Horses That Can Win the 2014 Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/27/2014
There are currently 11 horses being pointed to the Belmont - a cast that has already gone through a lot of changes. While California Chrome is obviously the star, what's interesting is that it isn't particularly difficult to make an argument for at least eight of the 11 to win the race. The only three I don't really believe in are Kid Cruz, Matterhorn and Matuszak. The other eight, though, are all horses that can win the Belmont - if everything goes precisely their way on the day. Here's a look (odds to win the race are from Sportsbook.ag):
California Chrome (even): What needs to be said here? He has twice proven to be far better than the rest of the field in Triple Crown races, so he deserves every ounce of respect he is getting here. His pedigree offers serious distance limitations and concerns, but I said the same thing in the Derby and even in the Preakness, and he outran those. He is unquestionably the horse to beat, though it will be no walk in the park or coronation for him.
Ride On Curlin (+500): He recovered from a horrible ride in the Derby to finish a very strong second in the Preakness. He looked like he had a whole lot left in the tank at the end of that race, so the extra distance here may be to his liking. He has also looked very good in training on the Belmont surface. He has yet to win a stakes race, but what a time to change that this would be.
Tonalist (+700): He is emerging as the wise guy horse after a very dominant win last time out in the Peter Pan Stakes over this same surface. When you look at him you are struck with awe - he just looks like a racehorse. Despite that, though, there are plenty of causes for concern - he has only four career starts and one stakes appearance, he won over an off track last time out and that could have helped his performance, he likes to run on the lead and that isn't ideal in the Belmont, trainer Christophe Clement is talented and successful but not known for three year old success. I could go on, but you get the point - the potential is massive, but the concerns are many.
Wicked Strong (+800): He won the Wood Memorial then finished fourth in the Derby as the second betting choice. When you look back at that race, though, you can't help but respect the horse - he stumbled out of the gate and then collided with Candy Boy, but he still recovered to finish strong. He's a very talented horse with decent breeding for this challenge, and he would be attractive at this price, which I don't expect him to stay at.
Commanding Curve (+800): He was an impressive second in the Derby, coming from the back of the pack to chase down all but the winner. It was a great performance - especially considering closers usually struggle against an early pace as slow as we saw in that race. Oh yeah - and he was 38/1 in that race. Now handicappers have to figure out whether he was totally disregarded in the Derby and has that kind of potential or whether it was a fluke of the performance in which everything came together just right.
Samraat (+2000): After a second in the Wood Memorial and a fifth in the Derby, this horse has largely been forgotten. He had won all five of his starts before that, though, so he knows how to win. He also broke his maiden at Belmont, so he has same familiarity and affection for the track. He's certainly a live long shot.
Commissioner (+3000): There are a couple of things to really like about this horse. There is no hotter jockey on the planet than Javier Castellano, and he dominates the New York circuit, so he obviously can perform at Belmont. The horse also has excellent breeding for this race. His sire, A.P. Indy, won the race, and so did his damsire Touch Gold, his grandsire Seattle Slew, and his great-grandsire Secretariat. It's hard to see how his breeding will make him fast enough to beat horses he just hasn't been good enough against in earlier tests, but he could be worth a gamble at the price.
Social Inclusion (+3000): This is a clear sign of how fickle horse racing bettors can be. In the Preakness this horse was the second betting choice. Now, after a decent third in that race, no one is paying any attention at all. He has not lived up to his hype in his last two outings, but he has massive talent, and one day he is going to put it all together and reach his full potential. The distance and his running style don't seem ideal here, but he has to be considered.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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