It is only a small fraction of the millions that will be wagered on the $1.5 Belmont Stakes, but California Chrome is getting the majority of the early betting dollars, bet down to 1-2 odds in his bid to win the Triple Crown.
The colt was installed as the 3-5 morning-line favorite, and his betting odds have fluctuated between 3-5 and even money according to Odds Shark over the past week. If early wagering is any indication, those $2 souvenir tickets are adding up, and the colt may be under his 3-5 morning line by the time they load the field in the gate at 6:52 p.m. ET.
California Chrome is seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978. The colt has won six races in a row, winning the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths over Commanding Curve and the Preakness Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Ride On Curlin.
Both of those foes are back looking to turn the tables, with Commanding Curve the early second choice in the wagering at 6-1 while Ride on Curlin is the fourth choice in the betting at 11-1.
The third choice in the betting is Wicked Strong, who had a tough trip in a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and bypassed the Preakness.
Horses that lost the Derby and skipped the Preakness have fared well in the third jewel of the Triple Crown, accounting for seven winners since 2000 including the last two winners, Palace Malice last year and Union Rags in 2012.
With perfect weather and a Triple Crown hanging in the balance, Belmont Park was filling up fast according to trainer Gary Contessa:
I have been here 35 years and never have I seen miles of cars waiting to get in at 8:00 am. This is a beautiful sight! Go Chrome!— Gary Contessa (@GaryContessa) June 7, 2014
The record attendance for the Belmont Stakes was set in 2004, with 120,139 showing up to root on Smarty Jones in his attempt to win the Triple Crown. The colt headed for home with the lead but was run down late by Birdstone and jockey Edgar Prado.
Post time for the Belmont Stakes is 6:52 p.m. ET and will be televised on NBC. The 13-race card kicks off at 11:35 a.m. and features 10 stakes races including five Grade 1 races.
Among the horses competing on the outstanding card are last year’s Belmont Stakes winner, Palace Malice, who is the 8-5 morning line favorite for the $1.25 million Met Mile, and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner, Beholder, who is the 7-5 morning-line favorite for the $1 million Ogden Phipps.
Friday wagering on the Belmont Stakes:
1. Medal Count, 21-1
2. California Chrome, 1-2
3. Matterhorn, 59-1
4. Commanding Curve, 6-1
5. Ride On Curlin, 11-1
6. Matuszak, 47-1
7. Samraat, 41-1
8. Commissioner, 43-1
9. Wicked Strong, 8-1
10. General a Rod, 50-1
11. Tonalist, 13-1
Odds via the Daily Racing Form.
Follow Michael Dempsey on Twitter @turfnsport