The field is set, the horses are trained and the fans are most certainly ready for what is sure to be a memorable 146th running of the Belmont Stakes.
The 2014 Belmont Stakes will play host to history. California Chrome will either become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, or will join the handful of other hopefuls that won the first two jewels of the circuit before faltering in the third.
Which outcome will we see on Saturday?
Don't miss out on the action, and make sure you're informed about the event prior to its beginning. Below you'll find everything you need to know—post information, odds, payout and even some last-minute predictions.
Post Positions, Odds and Projections
|5||Ride On Curlin||12-1||2nd|
BelmontStakes.com; Kenny DeJohn
Note: Payout information courtesy of TheTripleCrown.com
California Chrome will start the race from the No. 2 position—a spot that has seen previous success in the history of the race:
Since 1905, 11 winners of the #BelmontStakes have started from post 2, trailing only 1 (23), 3, (15), 5 (14), and 7 (13).— Belmont Stakes (@BelmontStakes) June 4, 2014
The key for jockey Victor Espinoza is getting out of the gate quickly and establishing his position behind the leaders. Once space separates the front group from the back group, it will be up to Espinoza to make his move.
Chrome must fire up the jets to overtake the leaders, but he hasn't shown a problem doing so in the past couple of races. Remarkably, Chrome has shown the ability to maintain that speed after achieving it. That's what makes him so hard to beat.
Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form tweeted on May 31 that Chrome was already looking strong in workouts:
California Chrome looks super in final Belmont prep cruises 4F in :47.47 with monster gallop out, :59.59, 1:12.76, 1:26.34 up mile 1:40.92— Mike Welsch (@DRFWelsch) May 31, 2014
All the stars are aligning for Chrome. With wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the colt just needs one more at Belmont to make history.
Ride On Curlin
Arguably Chrome's toughest competitor, Ride On Curlin will look to upset the Triple Crown hopeful on Saturday.
One of Chrome's trainers, Alan Sherman, is well aware of Ride On Curlin in the field of 11 horses:
Alan Sherman said the Belmont could be the toughest race of TC. Said Tonalist and Ride On Curlin look to be his toughest opponents.— HRTV (@HRTVinsider) June 5, 2014
On June 1, the colt also had a great workout on the track. He ran easily through the 1 1/2-mile track:
The colt will be running out of the No. 5 position with his fifth different jockey in the past five races. Calvin Borel had ridden him to a disappointing finish at Churchill Downs before Joel Rosario took over at Pimlico Race Course, improving the horse's finish to second.
Now, John Velazquez will look to make one last improvement. Velazquez is a two-time winner at the Belmont Stakes, so it's easy to see why many are turning their attention to Ride On Curlin.
A competitor that many seem to be overlooking is Wicked Strong. The horse is exceptionally fast and has proven so in workouts, per Frank Angst of Blood-Horse via ESPN.com:
In two breezes at the training track to date since the Derby, Wicked Strong worked five furlongs in 1:01.84 May 18, eighth fastest of 20 moves at the distance that day; and one mile in 1:39.59 May 25 in the only work at the distance that day. [Jimmy] Jerkens, who is stabled away from the main track at Belmont and typically uses the training track, was pleased with the one-mile work in which Wicked Strong galloped out 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.
Aside from a packed schedule in workouts, Wicked Strong has not run much this past month. After failing to win the Kentucky Derby, the horse sat out the Preakness in an effort to rest up for Belmont.
They got a tough draw, however, as the No. 9 starting position isn't exactly the most favorable. Jockey Rajiv Maragh will have to show good speed out of the gate in order to create some space and get into a good position to make moves later on.
With a poor start, Wicked Strong will not be able to finish highly—let alone win. The No. 9 position is a tough one.