While most of the attention at the 2014 Belmont Stakes will be focused on California Chrome's quest for a Triple Crown, there remain a few longshots capable of shocking the racing world.
In the last six runnings of this race, five winners had odds of 10-1 or greater coming into the event. In 2008, Da' Tara was an almost 40-1 underdog and still defeated the field—including Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown.
California Chrome might be the most talented contender at "The Test of the Champion," but that does not guarantee victory on the 1 1/2-mile track.
These underrated horses have been largely overlooked thus far, but each of them has a chance to surprise with a strong performance Saturday.
|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|
In the early betting, Samraat seems like one of the more overlooked horses in this Belmont field.
The talented horse won his first five races before finishing second at the Wood Memorial. While he was unable to finish in the top three at the Kentucky Derby, he still managed an impressive fifth place in a loaded field.
After skipping the Preakness, Samraat is now back in the state where he has had the most success. Brandon George of The Dallas Morning News points out the local connections:
All the talk is on California Chrome, but No. 7 Samraat (20-1) is an interesting horse in Belmont Stakes. NY horse, trainer, jockey combo.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) June 6, 2014
Samraat already has one career win at the Belmont track; the rest of his victories came at Aqueduct in nearby Jamaica, N.Y. His familiarity with the surroundings could help him in Saturday's race.
ESPN's Bram Weinstein sees Samraat as at least a good bet to finish in the top three:
Samraat 40-1 or longer??? That might have to be my WPS play. Right now I envision a wicked/chrome sprint off at the stretch— Bram Weinstein (@BramESPN) June 6, 2014
If things go according to plan, he could finish even better than that—and win the Belmont.
After a second-place finish at the Peter Pan Stakes, Commissioner is set to make his Triple Crown debut at the Belmont Stakes.
While he has only two wins in seven starts, owner Elliott Walden is confident his horse can make noise in this race, via Alicia Wincze Hughes of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
We always felt like this would be the best chance he would have to win a classic. That is why we've been looking forward to this race since January. We're excited to see him run 1 1/2 miles.
Obviously (California Chrome) has dominated his competition so it would be foolish to think that you're going to beat him until you do. But strange things happen in this race. There are a lot of good horses that have been beat in here, and I think with the third race in five weeks (for California Chrome), there are some fresh horses in there that are a bit of a danger.
Helping him out will be an impressive team used to winning. Legendary trainer Todd Pletcher has won the Belmont Stakes twice in his career, including last year with Palace Malice.
Meanwhile, jockey Javier Castellano has been the best rider in the country this season, leading everyone with over $9 million in total earnings. He has finished in the top three in 61 percent of his races and has a strong chance of reaching at least this mark at Belmont.
Like Commissioner, Matuszak will compete in his first Triple Crown race Saturday after missing both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. This means he will be extremely fresh for the upcoming race.
Also helping him in this longer race is the fact that he was built to withstand the length of the course, via Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form:
Matuszak continues to do well coming off a very solid work last weekend. Overmatched on paper but bred to get the distance.— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) June 6, 2014
Matuszak also has a jockey who knows how to handle the distance in Mike Smith—winner of last year's Belmont Stakes atop Palace Malice—according to Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form:
Mike Smith, who won Belmont last year on Palace Malice, to ride longshot Matuszak, per trainer Bill Mott. Matuszak 2nd last out in Tesio— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) May 22, 2014
Coming from the No. 6 post, Smith will be able to get Matuszak into the best position possible while navigating him through the track. While others may end up losing energy down the stretch, Matuszak should be going strong.
He is one of the biggest longshots in the field, but the thoroughbred has the skill to surprise everyone.
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