California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, will attempt to become just the 12th Triple Crown champion with a victory Saturday in the 146th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.
The chestnut colt, trained by Art Sherman, has been installed as the 3-5 favorite in the 11-horse field for the 1 1/2-mile "Test of the Champion." Victor Espinoza, who has ridden California Chrome in his last six starts, will again be in the saddle as the pair will start from post 2 seeking a feat that has not been accomplished since Affirmed swept all three classic races in 1978.
"Going a mile and half, it's a good post position," Sherman said following the post position draw on Wednesday. "He'll save some ground leaving there."
Since Affirmed became the last Triple Crown champion 36 years ago, 12 3-year- olds have come into the Belmont Stakes with a chance to sweep the series. Just two years ago, I'll Have Another won the first two legs but was scratched from the Belmont with an injury.
California Chrome, owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, joins Spectacular Bid, Smarty Jones and Big Brown as the only 3-year-olds since 1979 to be favored in all three Triple Crown races.
"Well, Secretariat was No. 5 in the Derby, No. 3 in the Preakness and No. 2 in the Belmont," noted assistant trainer Alan Sherman, son of Art Sherman, about the coincidence of California Chrome's starting assignments in relation to those of the 1973 Triple Crown champion.
California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby on May 3 by 1 3/4 lengths over Commanding Curve and came back two weeks later in the Preakness to defeat Ride On Curlin by 1 1/2 lengths. He was sent off as the 5-2 and 1-2 favorite, respectively, in the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
"It's been a tremendous ride, it's all because of this horse," said Coburn. "And our trainer and his son, assistant trainer, jockey and especially the groom, Raul, he takes pretty damn good care of this horse. It's all coming to the point, it's all coming to the top of the pyramid right now."
California Chrome has won all five starts this year for $3,237,800 and is working on a six-race win streak dating back to his final start of 2013. Along with the first two Triple Crown events, California Chrome this season won the California Cup Derby, San Felipe Stakes and Santa Anita Derby. He closed his 2-year-old campaign by claiming the King Glorious Stakes on Hollywood Park's final day.
The morning line has Wicked Strong, fourth in the Kentucky Derby, as the 6-1 second choice for Saturday and the 8-1 third pick is Tonalist, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes last month at Belmont Park.
Wicked Strong will be ridden by Rajiv Maragh from post 9 with Tonalist breaking from the far outside post with Joel Rosario in the saddle.
Here is the complete field for the Belmont Stakes in post position order: Medal Count, 20-1, Robby Albarado; California Chrome, 3-5, Victor Espinoza; Matterhorn, 30-1, Joe Bravo; Commanding Curve, 15-1, Shaun Bridgmohan; Ride On Curlin, 12-1, John Velazquez; Matuszak, 30-1, Mike Smith; Samraat, 20-1, Jose Ortiz; Commissioner, 20-1, Javier Castellano; Wicked Strong, 6-1, Rajiv Maragh; General a Rod, 20-1, Rosie Napravnik; and Tonalist, 8-1, Joel Rosario.
The 146th Belmont Stakes has an approximate post time of 6:52 p.m. ET.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for sunny skies, no chance of rain and a post time temperature of near 80 degrees.