The 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, which features California Chrome attempting to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, highlights a jam-packed day of racing at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Of course, the day of racing as a whole is going to get a lot more attention thanks to California Chrome. The final leg on the Triple Crown trail is always more intriguing when history can be made. In this case, it's ending a 36-year drought.
The Belmont represents the toughest challenge of them all. By early evening, California Chrome will either go down in history or become just another statistic. Knowing that, let's check out the complete card along with an overview of the Belmont Stakes hopefuls.
Belmont Park Card for June 7
|2014 Belmont Stakes Race-Day Card|
|2||Easy Goer Stakes||Kid Cruz (5-2)|
|3||Brooklyn Invitational Stakes||Cat Burglar (5-2)|
|4||Jaipur Invitational Stakes||Ben's Cat (5-2)|
|5||Woody Stephens Stakes||Social Inclusion (7-5)|
|6||TVG Acorn Stakes||My Miss Sophia (6-5)|
|7||Ogden Phipps Stakes||Beholder (7-5)|
|8||Longines Just a Game Stakes||Discreet Marq (5-2)|
|9||Metropolitan Handicap||Palace Malice (8-5)|
|10||Knob Creek Manhattan Stakes||Seek Again (3-1)|
|11||Belmont Stakes||California Chrome (3-5)|
|12||Allowance OC||Ghurair (9-5)|
|13||Allowance OC||In Trouble (5-2)|
Overview of Belmont Stakes Field
1. Medal Count
Has yet to display the top-end speed necessary to beat the Belmont's top contenders if they are at their best. That said, he's been consistently solid over his past three starts and could be the beneficiary should a lightning-quick pace tire out the big names early.
2. California Chrome
The best horse in the race. At the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, that meant he was going to win unless something went totally wrong. The same can't be said for the Belmont, where there are far more factors in play.
He must survive the longest race of the Triple Crown against a field where most of the horses have enjoyed more rest before the endurance test. That's why the moniker for the final showcase race of the trio is the "Test of the Champion."
Chris Murray of USA Today passed along comments from trainer Art Sherman, who talked about the amazing journey:
At the beginning of the year, if you told me this would happen I would've said no. But everything's fallen in order. We got lucky and the horse has this great six-race winning streak. It's been awesome. Not many people have gotten a horse like this.
Ultimately, if he doesn't run out energy during the extended stretch run, he should win the race. That's not a given, however, and there's a strong group of horses capable of outrunning him to the wire if he's not at his best on Saturday.
Is coming off the best performance of his career in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, but it was only good enough for fourth against a tough field. The competition level gets even higher in the Belmont, making it tough to see him as a threat to California Chrome.
4. Commanding Curve
After a string of mediocre results to start his career, Commanding Curve has been far more impressive over his last two starts. The most recent one being a second-place outing in the Kentucky Derby. The added rest makes him a legitimate choice to end the Triple Crown dream.
5. Ride On Curlin
Probably the most undervalued horse in the field. He ran in both the Derby and Preakness, finishing seventh and second, respectively. The late pace he displayed in both races is exactly what it's going to take to have a chance on Saturday afternoon.
Derek Wallbank of Bloomberg News sees him as the second-best horse in the field:
Won his first career race last September and hasn't found the winner's circle since. Although he's made some progress over the past four races, there just isn't enough on his resume to believe he can seriously challenge for the win in the Belmont.
On one hand, Samraat has continually shown he's a very good horse. On the other, he's never had that one standout display it usually takes to win a Triple Crown race. Perhaps today's the day he puts it all together to shock the horse-racing world.
Has plenty of experience against upper-echelon fields after four straight graded stakes races. The bad news is that he didn't win any of them. There's been a definite upward trend highlighted by a second-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes, though.
9. Wicked Strong
Started on the extreme outside in the Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial winner made up ground throughout the race but simply didn't have enough time to chase down California Chrome. With a smaller field, better starting gate and a rest advantage, he's the biggest threat to the Triple Crown bid.
10. General a Rod
Another horse that's taken part in all three legs of the Triple Crown. He didn't finish in the top three either time, however. He's right on the fringe between contender and long shot. If everything goes perfectly, he has a chance.
A horse that was barely on the Triple Crown radar until the Peter Pan Stakes. He won that race in impressive fashion and in turn becomes a dangerous new shooter in the Belmont. His previous outings didn't live up to the same standard, so he's very much a mystery heading into his biggest start to date.