Last Updated: 2019-06-05
The final leg of the Triple Crown will be run on Saturday June 8 at 6:37 p.m. ET. It is the Belmont Stakes and it is the longest of the Triple Crown races. In fact, for most of these horses, it will be the longest race that they run in their careers. This 1 1/2-mile dirt run should be raced on a fast track with a picture perfect forecast expected on the second Saturday of the month.
There is decidedly less fanfare for this year’s race with no Triple Crown contender. Justify finished off the Triple Crown in style for Bob Baffert and Mike Smith last year. We might have had one had War of Will not been interfered with in the Kentucky Derby by Maximum Security. Instead, we just have an extremely fascinating and complex handicap on our hands.
Before we look at this year’s contenders, it’s important to lay some groundwork for this race. It is the longest race of the Triple Crown and the longest race that these three-year-olds have run to date. That means that speed matters slightly less, and quite a bit less compared to the Preakness Stakes. It means that you want a closer and a horse with a lot of endurance.
There is a reason why 23 horses have won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but have not finished off the Triple Crown. There have been 18 horses that have won the Preakness and Belmont. War of Will is hoping to become the 19th.
Note: For Brian Blessing’s thoughts on the race, either check out our podcast or watch the YouTube video above.
With that, let’s look at the odds and the trainer/jockey pairings for the 151st Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York:
||I. Ortiz Jr.
||War of Will
Tacitus and War of Will are clear chalk in this race, as no other horse came in lower than 8/1 after the post draw. War of Will starts on the outside after drawing inside posts for both the Derby and the Preakness. It didn’t stop the Casse colt from rolling to a relatively easy Preakness win.
With two speed horses on the outside, the race to the front shouldn’t meet much resistance for War of Will and Tacitus. We’ll see if they can maintain that pace over the 1 1/2 miles of this event.
We’ll break down all 10 horses here and see if we can put a winning card together.
- Joevia (30/1)
This untested colt has shown some excellent speed, but there are a lot of questions about its endurance. A nice win in the Long Branch at Monmouth back on May 12 came at a 2/1 price tag in a race with just four horses. Joevia was 11th in the Wood Memorial, which was won by Tacitus. Tax was second. Joevia was second to Alwaysmining in the Private Terms at Laurel Park back in mid-March. Alwaysmining was 11th in the Preakness.
Non-factor; but could set early pace
- Everfast (12/1)
There’s one thing that we can say about Everfast. He’s a closer. He hasn’t set the pace and it has been problematic in a lot of shorter races, but Joel Rosario stepped on the gas pedal at the right time in the Preakness to get the long shot on the board.
Rosario is now in the irons for Mark Casse and Sir Winston. Luis Saez, the maligned rider of Maximum Security, draws the assignment now. Everfast hadn’t hit the board since the Holy Bull on February 2 and hadn’t hit the board since winning a maiden at Ellis Park on August 12. It would be a stunner to see Everfast on the board again with a stronger field than the Preakness.
Maybe in superfectas, but not tri
- Master Fencer (8/1)
Speaking of closers, this guy had shades of Mariano Rivera-esque closing ability in the Kentucky Derby. A bumpy period between races included x-rays for a training mishap, so a lot of people are looking to sell their stock in Master Fencer, even though he is the third favorite on the board.
Julian Leparoux was well off the early pace in the slop at Churchill Downs, but the horse was a major closer to pass several horses en route to finishing sixth. The Belmont is definitely about closers, so we’ll see if enthusiasm about Master Fencer picks up again as the race draws near.
For me, I’m not expecting much. Maybe Master Fencer just liked the mud and rain more than the others. You can’t deny the speed shown in closing, but on a faster track with horses that have similar or greater endurance, it’s a tough sell.
Won’t be on my card
- Tax (14/1)
Will Tax be in tip-top shape to run? The colt trained by Danny Gargan will get what some believe is a jockey upgrade in Irad Ortiz Jr., who hops in the irons in place of Junior Alvarado. Tax looked nothing like the horse that won the Withers Stakes back in February or finished second in the Wood Memorial just over two months later.
Now Tax is back in New York after that quick stop in Kentucky. That’s not to say that Aqueduct and Belmont are the same, but simply to say that the long layoff to heal a foot bruise coupled with a clean slate with a new jockey could pay dividends here this week.
The more I look at Tax, the more I like this horse to hit the board. A non-effort in the slop at Churchill Downs doesn’t bother me.
Adding to exotics
- Bourbon War (12/1)
It will be interesting to see how this horse’s odds move as we get closer to post time. Mike Smith has won the Belmont Stakes three times dating back to 2010. He certainly had the horse last year with Justify, but won with Palace Malice in 2013 and Drosselmeyer in 2010. Maybe he just knows the right time to go with this long race.
Bourbon War really had a weak run at Pimlico for the Preakness. It was the first time Bourbon War had finished outside the superfecta in six starts. Sons of Tapit have won this race three of the last five years. Bourbon War is one of three. This may be a fool’s gold horse this week that entices bets with that last bit of trivia and with Mike Smith’s name.
Of course, Smith’s three wins here aren’t a fluke.
Superfecta consideration, but nothing more
- Spinoff (15/1)
I’ve had some good fortune during the last six weeks with mid-range shots that I’ve fallen in love with. Ulele finished second in the Black-Eyed Susan and Owendale came in third at the Preakness. Spinoff is one of my candidates for that this week. The team of Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano will certainly draw some attention. Castellano has never won the Belmont Stakes or the Kentucky Derby, which is kind of interesting. As strong as his career has been, he hasn’t fared as well as you would think in these highlight races.
A complete no-show in the mud at Churchill has soured opinions of this horse, but let’s keep in mind that Pletcher groomed this horse for the Kentucky Derby. His other horse in the Belmont, Intrepid Heart, was held back for this race. Maybe Intrepid Heart is a closer that just fits the track better, but he was running the Grade 3 Peter Pan while Spinoff was recovering from a run in the Derby. You would think an accomplished trainer like Pletcher would know his horses.
Maybe this is an Everfast kind of deal. Perhaps this is a one-shot horse. Maybe this is that one shot. The speed should be there. Pletcher’s confidence in the colt before Churchill Downs was telling. Remember, Spinoff started way on the outside in the Derby and it was run in pudding.
Will throw a win ticket and put in some exactas and trifectas
- Sir Winston (12/1)
This horse is going to be a polarizing figure on Saturday. The absolute best single-race Beyer figure in the field belongs to Mark Casse’s “other” horse. Consistency has been the issue. One win in nine races. Two places. One show. The efforts weren’t awesome in the Tampa Bay Derby or the Blue Grass Stakes. A second in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park has given horse players some hope and that Beyer figure does carry some weight.
That and the close. Sir Winston got tangled up with Intrepid Heart right out of the gate and was forever behind the pack. So far behind the pack that the camera even lost Sir Winston for a few moments. Sir Winston closed from about eight lengths back to one and a half lengths back. Jockey Joel Rosario picked the right time to go and the horse went.
A better starting trip this time around could make Sir Winston very dangerous. This is also a horse now familiar with running at Belmont.
The race’s biggest wild card
- Intrepid Heart (10/1)
Todd Pletcher has two horses in this race. Intrepid Heart is the other. Intrepid Heart ran third to Global Campaign and Sir Winston in the Peter Pan Stakes. It was a rather unimpressive run in a field of five with two pacesetters that weren’t going to stay up there. Intrepid Heart did get tangled up with Sir Winston at the start, so maybe things would have gone differently. It seemed like jockey John Velazquez hit the afterburners a little bit too early in playing catch-up and the horse petered out.
This is another of the Tapit offspring, so we’re likely to see some money hit the board in that regard. This is a relatively unraced three-year-old, with an allowance win at Keeneland on April 5 and the Peter Pan Stakes trip on May 11.
I don’t like the post draw for Intrepid Heart. He’s got two speed horses and pacesetters to his right and a closer with potentially elite speed to his left.
Not on my card
- War of Will (2/1)
Mark Casse and Tyler Gaffalione are once again teamed up for this one. We could be talking about a Triple Crown candidate if not for Luis Saez’s transgressions atop Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby. Instead, we’re talking about a horse that could go down in racing lore for what could have been.
War of Will had a really easy, almost effortless trip down the rail at the Preakness. He set the pace, sustained it, and mostly cruised. He is also the only horse in this field of 10 to have run in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. How will he handle the workload? How will he handle the 1 1/2 miles? He comes from the outside instead of the inside now, which is a big change from the first two races. Casse has to be excited about it, but the horse now has to maneuver through traffic if he can’t set the pace.
When healthy, War of Will has been the best. He was tripped and a little banged up for the Louisiana Derby. He won the Risen Star, Lecomte, and a maiden on dirt at Churchill last November after his transition from turf to dirt.
Pick to win, included in exactas and trifectas
- Tacitus (9/5)
Closers win the Belmont. Tacitus was a closer in the Kentucky Derby. Running through the muck and mud, Tacitus went from 16th at the half-mile mark to third. Well, fourth, but he moved up a spot with Maximum Security’s DQ. Jose Ortiz hops up in the irons for Bill Mott. Mott won this race with Drosselmeyer in 2010. Ortiz won this race for Pletcher two years ago on Tapwrit.
This is such a fascinating line. War of Will is 2/1 because of what he has accomplished. Tacitus is 9/5 because of what he could accomplish. It’s hard to fault the morning linesmakers because of that incredible close at Churchill. This is also a smaller field and the track will be in much better condition. Oh, yeah, and Tacitus is the third of the Tapit colts in the field.
Tacitus outlasted Tax in the Wood Memorial and outran Outshine and Win Win Win in the Tampa Bay Derby. Keep in mind, though, that Tacitus was 10/1 on the morning line going into the Kentucky Derby. There seemed to be more skeptics then. I’m still skeptical now. This horse is a fighter on the track, but seemed lackadaisical in practice leading up to Churchill. He’s had some good practice times at Belmont in preparation for this one.
Still, there’s something holding me back about this horse. This could very well end up a chalky race. It’s hard to argue with a 103 Brisnet score in that Wood Memorial run and that was even with an early bump.
Tenacity usually wins out at the Belmont with the longer distance. As a result, despite my reservations, I’m forced to put Tacitus in my exactas and trifectas.
Bet to win; exactas and trifectas
Win: 6 small; 9, 10
Exactas: Box 4, 6, 9, 10; Key 9, 10 w/ 4, 6
Trifectas: Box 4, 6, 7, 9, 10; Key 9, 10 w/ 4, 6, 7
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