California Chrome has a date with destiny on Saturday, seeking to become just the 12th Triple Crown winner when he takes on a field of 10 in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. The colt is the 3-5 betting favorite according to odds posted at Odds Shark, but is going to face a stern test on Saturday attempting to get the 1.5 miles over the Belmont Park main track.
Since Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, we have had a dozen horses land in New York with a shot at history, and they call came up short, including Big Brown and Smarty Jones, who both lost at odds of 1-5. California Chrome will have to beat a solid field in order to make history, and overcome a pedigree that is not exactly inclined to be able to handle Belmont Park's distance.
Let's look at the field for the Belmont Stakes, (with plenty of prop betting opportunities on the margin of victory, over-under of finish time and some horse matchups involving Commanding Curve and Ride on Curlin).
1 Medal Count 20-1
The colt is one of four that were beaten by California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. That route has been successful seven times since 2000, including the past two years. The five-week break will suit and the Dale Romans trainee had a rough trip in Louisville. He has a good shot of outrunning his betting odds.
2 California Chrome 3-5
Six wins in a row and victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness just two weeks apart, and this colt does not seem to have lost a step in his training over the past three weeks. With good tactical speed and a cool and collected jockey in Victor Espinoza, his only real knock is going to be his short price. He will head for home on Saturday with the lead, and it is just a matter of whether there is enough gas left in the tank to get home first.
3 Matterhorn 30-1
Fourth in the Peter Pan Stakes, the colt was making up some ground late and he seems eligible to move forward in just his second career start in stakes company. He does have six-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher calling the shots. Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes last year with Palace Malice and in 2007 with Rags to Riches.
4 Commanding Curve 15-1
Dismissed at 38-1 in the Run for the Roses, the colt was far back early and made a good late run to finish in the runner up spot, beaten 1 ¾ lengths by California Chrome. While the extra ground seems like it would suit him, late closers have not fared well in the Belmont Stakes in recent years. His price was as low as 15-2 last week at Odds Shark and likely will be bet down from his 15-1 morning line.
5 Ride on Curlin 12-1
One of just three that will compete in all three jewels of the Triple Crown, this colt had a tough trip in the Kentucky Derby in a seventh place finish and was making up ground in the stretch in the Preakness, coming up just 1 ½ lengths short of catching the winner. The colt is always coming late but seldom gets the job done, winning just two of his 11 career starts.
6 Matuszak 30-1
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the 2010 Belmont Stakes with upsetter Drosselmeyer, this colt finished behind Kid Cruz in his last two starts in Maryland. Kid Cruz came back and was not a threat in an eighth-place finish in the Preakness. While the colt has a nice pedigree, he just does not look fast enough to get anything more than a minor share.
7 Samraat 20-1
This colt was a forward factor in the Kentucky Derby before weakening and finishing fifth, beaten 5 ¾ lengths. The colt won his first five career starts, his first loss coming in a runner up finish in the Wood Memorial behind Wicked Strong. His tactical speed will come in handy as there is not much early pace signed up and he figures to be in the mix when they turn for home. His pedigree suggests he is going to have trouble getting that last furlong.
8 Commissioner 20-1
Caught down along a deep sloppy rail last out, the colt was second in the Peter Pan behind Tonalist. The colt looks to be heading in the right direction and he has one of the most long-winded pedigrees in the field. He is by A.P. Indy, who won the 1992 Belmont Stakes and out of a mare that was sired by another Belmont Stakes winner in Touch Gold, who won the race in 1997.
And Down The Stretch They Come
And Down The Stretch They Come
9 Wicked Strong 6-1
This colt drew a tough post in the Kentucky Derby, stumbled coming out of the gate and ran into some traffic in the stretch in a fourth-place finish. He was an impressive winner of the Wood Memorial in his previous start, earning a speed figure that ranks right up with the best of this group. The colt has been working sharply and broke his maiden over the Belmont Park main track.
10 General a Rod 20-1
The Mike Maker trainee has not seen the winner's circle since winning the Gulfstream Derby on New Year's Day, and was 11th in the Kentucky Derby followed by a fourth in the Preakness. The colt did not get a clean trip in either of his last two starts and picks up jockey Rosie Napravnik, who is seeking to become just the second female rider to win a Triple Crown race.
11 Tonalist 8-1
The colt is 8-1 on the morning line, but expect to see a bit shorter by the time they load them in the gate. He was a good-looking winner of the Peter Pan last out over a sloppy surface that was favoring horses coming from off the pace. He was right up on the pace and looks capable of moving forward off his last effort. He has shown improvement in each outing and could end up being the pacesetter here if jockey Joel Rosario elects to send him early from his outside post.
The Belmont Stakes will be broadcast live on NBC with a post time of 6:52pm (ET).