2014 Belmont Stakes Field: Early Look and Handicapping
by Trevor Whenham - 5/21/2014
The prospect of a Triple Crown for California Chrome certainly hasn't scared away contenders for the Belmont Stakes. As many as 11 horses are currently aiming for the race, and more could emerge as we get closer to the big day. Here's how the field is shaping up in the early days of the build up to the race:
California Chrome: The champ will be back for his date with destiny. The ridiculous non-scandal about the nasal strips has passed, and now all we have to hope is that he stays healthy and makes it into the starting gate. It's his race to lose, but you can be certain that he will be ridiculously overbet.
Ride On Curlin: The only horse willing to take California Chrome on three times seems to also be the horse that has given him the best race he has seen in his six-race winning streak. If all goes to plan, we will see Ride On Curlin for a third time. Oddly, we will also see a third different jockey on him. Calvin Borel rode him in the Derby and was horrible. Joel Rosario rode brilliantly in the Preakness, but he also rides Tonalist, and he has chosen to ride that horse in this race. That means that John Velazquez will be on board here. Velazquez has won this race twice, so he is a solid replacement.
From the Preakness
Social Inclusion: The third-place finisher in the Preakness is back for more. He didn't run his ideal race last time out - he was further back than he would like to be early on, and he struggled to recover. He has enormous talent, but it's very raw, and the distance is a concern given his issues in the stretch in his last two races.
Kid Cruz: The horse was a disappointing seventh in the Preakness after gaining a lot of momentum as a wise guy horse in the days leading up to the race. It wasn't a good day for him, but trainer Linda Rice has him back at her Belmont home base and is ready for another shot. I'm not convinced that the distance will suit him, but it's not like it really suits any American horse perfectly any more.
From the Derby
Candy Boy: The latest addition to this potential field is Candy Boy, the third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Derby that went on to finish a flat 13th in the Derby. He went back to California to regroup after that effort, but things have gone well enough that this race suddenly seems like a good chance.
Commanding Curve: He was a surprising second in the Derby, he clearly loved the distance, and now he's back for more. He won't go off at the crazy price that he did last time out, but he also isn't nearly the long shot here that he was last time we saw him.
Intense Holiday: After a disastrous Derby, Todd Pletcher took a pass on the Preakness, but he is back for another shot at Triple Crown glory in the Belmont. He was originally supposed to have Danza, the third-place finisher, here, but he isn't as healthy as he needs to be. That leaves this guy as his hope. The horse ran fine in the Derby - at least until the stretch. Then he completely ran out of gas and weakened badly. The distance is a big concern.
Samraat: The runner-up in the Wood Memorial will look to improve on his fifth-place showing in the Derby. He ran a solid race, and he actually looked like he was poised for big things around the final turn, but didn't have the best time down the stretch. He's a factor here - though not one to mortgage your house over.
Wicked Strong: The horse that beat Samraat in the Wood Memorial by one spot also beat him by one spot in the Derby. He was moving well at the end of the Derby, and it looked like he would have been happy to keep running - a good trait for a horse facing the grueling Belmont distance. He also had a legitimate excuse in that race - he stumbled coming out of the gate, and it took him a while to regain his balance and his confidence.
Commissioner: Pletcher has a second horse in the field - or at least he will if all goes according to plan. Commissioner comes into this race off a second-place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. We know he likes the track, but he clearly wasn't good enough against Tonalist on that day, and I find it tough to get particularly excited about him here.
Tonalist: You know that this is a pretty good horse if Rosario is choosing to ride him over Ride On Curlin. As mentioned, he was the very impressive winner of the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont over a sloppy surface. We were supposed to be introduced to him earlier on the Triple Crown trail - he was training towards the Wood Memorial, but a lung infection derailed those plans. He's an exciting horse that will gain a lot of attention as the hot invader in this race. But is he good enough?
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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