Today could be the day that California Chrome becomes a part of history. Today could be the final scene in his inspiring Hollywood film. Today could be the day that the drought ends.
Or today could be the day he joins the legions of other horses that have tried for the Triple Crown only to fail.
Today could be something new to anyone born after 1978, or it could be something painfully old. It could be the Boston Red Sox in 2004, or it could be the Chicago Cubs. It could be a "remember where you were" moment, or it could be a moment to forget.
It all hangs on one horse, California Chrome, at the Belmont Stakes. Let's take a look at the horse's odds, his chances to win this race and predict how he'll finish.
When: Saturday, June 7
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
Coverage Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ET
Post Time: 6:52 p.m. ET
|1||Medal Count||Robby Albarado||20-1||5|
|2||California Chrome||Victor Espinoza||3-5||1|
|4||Commanding Curve||Shaun Bridgmohan||15-1||3|
|5||Ride on Curlin||John Velazquez||12-1||7|
|9||Wicked Strong||Rajiv Maragh||6-1||2|
|10||General a Rod||Rosie Napravnik||20-1||8|
Just in case you weren't already excited for this race, NBC Sports Network on Twitter will get your blood flowing:
"Destiny is only a mile-and-a-half away." Whoo boy, if that doesn't get you pumped up, nothing will.
As you might imagine, California Chrome is the center of the sporting world today. He's earning comparisons to LeBron James, per Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report:
Don't get a leg cramp, California Chrome. Or people will say that would have never happened to Secretariat.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) June 7, 2014
He promises to elicit the most polarizing of emotions, per Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:
Happy Belmont Stakes day. Hoping to see history but suspecting we will see heartbreak. My prediction column: http://t.co/OqY8H07thi— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) June 7, 2014
And through it all, he hardly seems concerned, as this picture seems to indicate, via SportsCenter on Twitter:
California Chrome looks ready to run before his Triple Crown bid this evening at Belmont. pic.twitter.com/y00Xl8GU9K— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 7, 2014
Is that a horse that looks as though it's feeling the pressure? Of course not—horses couldn't care less about the Triple Crown.
But we sure do, and so the question remains as to how likely California Chrome will be to end the drought dating back to 1978.
There are several things standing in Chrome's way, however. Chris Fallica of ESPN.com passes along the first one:
No Triple Crown winner has beaten more than seven horses in the Belmont to win the Triple Crown. In 1977 Seattle Slew beat seven horses, as did Citation in 1948.
On average, the 11 prior Triple Crown winners have beaten 4.4 horses in the Belmont. The average Belmont field size in Triple Crown wins is 5.4 starters, while the average Belmont field size in Triple Crown Belmont losses is 9.2 starters.
A field of 11 is expected for Saturday, which is the same field size War Emblem, Real Quiet, Pleasant Colony and Kauai King each faced in their failed Triple Crown attempts.
So that's not a good start.
It gets worse, depending on your viewpoint. Chrome's jockey, Victor Espinoza, has a 2-67 record at Belmont Park, along with failing to win the 2002 Triple Crown atop War Emblem at the track, according to Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News.
And then there is simply the history that stands opposed to Chrome and the grueling schedule that ensures he'll have raced three times in five weeks. Back in the day, that type of schedule was closer to the norm. These days, it's a veritable gauntlet.
But it's not all bad. There is the simple fact that he is the most talented horse, after all, having won six straight races. And the Belmont actually fits his style fairly well. Check out this juicy little tidbit from ESPN Stats and Information:
Since 1952, 18% of Belmont winners were outside top 3 after 1 1/4 miles; will California Chrome have the endurance? pic.twitter.com/FFd2uPtoSi— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 7, 2014
California Chrome is not a horse that sits back and strikes at the very last moment. He's a pace-stalker, a horse that wants to get out running early, stay with the lead pack and use his impressive speed to hold off any potential challengers late. That type of horse generally fares pretty well.
And this horse and his jockey also seem to have a strong relationship, as Espinoza told Michael Martinez, Jaqueline Hurtado and Paul Vercammen of CNN.com:
"He's an awesome horse. He has tremendous talent and he loves to run, and I think he likes to win when I let him know I'm in control in the race, not him," Espinoza said. "I want him to listen to me, what I want him to do during the race, and I think he likes that."
When you really break it down, the positives outweigh the negatives. He looked so strong in the first two legs of the Triple Crowns. He's freakishly athletic. He hasn't lost in quite some time. He's practiced well. He can run the type of race required to win at the Belmont.
For all of those reasons, expect Chrome to win the Belmont Stakes and complete the Triple Crown. This horse just feels special. Other horses have felt special, too, of course, and failed to accomplish the goal, but it's time the drought ended.
And California Chrome is the horse to do it. Nay, the horse that will do it.