California Chrome will attempt to become the first horse since 1978 to win all three legs of the Triple Crown when he runs out of Post #2 in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. He’ll have to best 10 horses, including General a Rod and Ride On Curlin, both of which ran in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, as well as familiar faces Commanding Curve, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, Samraat, and Wicked Strong. California Chrome is a 3/5 favorite to make history at 6:52 p.m. from Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.
In the history of the Triple Crown, 16 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and failed to win the Belmont. In 2012, I’ll Have Another was scratched prior to the Belmont. The most recent to join this dubious club after running in the Belmont is Big Brown back in 2008 with a ninth-place finish. Smarty Jones in 2004 and Funny Cide in 2003 were near misses, with second and third-place finishes, respectively. In 2002, War Emblem finished eighth in the Belmont after winning the first two races.
The Belmont is the longest of the three races, measuring 1.5 miles, or 12 furlongs. One of the reasons that it has been so long without a Triple Crown winner is because the Belmont is the greatest test of endurance for the group of three-year-olds, and many of them have not run races this long.
In a FiveThirtyEight article, author Ben Morris said that the current 36-year drought with a 12-horse streak of having won the first two legs of the Triple Crown and failing in the Belmont has odds of about 1 in 130. Given the race odds and the probability attached to the favorite looking to complete the Triple Crown, the odds of all 12 horses not winning the Belmont sits at 1 in 20,000. Will this be the year?
Here are the post positions and odds for the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes:
|5||Ride On Curlin||12/1|
|10||General a Rod||20/1|
Medal Count, Matterhorn, Matuszak, Commissioner, and Tonalist are new entries to the Triple Crown field, running their first of the three races at Belmont. A potential scandal was averted when race officials announced shortly after the Preakness that California Chrome would be allowed to wear the nasal strip that he has been running with to aid in breathing. Such strips were previously banned at Belmont. There was some consternation back in 2012 when I’ll Have Another’s trainers requested a lift of the ban so their colt could wear his nasal strip. The point became moot because he was scratched.
If betting by post position is your thing, Medal Count has the top post historically as 23 winners have come from Post #1. Next up are Post #3 and Post #5 with 13 victories each. California Chrome’s post, #2, is tied for third with post #7 with 11 wins. Weather should not be a factor with track conditions on Saturday as some Thursday rain is scheduled to move out overnight and give way to pleasant sunshine and temperatures near 80 degrees.
California Chrome is clearly a huge favorite, so the focus for bettors shifts to finding other value in the form of horses to pull the upset and rob horse racing of yet another Triple Crown winner or find some horses to use in exotics with California Chrome.
Newcomer Tonalist (8/1) will probably get some betting interest on Saturday because he comes from a strong bloodline. On the female side, Tonalist’s pedigree features seven horses with over $100,000 in career earnings and five stakes winners. The sire, Tapit, is an amazing specimen that has produced winners with several different mares. Knowledgeable, experienced horse bettors are going to put a lot of faith into Tonalist’s pedigree. Tonalist won on this track in the Peter Pan Stakes, but that was just a nine-furlong run.
Ride On Curlin (12/1) got caught in traffic at the Kentucky Derby and was never really a factor, though he did close a large gap to finish in seventh. He was the runner-up at the Preakness, though California Chrome won comfortably by 1.5 lengths. With Commanding Curve and California Chrome holding post positions closer to the rail, Ride On Curlin will have to avoid traffic and remain in the hunt to have a shot at outlasting the field.
Given how California Chrome has dominated the first two races in what has been a group of three-year-olds considered to be rather subpar, it appears that the 36-year drought without a Triple Crown winner may come to an end. There hasn’t been a challenger to California Chrome yet and he has widened his lead with strong stretch runs in each of his two victories. Barring a catastrophic injury or a major letdown on the final stretch, expect carnations to be added to the list of flowers draped over California Chrome’s neck when all is said and done around 6:55 p.m. on Saturday.