Last week, we argued the pessimistic side of the coin and gave you three reasons why California Chrome would fail at the 2014 Belmont Stakes. This week, we’re being a little bit more positive.
Even though there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner in horse racing since Affirmed in 1978, the odds at Bovada favor the drought ending Saturday. California Chrome, a little-known thoroughbred from the West Coast, is one win away from etching his name in the history books. Here are three reasons why he could very well win the Belmont and do it.
Momentum Means Everything
California Chrome has won six races in a row. He’s very confident these days, and after winning so much, he looks like he has an edge over the rest of the field. It doesn’t really matter what competition is put in front of him, as he already has squared off with the best. He blew away a field of challengers at the Kentucky Derby, then smoked a number of new contestants at The Preakness.
From the trainer down to the jockey to the horse, this is a confident team. They roll into the Belmont with a lot of momentum.
The Jockey Has Motivation
It should come as no surprise that the streak started when Victor Espinoza got on California Chrome, as the two hit it off from the start. But this race will be special for the 42-year-old, who was on War Emblem in 2002 when he won the first two jewels in the Triple Crown before choking at the Belmont. That race didn’t go so well at all — War Emblem almost fell right out of the gate — and while he eventually got to the front, he and Espinoza expended a lot of energy to make it there, and he ended up finishing eighth.
Although War Emblem won the American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse that year, the Triple Crown would have put him up there with the greats, and the same goes for Espinoza. No one wants to win this race more than him; it isn’t very often that you have two chances to win a Triple Crown in your career.
Have You Watched This Horse Race Recently?
It isn’t that California Chrome has won the first two jewels in the Triple Crown. It’s is the way in which he has done it.
Espinoza has done a great job of keeping the horse at a good pace for the first part of the race — not leading — but within shouting distance. Then the backstretch hits, and California Chrome kicks into another gear to storm to the victory. At the Kentucky Derby, Espinoza even took his foot off the gas down the stretch, and the pair still won comfortably. They couldn’t do that at the Preakness because of the length (the Preakness is 1 3/16 miles, as opposed to 1 1/4 for the Derby), but California Chrome never was in trouble.
California Chrome’s closing kick will be key at the Belmont, which is as much about patience as it is about speed and knowing when to make your move. The connection between Espinoza and California Chrome makes you confident they will be able to handle this. He’s the 10-11 favorite at Bovada, and it will take a horse’s best effort to stop his run at the Triple Crown on Saturday.