Belmont Stakes Post Positions 2014: Odds and Predictions for Every Horse
In the Belmont Stakes, post position is not nearly as critical as in the Kentucky Derby. While an advantageous draw is always a positive, a poor draw is not nearly as much of a deal-breaker as it is in a 20-horse field.
On Saturday, history will be made one way or another. California Chrome will either ascend among racing's most elite as a Triple Crown winner or take his place among the great horses that fell short in the Belmont Stakes despite their brilliance.
Here is a look at each contender in the order they will break from the gate, with odds courtesy of the Daily Racing Form.
Post Position: 1
Medal Count has the pedigree to excel at the mile-and-a-half distance. That will help his chances, but at this point he has given no indication he can successfully compete on conventional dirt against top-level company.
To go along with his potential surface limitations, he has also not proved to be consistent at all. Judging by his spotty record, there is no telling which Medal Count will show up on any given day. Dale Romans has expressed confidence in his colt, however, as he gushed to Blood-Horse about his recent workout:
That was one of the best I’ve ever had a horse work. This horse is just a machine and he’s on a major uptick; he just keeps on improving. He did it galloping along; it was so easy for him. He was fully recovered by the time he walked off the racetrack. We didn’t ask him to do any running, but if they’re good and they’re on their game they do it. He likes to work and he likes to run.
Medal Count did get a historically ideal post position—23 winners have broken from the inside, including Palace Malice in the 2013 installment.
Post Position: 2
In the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, California Chrome benefited from textbook-perfect rides from jockey Victor Espinoza. There is one cause for concern, however. Espinoza, despite being regarded as a top-tier jockey, is a glaring 2-of-67 throughout his career at Belmont Park.
Nevertheless, he seems unfazed by this statistic, as he told the New York Daily News' Jerry Bossert: “That’s my record? I don’t even know. I don’t follow records and I don’t really care about records. I just care about the horses I ride.”
In 2002, Espinoza was aboard Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem in the Belmont Stakes. Though the pair finished eighth as the heavy favorite, that one can be chalked up to poor luck and a bad stumble at the break, neither of which were the rider's fault.
Espinoza will need to draw upon every ounce of his expertise to win this race, just as California Chrome will need to run the race of his life to prevail and earn his spot in history. Eleven winners have won from the second post position, so he has that in his favor.
Post Position: 3
While several of the contenders for this year's Belmont Stakes have dubious records, Matterhorn may be the least accomplished of all. Though he broke his maiden sharply in his debut over a good group including Tonalist in November, a whole lot can change from then to June.
Since that maiden win, he has given no indication he is even a top allowance horse, let alone a Grade 1 stakes sort of racehorse. While it would not be a Triple Crown race without a couple of horses from the always loaded Todd Pletcher barn, it is a big leap of faith to think this one has much of a chance.
Post Position: 4
Commanding Curve was making up ground strongly in the mile-and-a-quarter Kentucky Derby, and the assumption with a horse like that is that he will excel with the additional quarter-mile. That may be the case, and while he has plenty of stamina on his sire's side, his female family does have more of a sprint influence.
At this point, it's not certain whether this colt is a true mile-and-a-half type of racehorse. Without actually having a stakes victory to his credit, there is also no telling whether he is a legitimate Grade 1 competitor, or if his Kentucky Derby runner-up finish was a fluke performance.
Ride On Curlin
Post Position: 5
Ride On Curlin was able to prove that he was a better horse than his seventh-place finish in the Kentucky Derby indicated with a game runner-up effort to California Chrome in the Preakness. He will get another chance at his rival in the Belmont Stakes.
Competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown can take a lot out of a horse. For a colt like Ride On Curlin who is notoriously difficult and excitable, the wear and tear can eventually begin to show. After initially generating some positive buzz with his workouts at Belmont Park, the shine seems to be fading.
Mike Welsch of the Daily Racing Form tweeted that the colt "doesn't seem to be galloping quite as strong the past two mornings," which leads one to wonder whether the grind of the Triple Crown has finally caught up with him.
Post Position: 6
While some trainers seem to enjoy just having a horse in a marquee race, Bill Mott is not that sort of horseman. Even if a horse seems ambitiously spotted, the masterful trainer puts it where he believes it can win. Though Matuszak has just an outside chance of pulling off the upset, he is an intriguing long shot who may be getting good at the right time.
Though his runner-up effort to Kid Cruz in the Federico Tesio Stakes was not exactly flattering when that rival came back to bomb at Pimlico, he seems like a colt who is steadily and quietly improving. He has yet to prove he can compete against top-class company, but he has a Grade 1 pedigree and comes out of a top, respected barn.
Post Position: 7
Samraat will have to overcome some evident distance limitations, but this New York-bred colt does have home-track advantage and has yet to run a bad race in his seven-race career.
After slugging it out with his rival Uncle Sigh in his early races, he has proved to be a battle-tested, serious racehorse. With Social Inclusion skipping the Belmont Stakes, the front end becomes a little bit more open, and his tactical speed should work in his favor.
Some of his rivals have hinted at brilliance but lack consistency. He has shown that he will run his race every single time. Whether that is good enough here remains to be seen.
Post Position: 8
At least Commissioner is bred to get a mile-and-half. His pedigree may be the only thing he has going for him at this point.
Commissioner is a son of Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, who has already sired a Belmont winner in Rags to Riches. His dam is a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold, so he has an abundance of stamina on both sides of his pedigree.
He has yet to show, however, that he is as good as his pedigree suggests he should be. Since showing promise early in his career, he has struggled against stakes company and will need to make a massive step forward to live up to his lofty breeding.
Post Position: 9
There is a lot to like about Wicked Strong. After a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby, he showed his class to earn fourth and finished like a horse who will only benefit from the additional quarter-mile.
The colt has been known to be a little headstrong and difficult to handle, so extensive schooling has gone into preparing him for the Belmont Stakes. With a Triple Crown on the line and one of the greatest undercards in racing history assembled, the crowd will be so large it could rattle even the steadiest horse.
David Grening of the Daily Racing Form tweeted positive things about his schooling session in the starting gate Wednesday morning: "Wicked Strong was perfect in gate schooling session on training track this morning. Went in twice, stood quietly pic.twitter.com/r5iWpjuv9J."
General a Rod
Post Position: 10
One has to wonder if trainer Michael Maker realizes he can attend a Triple Crown race without actually having a horse in the event. After an 11-place finish in the Run for the Roses, General a Rod showed modest improvement to finish fourth in the Preakness.
His chances do brighten now that Social Inclusion is sitting this one out. The lead should be his for the taking, and with a stamina-filled female family, you could make a legitimate case for him to get the distance.
Popular jockey Rosie Napravnik will be back aboard, and she tweeted her excitement: "Since breaking his maiden 10/18/13 I've been anxious to get back aboard #GeneralARod Can't think of more perfect race than #BelmontStakes :)."
Post Position: 11
It is difficult to not make a comparison between Tonalist and Freedom Child. Last year, Freedom Child turned in a stunning effort over a sloppy track in the Peter Pan Stakes and was generating quite a bit of buzz heading toward the Belmont Stakes. Sound familiar? He finished 13th.
With only 11 horses likely racing on Saturday, at least Tonalist is nearly guaranteed a better finish position. His win in the Peter Pan Stakes was impressive, but at this point it remains to be seen how deep the field he defeated actually was.
He will get a major test in the Belmont and will have to prove he is as good over a fast track.