The field for the 2013 Belmont Stakes has yet to take complete shape, but there are several definite entries into the 145th Test of Champions who have Triple Crown experience from this year.
According to Horse Racing Nation, four competitors from the Kentucky Derby are slated to saddle up for the final leg of the Triple Crown, and three of them are trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.
On top of the intrigue that Churchill Downs champion Orb and recent Preakness winner Oxbow will inevitably create in Elmont, New York, the following four horses are sure to be part of the conversation in some regard.
Let's take a closer look at the four thoroughbreds that are all but locked in for Belmont Park and power rank how their styles translate to the physically demanding 1.5-mile track.
Note: All statistics and past race information, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of KentuckyDerby.com.
4. Palace Malice
If his run at the Kentucky Derby is any indication, the Belmont is the least likely place for Palace Malice to thrive. Though his bid at Churchill Downs started well with a blistering pace, he faded with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard to finish 11th after leading in the beginning.
Endurance is the name of the game at this horse racing showcase, and Belmont Park will prove to be unfruitful once again if Palace Malice isn't better controlled from the starting gates.
Smith was in the saddle for Pletcher's Will Take Charge at the Preakness, so it remains to be seen who will get the mount this time around for the speedster.
Whomever is aboard, the key will be a rather modest pace in the early going—similar to Oxbow's steady cruise that ultimately allowed him to win wire-to-wire at Pimlico.
Perhaps something similar is in store for Palace Malice in this one, but it seems unlikely in light of how quickly he faded in the Run for the Roses.
The winner of the Arkansas Derby gained some traction as a decent contender, with 16-to-1 odds before the most exciting two minutes in sports got underway.
Unfortunately, jockey Rafael Bejarano couldn't manage better than 11th place aboard Overanalyze in the Kentucky Derby beginning at the No. 9 post position.
Given the run horses whose names begin with "O" have been on, it may be somewhat justifiable to blindly go in on Overanalyze—counter to his namesake. The Belmont simply does not fit his style, though, as his pedigree boasts no truly viable horses with regard to distance capacity.
Though the track at Churchill Downs was sloppy in early May, it seems that Overanalyze doesn't have the fortitude to navigate 10 furlongs—much less the 12 he'll face at Belmont Park.
2. Golden Soul
Lost in the stunning surge Orb had down the final straightaway at the Kentucky Derby was the long shot who finished in second place—Golden Soul.
At 34-to-1 before the start of the race, he was considered the third-least likely champion in oddsmakers' eyes, yet it took an extraordinary push from Orb for Golden Soul not to find the winner's circle.
Golden Soul may have had the run of a lifetime at Churchill Downs, but competing that well on such a massive stage can't be the result of a fluke. Resting him up ahead of the Belmont was a wise choice made by trainer Dallas Stewart.
Those fresh legs should give Golden Soul the requisite longevity in this grueling test to cap off the Triple Crown season, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him inside the top three again.
Unlike some horses who won Grade I stakes races as a momentous tuneup for the Kentucky Derby, such as Overanalyze and Goldecents, Pletcher's top contender for the Triple Crown's first jewel converted his success at the Louisiana Derby to a third-place effort.
Brisnet's Ed DeRosa polled his plethora of Twitter followers to gauge early sentiments about the Belmont Stakes; other than Orb, Revolutionary was the top choice to win:
1st look at Belmont Stakes poll: 1. Orb; 2. Revolutionary; 3. Golden Soul; 4. Freedom Child; 5. Oxbow.— Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) May 15, 2013
Which Todd Pletcher horse will fare best at the Belmont?
There's good reason for that. Revolutionary actually lived up to the hype in Louisville unlike several of the more heavily favored horses.
In the above Louisiana Derby triumph, he beat the likes of Mylute—who finished fifth in the Run for the Roses and third at the Preakness—and Departing, another trendy pick at Pimlico Race Course.
Having that type of success against such a high level of competition should bode well for Revolutionary, who has the size, swiftness and stamina to push for the August Belmont Trophy in a few short weeks.