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A completely wide-open field of 12 horses will take center stage in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets at Belmont Park. The Belmont Stakes is the third jewel in America’s running of the Triple Crown, and for the second straight year, we will have three different horses win the Triple Crown races.
The 149th running of the “Test of the Champion” at 1 1/2 miles puts an exclamation point on the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, a spectacular three-day celebration featuring 18 stakes worth more than $9 million and six Grade 1 events. Since moving many major stakes races to this day, Belmont Park has created a day of racing that rivals any day of racing that will be run all year long. Post time for the Belmont, which will be broadcast by NBC, is 6:37 p.m. ET.
#1 Twisted Tom – It’s been a wild ride this Triple Crown season, so why not pick a 20-1 shot on top in the Belmont Stakes? Look, there are certainly three or four horses that might look better than Twisted Tom on paper, but with several factors in his favor, he could erase that in this race. The most important thing is that his pedigree SCREAMS Belmont Stakes winner; his damsire, Thunder Gulch, won this race (and the Kentucky Derby) in 1995, while his sire’s sire, Giant’s Causeway, finished second in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Also, it doesn’t hurt having Chad Brown and Javier Castellano on your side. Twisted Tom has pointed towards this race for a while now, and last time out at Laurel Park, he seemed to put everything together in a big way and picked up a nice stakes victory. This is going to be a big step up for him, but expect him to outrun his odds in a big way while also having a legit shot when turning for home.
#7 Irish War Cry – It’s well-documented how much this horse has killed me over the past few months. The biggest disappointment was his Kentucky Derby 10th-place finish, when I picked him to win. Despite that, I was still willing to pick him on top here – until he assumed favoritism after Classic Empire scratched. I just can’t stomach picking this horse to win as the favorite when I have such little confidence in him. When he’s on his “A” game, he can be very tough to beat, but who knows why he doesn’t show up at times? Use him defensively on your multi-race tickets, but don’t make him the top choice.
#2 Tapwrit – Heading into the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes two races back, this was the hottest horse on the Kentucky Derby trail, but he was a bitter disappointment in that race when he finished fifth. Despite a tough trip in his next start, his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby showed an improved effort. His pedigree suggests that he’ll have a shot in this race, and he’s shown the ability to be forwardly placed if need be, so those are positive signs. He’s ready to run a big race here.
#3 Gormley – I’ve never been a huge fan of this horse, but his pedigree and running style make him an interesting candidate for the Belmont. Trainer John Shirreffs would not ship this horse to New York unless he thought that he had a big chance of running well. Last time out in the Kentucky Derby, he made a bit of a move on the turn before flattening out to finish ninth, but he never really had the trip that he needed to win that race. Here, he needs to get out to the front and grind his way to the finish. If he can get that forwardly-placed position, I believe that he will keep running and have a shot.
#11 Epicharis – I’m trying to better understand this Japanese invader as we go along. His last race came 77 days ago in the Grade 2 UAE Derby at Meydan Race Course on Dubai World Cup night, where he finished second by a nose. It was the first loss of his career after winning four straight in Japan leading up to that effort. All good news, until you look at the horse who beat him that day: Thunder Snow, who had a rough time in the Kentucky Derby. The third-place finisher Master Plan was only a couple of lengths behind the pair, and that horse has struggled since returning. There are mixed signs with this one, but his class and running style make him intriguing. *UPDATE: Has been scratched Saturday morning after standard pre-race examination revealed continued inflammation in the horse’s right front.
#6 Lookin At Lee – Every single time he runs, I’ve put him in this category. It’s like a broken record with him; he literally runs the same race every single time. It’s enough to fool some into believing “Next time, he’ll get there.” The bottom line is that, at this level, he’s always going to be running late to pick up the pieces, but never actually win. Expect more of the same for a horse that I would LOVE to own, but would never bet to win. The ultimate underneath horse.
#8 Senior Investment – He was a fast-closing third last time out in the Preakness Stakes after winning the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes two races back. His late running style is a little scary here, as the Belmont Stakes tends to favorite front-runners, but that’s not always the case – last year, Creator rallied from the back with 1/4 mile left to win. This horse doesn’t have that same closing kick, but don’t be surprised if he runs up and hits the board.
#4 J Boys Echo – Although I’ve never been a big fan of this horse, his pedigree is good enough to give him a little bit of a look. He’s really only run one race – the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes – that’s good enough on paper to compete with these foes. The good news is that he beat the eventual Preakness winner, Cloud Computing, in that race. I nearly put him in the “Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers” category, but he fits better here.
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#9 Meantime – This is probably just me being stubborn. I love Timeline, the winner of the Peter Pan Stakes, so since he isn’t running here, I’m giving the second-place finisher a close look. Meantime has the early speed that you like to see for a race like this, and with the right trip, he can take them a long ways on the front end. His pedigree is a little sketchy, which is a worry, but at a big price, he might be worth a shot.
#12 Patch – I feel so sorry for Patch, who I actually thought had a decent chance to make some noise here before he drew the far outside post AGAIN. He drew post 20 in the Derby, and now post 12 here. This colt truly has no luck whatsoever. Hopefully, there are luckier days ahead for this guy.
#10 Multiplier – His solid victory two races back in the Illinois Derby made him interesting heading into the Preakness Stakes, but he was a non-factor. The extra distance might hinder him here. Don’t give him much of a shot.
#5 Hollywood Handsome – Don’t let anyone talk you off of the horse that you like in this race. Even though I have Hollywood Handsome last, it doesn’t mean he’s hopeless. This is the most wide-open Belmont that I’ve ever seen. He’s coming into this one off of an allowance win at Churchill Downs, but his previous races have left a lot to be desired.
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