Even with two early favorites for the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes, it’s a tough group to get a feel for. Most the runners in the field of 10, have many questions to be answered, and most have had their fair share of issues in previous races.
The Preakness Stakes winner WAR OF WILL, is not the morning line favorite at 2-1. He’s the second choice behind the 9-5 TACITUS. To be honest, the morning line oddsmaker had me scratching my head after the draw.
War of Will is the only entry in the group to run all three legs of the Triple Crown. And who knows, if he wasn’t checked and forced out when things started to unfold in the Kentucky Derby, we might be looking at a competitor for the Triple Crown.
He’s the fastest horse in the field, but the two races in the last seven weeks might of taken a toll on him to take on the 1 1/2-mile Belmont, likely the longest race these horses will run. Tacitus was pushed up to third in the Derby after the disqualification of Maximum Security. He’s well rested after skipping the Preakness, and has three sharp workouts coming in.
The son of Tapit, (Sons of Tapit have won three out of the last five Belmont’s) is well bred for the distance, and gets an ideal outside post. Both early favorites will be on my trifecta ticket, but I think both are vulnerable.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, sends in SPINOFF and INTREPID HEART. Pletcher has three wins and three place honors in the last 11 Belmont Stakes. It’s a track he excels at, and a race that is marked on his calendar. His runners are well rested and ready to roll at double-digit odds. Both runners have the pedigree for the journey, and I’m going to land on one of them for top billing. I believe we’ll have three different winners for this year’s Triple Crown challenge.
So good luck and let’s cash some tickets.
Top Four Contenders
INTREPID HEART is also a son of Tapit, so he’s well bred for the distance. The lightly race colt had two wins before stumbling out of the gate in the Peter Pan Stakes, and had to work hard to get up for the third spot. His speed figures have improved with each effort, and love to see HOF jockey John Velazquez remaining aboard for Pletcher. With only his fourth start, and a healthy price when the gates open, it would be rude not to take a shot on him to pull off the upset.
SPINOFF didn’t enjoy the sloppy track at 52-1 in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 18 lengths back, but I expect a bounce back on the fast track today. His morning works have been impressive on the sandy surface, and with only five career starts, Pletcher must feel pretty good about his runner to bring him back in five weeks. Take notice that Pletcher had his horses training at the Belmont track, and Spinoff has been doing his morning works there for the last five weeks. I think this horse is going to show a huge improvement, and we’re going to get around 15-1 odds with him.
WAR OF WILL is bred well for the distance and will be pressing the pace from the start. The son of War Front, who has won close to $1.5 million in earnings, and might be the favorite at post time. He’s going to have a lot of backers at the betting windows. The most experienced runner in the field, he will probably have first crack to pounce on front runner JOEVIA, and then he’ll have the target on his back as the one to catch down the stretch run. I think he’s the horse to beat, but my concern is his stamina, and the fact that only four runners have won the Preakness/Belmont after finishing off the board in the Kentucky Derby.
TACITUS has been working smartly and is a big strong looking colt. He’ll come from off the pace and grind away at the runners ahead of him. He has finished in the top four spots in his five career starts, including three wins. Jockey Jose Ortiz has been the pilot in all five races, so he knows his runner well and where to position him. I expect Ortiz to sit a little closer to the front, with the lack of group speed, and start picking off runners one by one. Horse will love the distance, and I can see why many bettors like him as the favorite. Trainer Bill Mott, won the Belmont in 2010 with Drosselmeyer.
$20 Win/Place Intrepid Heart $40
$1 Trifecta Box (Intrepid Heart, Spinoff, War Of Will, Tacitus, and Sir Winston) $60