It’s the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown and we may be anointing another horse to history if Justify can win the Belmont. It’s the longest and the most difficult of the three races for a horse to capture infamy after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. There will be nine other horses who will try to dethrone the favorite for horse of the year. Below are my comments for each horse in post-position order.
Post #1 – Justify (4/5). The class of the field. Racing to win the Triple Crown. Undefeated in all five lifetime starts. Top jockey, Mike Smith, top trainer, Bob Baffert, top Beyer numbers out of every horse in the field. Don’t let the one post position fool you, the #1 post has produced 23 champions at Belmont Park with five being Triple Crown winners. Justify will be the one to beat. My only question…will he have the stamina to go the 1 ½ miles to win his 6th in a row and the Triple Crown in only 112 days?
Post #2 – Free Drop Billy (30/1). This colt was looking like a Kentucky Derby contender until he ran in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile last November and finishing a disappointing 9th. He has not been the same horse since then but trainer Dale Roman has been getting some good workouts lately from Free Drop Billy which they hope will transfer over to the track.
Post #3 – Bravazo (8/1). This is the only other colt in the field who has run in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He was closing strong in the Preakness and only lost to Justify by a ½ length. He will be closing hard again and jockey Luis Saez will leave nothing on the track. When asked about Bravazo, his trainer Wayne Lucas said, “He’s a much better horse than I took to the Preakness, I know that. He’ll have to be.” If the fractions are fast up front and Bravazo gets a clean ride he can make some noise at the finish.
Post #4 – Hofburg (9/2). The only Tapit bred colt in the field who was America’s leading sire in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Tapit was also the sire of three of the last four Belmont Stakes winners. Additionally, Hofburg’s dam’s mother, Touch Gold, won the Belmont in 1997. This rested colt definitely has the pedigree to go the 1 ½ miles. His 7th place finish in the Derby should not be a factor when handicapping this horse, he ran through a lot of slop and traffic to finish strong.
Post #5 – Restoring Hope (30/1). This is trainer Bob Baffert’s other horse in the field. He ran on the undercard on Kentucky Derby day in the Pat Day Mile, a Grade 3 race, and finished 12th. If he wasn’t good enough to run with the big boys then…I don’t see him doing anything in the Belmont either.
Post #6 – Gronkowski (12/1). A lot of hype for this colt coming over from Great Britain due to his name. This colt has never raced on a dirt surface. He was entered in the Derby until getting sick with a fever and pulling out of the race. He will be racing for the first time on Lasix but I don’t think that will make a difference.
Post #7 – Tenfold (12/1). The manager of Winchell Thoroughbreds (owners of Tenfold), David Fiske, has been saying Tenfold has the best lineage for the Belmont Stakes, “I’ve been telling people there’s no better-bred Belmont horse in the crop, so we’ll see if breeding means anything.” Said Fiske. He finished third behind Justify and Bravazo in the Preakness. He’s lightly raced so he may surprise some bettors.
Post #8 – Vino Rosso (8/1). This Todd Pletcher trained colt cannot be overlooked. I look for him to be up near the pace throughout the race and make his bid in the last ¼ mile. He had a wide trip throughout his 9th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He will be rested after skipping the Preakness and will be ridden again by John Velazquez, who has two Belmont wins.
Post #9 – Noble Indy (30/1). Another Todd Pletcher trained colt who is entered in the Belmont. He has run his best races when on or near the lead. I look for this colt to challenge for the lead but I don’t think he has the stamina to keep up. He will be giving late closing horses in the field a huge advantage if he can set lightening fractions up front.
Post #10 – Blended Citizen (15/1). This is the only horse in the field who has run over this Belmont track when he won the Peter Pan Grade 3 back on May 12th. It took him five starts to break his maiden (his second start on the turf). I don’t think he has been tested against this class of horses even though he has two Grade 3 wins and over $400,000 in earnings for his owners. Trainer Doug O’Neill added blinkers three starts ago and that seems to be keeping the colt focused.
My selections: #1 Justify (4/5), #4 Hofburg (9/2), #8 Vino Rosso (8/1).
Long shot: #7 Tenfold (12/1)