Plenty of factors come into play when preparing to bet the Belmont Stakes.
Sure, the odds are generally good indicators of how strong each contender is, but with a little knowledge of what horses are capable of, and the jockeys riding them, betting opinions could shift dramatically.
As we already know, California Chrome already earned wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes. One more win at Belmont Park would make him the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.
Although, it won't be easy.
A daunting 1 1/2-mile track and a strong field will be looking to thwart the California-bred colt's run at history.
So, aside from California Chrome, which horses have the best chances at donning the carnation blanket at the race's conclusion?
Let's break down the field's best jockeys and fastest horses, overview the race's odds and predict the order of finish.
Jockeys to Trust
The right jockey can go a long way in this prestigious race. Experience comes into play, as each will have to navigate a 1 1/2-mile track full of very strong contenders.
Espinoza has been sensational atop California Chrome.
He showed a great deal of patience at both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Even though California Chrome got some nice breaks out of the gate, Espinoza settled the colt in behind the lead pack and maintained a steady pace through the majority of the race. This move allowed the colt to save stamina for the race's end.
Upon arriving at the last turn, Espinoza and California Chrome made their signature burst to the front of the pack at Churchill Downs and Pimlico. Quickly obtaining a significant lead, this duo became nearly impossible to catch in both instances.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Espinoza is looking to make history:
Victor Espinoza, born in Veracruz, Mexico, can become the first Latino jockey to win the Triple Crown— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
Espinoza is one of the most experienced jockeys in this year's field. That experience could pay off in a Triple Crown victory.
Castellano rides Triple Crown newcomer Commissioner in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
His horse it a bit of a long shot; however, Castellano certainly isn't.
So far this year, Castellano has been magnificent. He leads all jockeys in earnings with over $9.7 million, according to Equibase.com. Not only has he been stellar through the year, but he's on a torrid pace of late, according to a tweet from David Grening of the Daily Racing Form:
Javier Castellano has won aboard 7 of his last 11 rides.— David Grening (@DRFGrening) June 1, 2014
If a long shot is to emerge from the field on Saturday, expect it to be Commissioner. The longer race suits him, and Castellano's experience and hot streak will be heavy factors as well.
We already know California Chrome is fast—after all, he won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown. But which other horses are just as quick—or possibly even quicker?
This colt has a great shot to upset California Chrome on Saturday.
He faced the daunting task of starting way outside in the No. 20 gate at the Kentucky Derby. Despite having so much ground to make up and running the majority of the race far off the rail, Wicked Strong was able to weave his way through traffic late to finish fourth.
Wicked Strong comes into the Belmont Stakes after having skipped the Preakness. He's well rested, and his No. 9 starting position will suit him nicely.
With less ground to cover this time around, expect him to be well in the mix down the final stretch given his astounding closing ability.
Ride On Curlin
Ride On Curlin was sensational at the Preakness Stakes. Like Wicked Strong in the Kentucky Derby, Ride On Curlin began out wide in the No. 10 gate.
He trailed the pack for the majority of the race but came on very strong with a fantastic burst over the race's final furlong. His burst quickly put him on the heels of California Chrome, and the two dashed toward the finish line at an even pace.
Starting from the No. 5 gate this time around gives Ride On Curlin every chance to begin in a favorable position and make a run down the final stretch once more.
Commanding Curve was simply astounding in the Kentucky Derby. He began the race in 18th position after an unfavorable start but blazed through the track, passing 16 horses to finish just behind California Chrome.
Tonalist is a very speedy colt who is no stranger to Belmont Park. He won there earlier this year in the Peter Pan Stakes. After bursting to the front of the pack early, Tonalist didn't lose any steam, keeping a very fast pace and dominating the field.
Predictions and Odds
With all of that said, here's a look at how the race could potentially shake out.
|2||5||Ride On Curlin||12-1|
|9||10||General a Rod||20-1|
Sean O'Donnell's Predictions
Odds courtesy of BelmontStakes.com.
Should these results come to fruition, we'll be lucky enough to witness history in the making on Saturday evening.