reason to believe he won't place.
Speaking of tremendous closers, Wicked Strong may be the race's best.
This horse had the daunting task of starting the Kentucky Derby from way outside in the No. 20 gate. In such a short race, that's far too much ground to make up—even for a horse with his closing ability.
Despite running most of the race wide off the rail, he was still able to weave his way through traffic down the final furlong and finish in fourth place.
Wicked Strong will start wide once again at Belmont Park, but the No. 9 gate here is nowhere close to the task of what he faced at Churchill Downs.
The Boston Globe sure thinks this horse can be a Triple Crown spoiler:
Could Wicked Strong be a Triple-Crown spoiler? The horse won a 1-mile maiden race at Belmont last October http://t.co/qpIJZVx3eS— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 6, 2014
If Wicked Strong can find himself in good position heading to the race's final stretch, given his closing speed, he'll have no trouble showing in the Belmont Stakes.