California Chrome is 1 1/2 miles away from the first Triple Crown in horse racing since Affirmed accomplished the feat in 1978, but the field at the 2014 Belmont Stakes won't just hand him the first-place award.
Chrome was stellar in the first two jewels of the trifecta. The challenges of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes proved to be small for the colt, but the pressure is mounting heading into Saturday's historic event.
As the odds-on favorite, Chrome will disappoint more than his owner, trainer and jockey with a loss. That said, he's yet to disappoint during this historic run.
Which horses do the oddsmakers like against Chrome? Below is a table with full odds for the entire field, including race-day predictions for where the horses will finish in the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
Odds and Race-Day Predictions
|5||Ride On Curlin||12-1||2nd|
|10||General a Rod||20-1||6th|
BelmontStakes.com; Kenny DeJohn
Triple Crown Outlook
No horse has won all three jewels of the Triple Crown since 1978. Affirmed did so by dominating the competition and overcoming the pressures associated with chasing one of the most coveted honors in all of sports.
Will California Chrome win?
California Chrome has shown a similar dominance thus far. Jockey Victor Espinoza knows how to run the colt perfectly. Espinoza, a brilliant jockey, has mastered the art of starting quickly out of the gate in order to get just behind the lead group.
Once behind the group, Chrome maintains this position until space begins to separate the lead group from the group in the back. With this space, Chrome has a comfortable amount of room to jump outside and begin his sprint to catch up with the leaders.
From there, it's a simple sprint to the finish. Chrome has showed the uncanny ability to maintain his sprints for long distances—something that will aid him in his pursuit of victory at a 1 1/2-mile track.
Given his starting position, the chances of Espinoza's strategy working once again seem pretty strong:
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
Of course, there are multiple horses in the field with eyes on the top prize. Ride On Curlin, Wicked Strong, Tonalist and Commanding Curve have all impressed during the past several weeks, and they have to be considered the top competitors.
Chrome's trainer, Alan Sherman, has already made it known that he's aware of how strong Tonalist and Ride On Curlin are:
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
That said, Chrome is a strong horse, too. His pre-race workouts have been great, as noted by David Grening and Mike Welsch of Daily Racing Form:
After schooling in paddock, California Chrome galloped a tad more than 2 miles, picking it up the last 1-2-mile or so. Just like always— David Grening (@DRFGrening) May 29, 2014
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
Despite the strong field, this is Chrome's race to lose. He'll have nearly the entire Belmont Park crowd on his side, and the complex will be buzzing leading up to the race.
We haven't seen a Triple Crown winner since 1978. That will end Saturday evening.