California Chrome will race for history Saturday at the 2014 Belmont Stakes. But despite being the odds-on favorite to end the 36-year Triple Crown drought this weekend, recent history isn't in California Chrome's favor.
After all, 22 horses have won the Triple Crown's first two legs only to miss out on horse racing's biggest achievement. What's more, five of those 22 have come since 2002. And 12 of the 22 have come since the last Triple Crown winner, Affirmed, in 1978, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Calfornia Chrome is one win away from becoming the 12th Triple Crown winner – and first since Affirmed in 1978— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
Still, those numbers haven't discouraged California Chrome's handlers, according to assistant trainer Alan Sherman, per The Associated Press' Mike Farrell (via ABCNews.com).
"The horse is doing great, I couldn't ask anything more from him," Sherman said. "I'm looking forward to the race. I think if he runs his race, he's going to be pretty solid."
But while California Chrome has been remarkable in 2014, remember that his biggest obstacle is still to come.
Here, we'll get you all set for Saturday's third and final jewel of the Triple Crown.
When: Saturday, June 7
Post Time: 6:52 p.m. ET
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, New York
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra
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Saturday is shaping up to be a gorgeous day at Belmont Park. With temperatures in the low 80s and plenty of sunshine expected, conditions will be ideal when post time arrives shortly before 7 p.m. ET.
Here's a look at the hourly forecast, per Weather.com:
With dry, sunny and warm conditions on tap for Saturday, California Chrome and the rest of the field won't have to worry about battling the elements or a sloppy track.
Belmont Stakes Predictions
It's certainly hard to bet against California Chrome given just how impressive he's been over the Triple Crown's first two legs and his past six races overall. However, the same could be said for Big Brown (2008), Smarty Jones (2004) and Funny Cide (2003), who each fell short at the 1.5-mile Belmont Park.
Which horse has the best shot to upend California Chrome at Belmont Park?
While California Chrome is likely to be in the lead as the field makes its way around the final bend, will he have enough in the tank to finish first?
It remains to be seen, but with so much pressure on jockey Victor Espinoza and California Chrome, who will look to become the first Belmont Stakes winner to run from post No. 2 since 1994's Tabasco Cat, watch for Samraat to surprise from post No. 7.
He finished fifth at the Kentucky Derby and will run from a favorable post. Three of the past seven Belmont Stakes winners have come from the seventh post, including Da' Tara, the horse that stole the show from Big Brown six years ago.
As Daily Racing Form's Mike Welsch points out, Samraat is looking strong ahead of Saturday's race:
Samraat has a good morning, jogs mile, schools in gate perfectly, gallops 1 3/8 miles looks to be coming up to race in peak form.— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) June 6, 2014
In an upset pick, watch for Samraat to come on strong late to edge a winded California Chrome at the finish line. Showing behind the top two will be Wicked Strong, who won the Wood Memorial Stakes earlier this year and finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby.
Wicked Strong will run from the ninth post Saturday and has the best odds to win outside of California Chrome.
Although the 12 furlongs at Belmont Park are sure to make for a thrilling race, keep in mind that horses in California Chrome's position come up short at this stage more often than not. While a Triple Crown winner is sure to emerge at some point in the near future, a talented field and immense pressure are sure to spoil the favorite's hopes Saturday.
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