As a lifelong horse racing fan who has never witnessed a triple crown winner, I promise you that I want to see California Chrome win the Belmont Stakes as much as you do. However, as a lifelong horse racing fan, I know it's nearly impossible to do so for several reasons. Here are a few.
1. At a mile and a half, the Belmont Stakes is freakishly long
The derby is 1 1/4 miles, and the Preakness is 1 3/16, but the the extra 1/4 mile at the Belmont makes a surprisingly big difference. These horses are just three years old and none of them have ever raced 1.5 miles. In fact, at the time of the derby only a handful of the horses had even ran a 1 and 1/4 before.
Very, very few races are run over a mile and a half, which means that most horses never even run a race at 1.5 miles, which also means horses aren't bred for that distance.
Such a great distance for such young horses has a very crap-shooty feel. Assuming of course, that crap-shooty is a word.
2. California Chrome will be the most tired horse in the Belmont field
Over the past few decades much has been written about the increasing frailty of Thoroughbred horses. Through generations of selective breeding for speed (not durability), today's horses are much less durable than horses from Seabiscuit's era.
Seabiscuit raced a whopping 89 times, whereas the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, I'll Have Another in 2011, wasn't even able to make it TO the Belmont. He scratched the day before the Belmont from an injury and never raced again.
Big Brown was the last horse before him to win the Derby and Preakness, and after finishing last in the Belmont Stakes, he never raced again either.
Horses today simply don't race three times in five weeks anymore, even racing twice in that time frame is very rare nowadays. While winning twice in three weeks is feasible, winning thrice in five weeks is downright Herculean. Especially considering it's over three different tracks, and some horses just don't like certain tracks and never run well over them.
Then on top of all that, talented horses like Danza, Wicked Strong and Commanding Curve will be markedly more rested than California Chrome for this freakish distance.
3. The other jockeys can kind of team up on California Chrome
Jockey's like the great Jerry Bailey (retired) and Gary Stevens love taking out the favorite even if their own horse doesn't win.
It's likely in the Belmont that California Chrome will seek a position just behind the leader and against the rail to save ground. Another horse can ride up alongside California Chrome and not let him out around the lead horse, which 1) will cause Chrome to get a little antsy and expel more energy than necessary, and 2) will cause California Chrome to get a lot of dirt kicked in his face that he wouldn't be taking if he could just get out a few wider.
It's also possible that the horse ahead of California Chrome, and alongside him will eventually get passed by California Chrome down the stretch, but not before they softened him up a little bit for the late running closer (like Commanding Curve in the Derby, or Ride on Curlin in the Preakness) to then benefit from the other two horses having tired out California Chrome and nip him at the wire.
It's a little like a a sparing session where a champion boxer faces a new, fresh opponent each round. If, in the 8th round, the 8th sparring partner manages to put the champ on his back, that doesn't mean the 8th partner is superior to the champ, even though it sure looks like he is.
Racing tactics like this happen all the time, especially with big favorites in big races. To make another sports analogy, it's similar to how a baseball pitcher never wants to give up a record breaking home run to a hitter and be remembered forever in history as the pitcher who gave it up. No jockey wants to be on the losing end of a triple crown, so they'll help each other out a little to make sure they aren't.
It's part of the game.
4. The Nasal Strip Issue (Update: California Chrome is permitted to wear his nasal strips)
California Chrome wears the horse equivalent of Breathe Right nasal strips. While they are legal in California, Kentucky and Maryland, the sites of his last 6 wins- they are only mostly legal in New York, the site of his next race. By "mostly legal" I mean that horseman have to formally ask permission to use them in New York state, and it's up to the track to allow them or not.
If he's not allowed to wear one, we have no idea how much it will affect his chances but it can't help them, especially when we know he's gonna be fatigued and in the longest race of his life.
You might be thinking, "That sounds stupid. Isn't there some kind of nationwide, centralized governing body in horse racing that establishes the same rules for every track in every state?".
Well, no. No there isn't.
And you're right. It is extremely stupid.
5. Because if Smarty Jones couldn't win the triple crown, nobody can.
In 2004 Smarty Jones was undefeated heading into the Derby, and I think he was the first favorite in about 11 years to win the Derby, and he won impressively. He went on to win the Preakness easily enough and was the overwhelming favorite (1/5!!) in the Belmont, in a particularly weak field.
His triple crown coronation seemed inevitable until the last 1/16th of a mile when 35-1 Birdstone came skipping along with happy feet and ran down Smarty before the wire. I was at that race, with a recording setting attendance, and entire crowd reacted as though they just had the wind knocked out of him. It was unforgettable. I told myself that day to NEVER get excited for a triple crown winner because no horse will ever be more likely to win it than Smarty and even he didn't win it.
And you know what? He never raced again either.
Listen to the emotion in the voice of track announcer, and my all-time favorite announcer for any sport, Tom Durkin call this race. It was a great call that totally summed up the collective ethos of all racing fans that day. The sadness in voice when he mustered, "Birdstone wins the Belmont Stakes" was the saddest sports call I've ever heard.