The 2014 Belmont Stakes will either feature history or a lot of disappointment for those watching along.
California Chrome enters as the favorite, as he looks to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. While the horse has the talent necessary to win his seventh race in a row, a lot can go wrong in this prestigious race. It will be up to jockey Victor Espinoza to keep things together as he heads toward the finish line.
On the other hand, there are 10 other horses with 10 other jockeys who will hope to play the role of spoiler. A lot can happen over the course of the 1 1/2-mile race, but here are predictions for the upcoming battle.
|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|
Show: Commissioner—Javier Castellano
When looking at the jockeys capable of carrying their horse to victory, you have to start with Javier Castellano.
David Greening of Daily Racing Form notes how red-hot the veteran has been in recent weeks:
Javier Castellano has won aboard 7 of his last 11 rides.— David Grening (@DRFGrening) June 1, 2014
This strong effort has extended throughout the year. Castellano comes into the weekend as the No. 1 jockey in the nation when it comes to total earnings at more than $9 million. He has not only won an impressive 27 percent of his starts, but he also has finished in the top three in 61 percent of races.
Castellano will do his best to navigate Commissioner, who showed plenty of ability at the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. The horse and jockey have familiarity with the course and are fresh enough to challenge for a win on Saturday.
It might be difficult for Commissioner to earn trainer Todd Pletcher his third win at the Belmont Stakes, but he will be close enough to finish in the money.
Place: Commanding Curve—Shaun Bridgmohan
Shaun Bridgmohan put himself in the spotlight before the Kentucky Derby due to his comical/terrifying introduction:
Want to see the most intense jockey at the Kentucky Derby? Check out Commanding Curve's. GIF: http://t.co/ne5QKLCpKY— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 3, 2014
However, he later earned respect as a jockey when he came within a couple of lengths of pulling off the massive upset at Churchill Downs. He led Commanding Curve on a late charge past most of the pack and ended up coming just short against California Chrome.
He ran out of room at the Kentucky Derby, but that will not be an issue at the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
Commanding Curve does a great job of utilizing his closing speed to finish among the leaders almost every time out. A longer race should only be able to help him as the rest of the field runs out of energy.
If Bridgmohan can get his thoroughbred into good position heading into the final stretch, Commanding Curve should challenge for the title.
Win: California Chrome—Victor Espinoza
Victor Espinoza has been quite impressive with California Chrome, winning each of the six starts the two have paired together.
Unfortunately, this length has not been great for him, according to Marcus Hersh of Daily Racing Form:
Art Sherman's career record 1.5 miles on dirt: 7-2-1-0. Victor Espinoza 1.5 miles dirt 13-0-5-2.— Marcus Hersh (@DRFHersh) June 3, 2014
To make matters worse, Espinoza lost his previous chance at a Triple Crown aboard War Emblem in 2002. The good news is that the jockey seems to have learned from the experience and should come out ready to succeed.
Espinoza also explained that the character of California Chrome will make a difference, as reported by John Rowe of NorthJersey.com:
California Chrome is a little more calm, more professional. War Emblem was like a little bit crazy. He didn’t care about anything, he just wanted to run as fast as he could, and he used to like to go to the front. He didn’t like being behind. California Chrome is mellower. He listens to me more than War Emblem did.
With the talent that California Chrome has and the confidence to beat anyone in the field, he will be able to come away with a seventh win in a row to take home the Triple Crown.
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