The 2018 Belmont Stakes Horse Racing Odds and Picks

Last Updated: 2018-06-07

The post draw has taken place for the 150th Belmont Stakes, as we wait as see if Justify will add his name to the legendary horses that have secured the Triple Crown before him and if Mike Smith can also engrave his name into the list of immortal jockeys. We went from 1978 to 2015 without a Triple Crown winner, but we’ve got a clear-cut favorite looking to give us our second in just four years. The race with a post time of 6:46 p.m. ET on Saturday June 9 is going to draw a lot of attention and a very high viewership.

There are always so many interesting considerations for the Triple Crown. For those horses that have run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, this is such a tough turnaround with three enormous, and long, races in short order. Those horses that ran the Derby, but skipped the Preakness, are certainly a lot fresher. There are also some horses that are in the Belmont that have not run any of the Triple Crown races. This is the longest race of the set, measuring 12 furlongs, which is why we’ve had 23 horses that have won both the Derby and the Preakness, but have not finished the Triple Crown.

One interesting nugget about this year’s set of races is that this could be the first time in 120 years that all three Triple Crown races have been run in the rain, per Jon White of XBTV.

Here are the horses, jockeys, trainers, and odds for the 150th Belmont Stakes:

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Justify M. Smith B. Baffert 4/5
2 Free Drop Billy R. Albarado D. Romans 30/1
3 Bravazo L. Saez D. Wayne Lukas 8/1
4 Hofburg I. Ortiz Jr. W. Mott 9/2
5 Restoring Hope F. Geroux B. Baffert 30/1
6 Gronkowski J. Ortiz C. Brown 12/1
7 Tenfold R. Santana Jr. S. Asmussen 12/1
8 Vino Rosso J. Velazquez T. Pletcher 8/1
9 Noble Indy J. Castellano T. Pletcher 30/1
10 Blended Citizen K. Frey D. O’Neill 15/1

While we certainly want to focus on the horses that are in the field, there is one extremely notable name missing. That is Audible. Audible ran third in the Kentucky Derby and would have probably been the second favorite on the board, but WinStar Farm is the majority owner of the New York-based horse. With Justify going for history, a business decision was made to sit Audible out. That couldn’t have sat well with Todd Pletcher, who still has one of the top contenders in Vino Rosso in the field, but still. Audible is reportedly not fit to race. Skepticism reigns supreme regarding that quote.

Anyway, let’s take a look at all 10 horses that are in the field and see if we can find some good bets.

  1. Justify (4/5)

Justify is the deserving favorite, despite the draw on the rail. Touch Gold is the last Belmont Stakes winner from the #1 post. Twenty-three horses have won from the first post in the Belmont Stakes, at least dating back to 1898 when that information was first tracked.

American Pharoah snapped a streak of 13 consecutive Belmont Stakes when the winner of the Derby and the Preakness came up short. California Chrome did it in 2014. I’ll Have Another did it in 2012, with Big Brown in 2008. Other horses that have won the first two and have lost the Belmont include War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, and Spectacular Bid, who made exactly that in 1979 when trying to be the third straight horse to win the Triple Crown. Seattle Slew and Affirmed did that the previous two years.

Justify is 5-0 in five races, including a win in the Santa Anita Derby. Three race wins in Grade I stakes events is quite impressive and that’s why we’re talking about a horse with the chance to make history. The 1.5-mile length will be a new test for him. In the Santa Anita, Justify basically went wire-to-wire, as Javier Castellano pushed Bolt d’Oro a little early to close the gap. Things were close around the final turn, but Justify hit that second gear and won by several lengths. Good Magic gave it a good run at Churchill, but ultimately fell short by a decent amount.

Jockey Mike Smith now has six Triple Crown wins to his name, including wins in 2010 and 2013 at the Belmont atop Drosselmeyer and Palace Malice.

Do we have to worry about Justify here because of the workload? This is a horse that was not run at all as a two-year-old and now has been run five times since February 18. Is there enough left in the tank? That seems to be the only serious concern because this is a world-class horse with incredible speed.

 

  1. Free Drop Billy (30/1)

We might have had a Triple Crown winner in 2012, but I’ll Have Another was scratched from the race. The winner that year was Union Rags. The sire of Free Drop Billy is the one and only Union Rags. Union Rags finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby and sat out the Preakness before returning for the Belmont. Well, Free Drop Billy was 16th in the Derby and sat out the Preakness, so we aren’t exactly following the same script, but this horse has potential to at least hit the board. Challenging Justify is another story, but Free Drop Billy hit the board in the Blue Grass Stakes, Gotham Stakes, and Holy Bull in the Road to the Kentucky Derby as a three-year-old. He also won the Breeders’ Futurity over Bravazo, who is in post #3.

It would be a huge stunner if Free Drop Billy follows in his father’s footsteps and wins this one, but finding the board in third isn’t a complete long shot.

 

  1. Bravazo (8/1)

Bravazo is one of two horses to run all three legs of the Triple Crown. The other is your favorite. Bravazo was second to Justify at Pimlico Race Course in the heavy fog and thick mud. It was a rather interesting race to say the least, as Bravazo made a huge move in the last furlong to narrowly pass Good Magic and Tenfold for second place. That finish may have lead to a little bit too much of an overadjustment for Bravazo. A win in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes came against a pretty lackluster field at Fair Grounds and a sixth in the Kentucky Derby was a solid, but unspectacular run.

Good Magic got bumped by Justify as the two went shoulder-to-shoulder at Pimlico and that stunted his progress. This was also a relatively weak field at the Preakness. If you’re looking for a horse to upend Justify, I don’t think this one is it and I’d be really worried about Bravazo coming back for a third time in a premier race. As incredible as D. Wayne Lukas’s career has been, he’s only had one winner in a Triple Crown race since 2000.

From the tape, Bravazo would have caught Justify with a longer race, but Mike Smith also backed down Justify when it was clear that the win was in sight, so that may not be the best thought process to use.

 

  1. Hofburg (9/2)

Irad Ortiz Jr. was atop Creator in 2015 when he won the Preakness and Bill Mott was the trainer of Drosselmeyer for the 2010 Belmont, so these two have had a little bit of success recently, although not together. Hofburg’s disappointing seventh-place finish at the Kentucky Derby wasn’t that much of a surprise with 20/1 odds, but Hofburg was coming off of such a strong run at the Florida Derby, where he finished second to Audible.

The reasons why Hofburg has odds like this are not hard to find. There have been some good workouts and speed metrics with this horse, but it hasn’t been raced a lot and skipped the Preakness. The post position draw in the middle certainly isn’t a bad thing. Irad Ortiz Jr. may be young, but he’s got some big wins already in his career and a lot of impressive showings in the state of New York.

Hofburg sat back a lot in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby at Gulfstream and made a big push around the final two turns. In that race, though, Jose Ortiz was riding saddle. Will Irad Ortiz have a different plan of attack?

Hofburg may hit the board in some capacity, but challenging Justify seems like a long shot.

 

  1. Restoring Hope (30/1)

If fresh horses are your thing, there aren’t many fresher than Restoring Hope. He ran the Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs the weekend of the Kentucky Derby and finished 12th, despite odds of 9/2 as the third favorite on the board behind co-favorites Mask and National Flag. A 30/1 in Funny Duck won, followed by another 30/1 in New York Central.

With Mike Smith, who ran Restoring Hope in the Pat Day Mile, on Justify, Florent Geroux draws an opportunity with this horse. The ride in the Pat Day Mile wasn’t great, as the trip out of the gate was slow and the muddy track and a crowded field of 14 didn’t really help. He was third to Vino Rosso and Enticed, two Derby horses, in the Wood Memorial, but didn’t have the strongest of rides.

 

  1. Gronkowski (12/1)

By now you know the backstory of Gronkowski. The horse named after the Patriots tight end is now partially owned by #87. We don’t really know what this horse will do coming stateside for the first time. Four straight wins across the pond have certainly intrigued some folks and this is a well-rested horse that hasn’t run since March 30.

Unfortunately, he’s never run on a dirt course and he’s probably going to be running on a muddy one at that. The Kentucky Derby was supposed to represent the US debut, but an infection kept him from the field and Instilled Regard slotted in. Gronkowski has only run on turf and synthetic surfaces, which makes this horse a longer shot than the odds would suggest.

 

  1. Tenfold (12/1)

Tenfold was a surprising third-place finisher in the Preakness Stakes. It was a strong run from the Curlin descendant that mostly came out of nowhere after a rather disappointing fifth-place finish at the Arkansas Derby. Tenfold ran well in some tune-up races at Oaklawn Park, but that Arkansas Derby performance really pushed the Steve Asmussen colt down the board at Pimlico. It was a quality show finish for the 20/1 shot, as two 20/1 shots hit the board in the fog, but it was clearly a pretty unexpected run, as the 3/1, 12/1, and 15/1 all failed to hit the board with better odds.

Tenfold probably won’t be that popular of a pick come race day, but the workout times and the horse’s overall demeanor have been pretty positive per the reports coming out of Belmont Park.

 

  1. Vino Rosso (8/1)

The colt most likely to keep us from a Triple Crown is Vino Rosso. The Todd Pletcher/John Velazquez team will be hoping for just that on Saturday evening. Vino Rosso’s disappointing ninth-place finish at the Kentucky probably came as more of a shock than it should have, as Vino Rosso showed the upside by winning the Wood Memorial, but also failed to hit the board at the Tampa Bay Derby. This is an upside horse, but consistent hasn’t really been a strong suit. The third-place finish at the Sam F. Davis Stakes is further confirmation.

But, from a speed standpoint and a strategic standpoint, Vino Rosso is a real contender. Noble Indy is also a Todd Pletcher horse to the right of Vino Rosso. In that respect, the Pletcher team can piggyback the two of them to make runs at Justify and see if they can tire him out. After all, both Vino Rosso and Noble Indy bypassed the Preakness after disappointing showings in the Kentucky Derby.

Vino Rosso was also saddled, pardon the pun, with a bad starting position in the Derby. He had to come from way out on the outside with a muddy, sloppy track. It’s also worth pointing out that Vino Rosso won the Wood Memorial on the longer track in his final tune-up race. He never got it going at Churchill, but was thought to be a real contender. Vino Rosso isn’t a fast starter and wasn’t in the Wood Memorial either, as he was near the back around the first and second turns, but made a huge run from the middle of the field around the third turn to win the race.

This is a much stronger field, so that big push may not be as easy, but this is a horse that runs its best late in the race and this is the longest of the Triple Crown races.

 

  1. Noble Indy (30/1)

Pawn or possible contender? Will Noble Indy, with the team of Todd Pletcher and Javier Castellano, serve as more of an early-race hindrance to Justify or will this 30/1 shot actually make a push to get to the board? Noble Indy was very impressive in the win at the Louisiana Derby over Lone Sailor and My Boy Jack. It was a good bounce back effort four weeks after falling short in the Risen Star.

Noble Indy isn’t a great distance runner by all accounts, which is why giving Justify a push early in the race could be the best deployment of this colt. You never want to say that a horse or a jockey is just going through the motions, but the odds are this long for a reason. Tire out Justify and open the door for Vino Rosso. Be a team player.

 

  1. Blended Citizen (15/1)

You’re probably asking yourself why Blended Citizen comes in with lower odds than horses that have run in, and had success in, Grade 1 stakes races. At least you should be. Blended Citizen’s best performance came right here on this very track in the Peter Pan Stakes back on May 12. It wasn’t the strongest of fields, being a Grade 3 stakes race, but it was still a fine performance from Doug O’Neill’s colt. A fifth-place finish in the much stronger Blue Grass Stakes was a somewhat impressive step-up in class following the Jeff Ruby Stakes.

All in all, Blended Citizen gets a little love for its most recent run on the Belmont track, but it will have a hard time being a contender in a much stronger race.

 

Picks for the Derby

To me, the horse with the best shot to prevent Justify from winning the Triple Crown is Vino Rosso. It is a shame that we can’t see a rested Audible in this field, but it is what it is. Hofburg will be a trendy pick as a rested horse with speed. Bravazo has the upside, especially with how it closed at Pimlico, but it is the only other horse to have run in all three Triple Crown races.

We’ll say Justify, Vino Rosso, Hofburg as the finish, with Bravazo at the end of those superfectas. Box or key them as you wish, but the odds are very good that we see another Triple Crown winner just four years after American Pharoah.

 

-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-

 

A field of 12 will run in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown. Unlike two years ago, we won’t be looking for a horse to go down in history, but this should still be an exciting race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. This Grade I stakes race features 12 of the nation’s top three-year-olds and has a few very interesting wrinkles that will make handicapping the event a bit of a challenge.

This is the first time since 2010 that the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the winner of the Preakness Stakes will not be competing in the Belmont Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing will not be part of the field. The race took another hit when it was announced that Classic Empire, expected to be the clear favorite, will be out of action due to a hoof abscess. The lack of intrigue in this race from the common fan could hurt ratings and possibly attendance, but those looking for good betting angles have to be excited about the field and the number of competitors that have a chance to win.

Here are the post positions and the morning line odds as of June 7:

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Twisted Tom J. Castellano C. Brown 20/1
2 Tapwrit J. Ortiz T, Pletcher 6/1
3 Gormley V. Espinoza J. Shirreffs 8/1
4 J Boys Echo R. Albarado D. Romans 15/1
5 Hollywood Handsome F. Geroux D. Stewart 30/1
6 Lookin At Lee I. Ortiz Jr. S. Asmussen 5/1
7 Irish War Cry R. Maragh H. Motion 7/2
8 Senior Investment C. Hill K. McPeek 12/1
9 Meantime M. Smith B. Lynch 15/1
10 Multiplier J. Rosario B. Walsh 15/1
11 Epicharis C. Lemaire K. Hagiawara 4/1
12 Patch J. Velazquez T. Pletcher 12/1

The Belmont is arguably the most difficult and challenging of the three Triple Crown races. It is the longest at 1.5 miles, which plays a big role because many of the horses have run in recent races. In some cases, horses have a couple of months off between the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes and other races. That isn’t the case here. Those that ran in the Kentucky Derby will have five weeks off and those that ran three weeks ago at Pimlico have a quick turnaround.

The morning line odds leader is Irish War Cry at 7/2. Irish War Cry drew the seventh post, which is a good one because this is a long track, so it gives Rajiv Maragh plenty of time to come from the outside, get in on the rail, and lead the H. Graham Motion trained horse to victory. Irish War Cry was expected to be a big factor in the Kentucky Derby after a solid Road to the Kentucky Derby performance that included a win at the Wood Memorial and the Holy Bull, but 10th was certainly not the finish that anybody had in mind. Irish War Cry was sired by the legendary Curlin, so bloodline definitely played a role in his hype prior to the Derby.

A newcomer to the Triple Crown scene, Epicharis, was posted as the second favorite at 4/1. Epicharis ran in the UAE Derby and finished a strong second in his last start. This is an unknown horse to many casual observers, but it’s pretty clear that the oddsmakers and the informed bettors are very much aware of his upside. There’s something extra on the line for Epicharis as well, as the New York Racing Association offers an additional one million dollars to any Japanese-owned horse. That could make things very interesting on Saturday. Epicharis’s only career loss came at the UAE Derby to Thunder Snow, who was spooked at the start of the Kentucky Derby and finished last.

The third favorite on the board is a Steve Asmussen trained colt named Lookin At Lee. Lookin At Lee wasn’t expected to do much in the Triple Crown circuit, but expectations changed in a big way after finishing second at Churchill Downs as a 30/1 shot. For this race, Lookin At Lee opened 5/1 after post positions were drawn. It will be interesting to see how many bettors are looking at Lookin At Lee as the only horse in this race to be running the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and also the Belmont. Fatigue will be a huge consideration for those wagering on Saturday. In fact, this is already the sixth race in 2017 for Lookin At Lee, who was fourth at the Preakness, second at the Kentucky Derby, third at the Arkansas Derby, sixth at the Rebel Stakes, and third at the Southwest Stakes. That’s a lot of activity and probably worth passing on.

Tapwrit, who finished sixth at Churchill Downs, is on the board at 6/1 on the opening morning lines. Any time Todd Pletcher’s name is associated with a horse, you can bet that it will see some play and one from the bloodline of Tapit is certainly going to get some extra attention. Tapwrit drew the #2 post for this race, so it will be imperative for jockey Jose Ortiz to avoid getting caught in a sea of horses along the rail. That makes Tapwrit a little bit of a tougher pick.

Pletcher actually has two horses in the race, as Patch will have the chance to come from the outside and score the win at 12/1. The one-eyed thoroughbred was something of a fan favorite at the Kentucky Derby and finished 14th. Patch will be ridden by John Velazquez, who has two career Belmont wins, including one when teamed up with Pletcher back in 2007 on Rags to Riches, one of three fillies to win the race.

Don’t be surprised if a double-digit shot dons a necklace of carnations after the race. Two that seem to have a decent shot are Senior Investment, who finished third at the Preakness Stakes, and Multiplier, who was sixth at the Preakness, are coming in at 12/1 and 15/1, respectively. Senior Investment comes from the camp of highly regarded trainer Kenneth McPeek and Multiplier has a terrific rider in Joel Rosario. Rosario picked up the win on Tonalist back in 2014.

A horse that we will look to put in some of our wagers is Gormley. The 8/1 shot was victorious at the Santa Anita Derby on the Road to the Kentucky Derby circuit, but never really threatened in ninth place for the Kentucky Derby. Victor Espinoza has won his share of big races, including the 2015 Belmont atop American Pharaoh, during its historic run. John Sherriffs has quite a few big wins, but none in this race and this looks like as good of a year as any.

This is tough handicap, but at least the forecast calls for good weather finally. The first two Triple Crown races have been run on very saturated, sloppy tracks. It should be fast and smooth at Belmont Park this weekend. With that under consideration, we’ll look at a combination of Epicharis, Tapwrit, and Gormley to finish in the top three, with additional consideration for Epicharis to take the victory.

 

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