The Belmont Stakes are either the biggest event of the horse racing season, or the most meaningless. In 2014, California Chrome has turned the Belmont Stakes into a massive event, thanks to his wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. But for the last 35 years, the Belmont has also been the most disappointing race in all of horse racing, although it can all change with one more California Chrome victory on June 7.
This is the 13'th time since 1978 that a horse has had a chance to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes. Assuming that nothing happens to California Chrome before post time, he will be the first horse to actually run with the Triple Crown on the line since Big Brown in 2008. However, no horse has truly come close since Smarty Jones lost the lead at the last second to longshot Birdstone in 2004.
10 years later, California Chrome will face a field of longshots in his efforts to make history. Given how he led wire to wire at the Kentucky Derby and pulled ahead halfway through the Preakness, he has already proven his endurance. Nevertheless, he has never endured anything like the mile-and-a-half long track and the historic pressure he will face at New York.
Minutes before the New York Rangers face the Los Angeles Kings in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, this is one event where all of New York will cheer for something associated with California. Of course, the hopes and prayers of New York and the entire horse racing world have never been enough at this point since 1978.
California Chrome has dominated an unheralded field of Triple Crown hopefuls thus far, just like many horses before him in the last three decades. On paper, nothing should be able to stop him now, but the Belmont Stakes has a way of tripping hopefuls up at the last minute -- whether through the track, unlikely longshots, acts of God, or the limitations of the three races through five weeks Triple Crown formula.
Soon after post time at 6:52 p.m. est on NBC, California Chrome will either join the greatest list of winners in horse racing history, or the list of the greatest near misses of the last 36 years.