If you’re new to horse racing, or don’t follow it as closely as you think you should, then you might wonder why everyone is discussing California Chrome versus the Belmont mile and a half. The horse that everyone is talking about these days has a chance to be the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978, and the final leg of this tour is wholly different than the first two.
Updated Belmont Stakes Morning Line Odds
- Medal Count (20-1)
- California Chrome (2-5; opening morning line was 3-5)
- Matterhorn (30-1)
- Commanding Curve (15-1)
- Ride On Curlin (12-1)
- Matuszak (50-1; opening morning line was 30-1)
- Samraat (20-1)
- Commissioner (30-1; opening morning line was 20-1)
- Wicked Strong (10-1; opening morning line was 6-1)
- General a Rod (30-1; opening morning line was 20-1)
- Tonalist (8-1)
Not all tracks are built the same. The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs, which is a notoriously tight track. With a field of twenty horses strong, there was a ton of bumping and jostling as the colts literally jockeyed for position. California Chrome wasn’t caught in any of that nonsense, which is one of the reasons that he seemed to break away from the pack so early.
The Preakness is a shorter track, but not much shorter and California Chrome ran the perfect line at Pimlico. The difference between the Derby and the Preakness is only 100 meters, or a half-furlong. That’s why so many owners and trainers pulled their horses out of the Preakness: if they couldn’t beat California Chrome at the Derby, there was no sense in trying to run them in the Preakness in a similar race.
Everyone saw what California Chrome did against a smaller field while racing against nine other horses instead of nineteen – he obliterated them again. The colt from Dumbass Partners ranch is a defiant sprinter who is exceptional at grinding up the home stretch of a track. So the question is how well prepared California Chrome is versus the Belmont mile and a half.
Comparing The Triple Crown Race Track Distances
- Kentucky Derby – 1 ¼ mile (10 furlongs)
- Preakness Stakes – 1 1/16 mile (9.5 furlongs)
- Belmont Stakes – 1 ½ mile (12 furlongs)
In casual conversation, an extra 400 meters doesn’t seem like a big difference but it’s massive.
The extended distance is one thing, but Belmont Park also has much wider turns which can reduce traffic that caught so many other horses during the Derby. And like human beings, horses can be exceptional at sprinting or better over longer distances. So as you can tell, there are plenty of reasons to diminish California Chrome’s chances of winning the 2014 Belmont Stakes.
The field hasn’t been posted in full just yet but these are the first handful of notable horses that are running at the Belmont. Social Inclusion, who was the second favorite heading in to the Preakness, is being pushed to the middle of the pack because he’s more of a sprinter. Perhaps one of the best horses to back in terms of value is Ride On Curlin, who finished second at Pimlico and was pouring on the speed down the stretch. At 8/1, it’s hard to find a better payout on a horse that can perform well at this distance.
California Chrome’s -115 odds aren’t nearly as heavy as they were for the Preakness, where he opened as a -150 favorite. It’s obvious that even the oddsmakers are having their doubts about California Chrome’s chances, and that number is holding steadily above one-to-one simply because of his immense public backing.
— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) June 4, 2014
And if it seems like the discussion of California Chrome versus the Belmont mile and a half is being overblown, keep in mind that the New York track has stopped 12 other horses from achieving the illustrious Triple Crown. Even famed horse racing writer Steve Davidowitz wrote earlier this week that, “it might be more of a long shot than most are willing to admit” when discussing California Chrome’s chances of making history.
Still, despite all this naysaying, no horse has been this dominant in a long time. He will not be the best horse at this distance, but this colt has also risen to the challenge provided by his competition. To become legendary, however, California Chrome will have to win the battle versus the Belmont mile and a half.
And even if you bet against him, in your heart you know you’ll be rooting for him.