You can expect a lot of Triple Crown talk over the next two weeks or so as California Chrome is on the verge of becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. However, the marathon at Belmont Park is going to be extremely difficult.
The pessimists out there will enjoy this. California Chrome’s Belmont odds at Bovada show him as the favorite at 1-1, but we have three reasons why he’ll disappoint and miss out on the Triple Crown.
He will face a very good field at Belmont Park.
This isn’t to say that California Chrome hasn’t beaten two excellent fields so far at Churchill Downs and Pimlico. However, the prospective list of Belmont Stakes starters includes his top three challengers (Commanding Curve, Wicked Strong and Samraat), all of whom skipped the Preakness. Ride On Curlin’ and Social Inclusion finished second and third to California Chrome at the Preakness, respectively. They are second and third on the Belmont odds, as well, being listed at 5-1 and 15-2, respectively.
Tonalist, Commissioner and Matterhorn all came in the top four at the Peter Pan Stakes, a Grade-2 race, so they are no slouches either.
The Belmont Stakes is REALLY hard.
The Belmont Stakes is called the “Test of the Champion” for a reason. It is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1 1/2 miles, which can feel like three miles if it is run on a rainy day. This is more a test of stamina than it is of pure speed, and this is where the jockey comes into play. They have to pace the horse throughout the entire race, knowing when to turn it on. Victor Espinoza has done a phenomenal job of working with California Chrome throughout the first two races and he also has experience on his side. However, recall that Espinoza missed out on the Triple Crown in 2002 with War Emblem, finishing eighth in the Belmont after winning the first two jewels.
California Chrome and his handlers also have to deal with fatigue because this horse could be worn down. He was shipped from California to Churchill Downs in Kentucky, to Pimlico in Maryland, and now he is off to New York for the Belmont. Then you have to factor in all the extra attention that California Chrome has been getting because of his success, and that has to make him expend more energy than usual because this is all new to him. The attention is only going to ramp up as we get closer to the Belmont. That being said, California Chrome has been fantastic throughout this run toward history, with a ton of credit going to his handlers. But the Belmont is a different beast, and there is a reason that 12 horses that have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown then gone on to fall at the Belmont. Fatigue would be right up there with the main reasons.
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