ELMONT, N.Y. — The tension is palpable as post positions are drawn for the
Which might be a good thing for
Though some of California Chrome’s connections acknowledged the position is less than ideal, they shrugged it off, saying the race will turn instead on jockey
“This is a jockey’s race,” co-owner
Assistant trainer Alan
The 6-1 second choice on the morning line is
"The middle seems like the place to be," Jerkens said. "It seems like jockeys don't have to do as much maneuvering in the early part of the race. It just makes it easier for them to settle their horse initially."
Jerkens is a second-generation New York trainer, so he knows Belmont Park well. And he's another who says the importance of the draw is mitigated by the length of the race.
"You got the big, sweeping turns and the big, long run down the backstretch to see if you should go up a little or take it easy a little," Jerkens said. "I'd have to think of all the [Triple Crown] races, this is the one where post position means the least."
Ride On Curlin, a 12-1 choice on the morning line after his second-place finish at the Preakness, drew the coveted No. 5 post. His trainer,
"I'm tired of being out on the outside," he said. "It's a good post position, right in the middle."
Ride On Curlin and General a Rod are the only horses who will join California Chrome for a third consecutive leg of the Triple Crown. And Ride On Curlin will do it under a third different rider, Hall of Famer
Despite the constant changes and the rigorous schedule, Gowan said his horse seems fit — a touch ornery as always.
Ride On Curlin’s Preakness jockey,
"He's coming into the race well," owner Robert Evans said. "I wouldn't mind if he had a few more than four races. We don't really know how good he is."
Other new challengers include two
"The key to the race and the key to beating him is just having a horse who will stay a little longer than he will," Pletcher said. "At this point, the way he ran the Preakness and the Derby, I wouldn't necessarily project that he can't get the mile and a half. It remains to be seen."
One old challenger who seems almost forgotten this week is
If the Derby had gone beyond 1 ¼ miles, would Commanding Curve have caught California Chrome?
“We’re hoping a little extra distance will be to our benefit,” trainer
Among a pack of 20-1 choices are General a Rod, steady New York-based colt
All are gunning for California Chrome of course. Trainer Art Sherman said he's still thrilled with his horse's fitness after six weeks away from home and the two biggest races of his life. "He looks super galloping," Sherman said.
Without as much early speed in the Belmont as there was in the Preakness, Espinoza might be able to take his horse to an early lead and set his own pace. If that happens, it's an open question whether any horse in the field can catch California Chrome.
Coburn made no bones about picking his horse to win before the Kentucky Derby or Preakness. And he didn't back off after the draw at Belmont.
"We know this horse has a hell of a shot at winning the Triple Crown," Coburn said. "And I honestly believe he's going to do it."
2014 Belmont Stakes post positions (and odds)
1. Medal Count (20-1)
2. California Chrome (3-5)
3. Matterhorn (30-1)
5. Ride On Curlin (12-1)
6. Matuszak (30-1)
8. Commissioner (20-1)
9. Wicked Strong (6-1)
10. General a Rod (20-1)
11. Tonalist (8-1)