A field of 14 go in Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes
With Oxbow ending Kentucky Derby winner Orb’s chances at Triple Crown glory in the Preakness, the winners of the first two jewels of racing’s Triple Crown did not scare anyone away, as a field of 14 will line up in Saturday’s $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.
Orb was able to rally from far off the pace over a sea of slop to win the Run for the Roses, while Oxbow was able to steal the Preakness Stakes (G1) over a fast track.
Now it is on to the Belmont Stakes, known as the “Test of Champions” as none of these three-year-olds has ever traveled 1-½ miles and likely will not again after Saturday.
Mother Nature may again play a role, as there is a 60 percent chance of showers on Saturday afternoon in the Big Apple.
Here are my power rankings for the entire field for the 145th running of the Belmont Stakes.
(Morning line odds from NYRA.com.)
Trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle longshot Midnight Taboo
Why He's Here: This colt is one of five that trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle and the only one without stakes experience. The colt had a troubled trip in his last start, a runner-up finish against first level optional claiming company.
With just a maiden win in three career starts, the colt figures to be one of the longest shots in the field of 14. The colt is out of a Thunder Gulch mare. Thunder Gulch won the 1995 Belmont Stakes.
Best Asset: His best asset would be his connections, led by Mike Repole who has plenty of success in New York, as well as his trainer Todd Pletcher, a five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer. Pletcher did not fare well in this year’s Kentucky Derby getting blanked with five starters and comes back in this race with five runners.
Morning line odds: 30-1
Post position: 8
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be seeking his second Belmont Stakes win with Incognito
Why He's Here: A win against first level optional claimers earned him a start in the Peter Pan, but he was outrun over the sloppy speed friendly racing strip and checked in fifth, beaten 15-¾ lengths by the winner Freedom Child.
The colt will come into the race as one of the biggest prices in the field. His trainer Kiaran McLaughlin won the 2006 Belmont with long shot Jazil, who paid $14.40.
Best Asset: While he has not shown it yet on the track, this colt is bred to be a nice one. He is by A.P. Indy, who won the 1992 Belmont Stakes. His mare is the multiple stakes winner Octave, who won the 1-¼ mile Coaching Club of America Oaks (G1).
Morning line odds: 20-1
Post position: 6
Why He's Here: The colt managed to beat nine runners in the Run for the Roses with his 10th place finish. His trainer Anthony Dutrow did not seem pleased his owners wanted to run the colt in Louisville. “My clients wish to race and obviously I’m going to honor their decision,” Dutrow said at the time via BelmontStakes.com. The trainer did not make it to Louisville to saddle the colt.
The colt’s best finish in a graded stake was his third in the Spiral Stakes (G3) at Turfway Park in his final Derby prep, sent off in that race at odds of 23-1.
Best Asset: The colt is getting a jockey upgrade from Jose Espinoza to Hall of Fame rider Edgar Prado, who was responsible for two of the biggest upsets in the history of the Belmont Stakes. Prado booted home Sarava in 2002, paying $142.50 and ending the Triple Crown bid of War Emblem. In 2004 he was aboard Birdstone, who ran down Smarty Jones in the stretch, extinguishing the popular colt’s shot at Triple Crown glory. The upset winner paid $74.
Morning line odds: 30-1
Post position: 4
Vyjack is looking to bounce back off a subpar effort on Derby Day.
Why He's Here: The colt won his first four career starts, including a couple of graded stakes, and ran a credible third in the Wood Memorial (G1) in his final Derby prep. On the first Saturday of May he put in his worst effort of his career, fading to finish a well beaten 18th.
The colt skipped the Preakness Stakes and is looking to bounce back with a better effort here for one of New York’s leading trainers Rudy Rodriguez.
Best Asset: The colt has shown an ability to win by being up front like he did in the Jerome (G3) in January and has shown he can win from off the pace like he did in the Gotham (G3) in March. That will give his new jockey Julian Leparoux options, and the rider is known for his patience it is likely he will take a tracking role in the race.
Morning line odds: 20-1
Post position: 11
Trainer Ken McPeek pulled off the biggest upset in Belmont Stakes history with Sarava
Why He's Here: The colt showed plenty of promise as a juvenile last year with a dazzling maiden win in his second career start and then missed winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) by just a neck.
The colt is 0-4 this year with a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) his best effort. The colt raced wide much of the trip in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and beat just three foes in a 16th-place finish.
Best Asset: Trainer Ken McPeek knows his way around a good horse with Curlin, Take Charge Lady and Harlan’s Holiday among his top runners.
McPeek was responsible for blowing up the toteboard in the 2002 Belmont Stakes (G1), with Sarava the biggest upset in the history of the race, returning $142.50 for a $2 wager.
Morning line odds: 30-1
Post position: 1
Why He's Here: The D. Wayne Lukas trainee won the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park which stamped him a ticket to Louisville where he did not have the best of trips in an eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Most were expecting a better effort in the Preakness Stakes, but that did not happen in a seventh-place finish.
The colt will need a major turnaround to be in the mix and is reunited with jockey Jon Court, who was aboard the colt in his Rebel and Smarty Jones wins.
Best Asset: The colt certainly has one of the most appealing pedigrees in the field. He is by Unbridled’s Song out of the brilliant mare Take Charge Lady, who was a multiple Grade 1 winner who earned $2.4 million in her career. She also produced 2012 Florida Derby (G1) winner Take Charge Indy.
Morning line odds: 20-1
Post position: 10
Golden Soul was a solid runner up in the Kentucky Derby
Why He's Here: The colt was dismissed in the Kentucky Derby at 34-1 but came running after the early pacesetters started to wilt and he rallied for a solid runner-up finish behind Orb in the Kentucky Derby.
In his final prep for the Run for the Roses, he put in a good late run to finish fourth in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
His trainer Dallas Stewart may not be as well-known as some of the trainers in the race, but he spent time as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who now has won an all-time high 14 Triple Crown races in his career.
Best Asset: His late running style does not always equate well in the Belmont Stakes despite the longer distance, and he did get a good pace set up in Louisville. However, his pedigree has enough stamina built in that he should be able to handle the extra ground.
He is by Perfect Soul who was a champion turf horse and out of an unraced Mr. Prospector mare. Mr. Prospector’s influence can be found in plenty of Belmont Stakes winners, including Fusaichi Pegasus, Victory Gallop, Birdstone and Empire Maker.
Morning line odds: 10-1
Post position: 14
Why He's Here: The Tom Albertrani trainee was not prepared for the start in the Wood Memorial (G1) and was declared a non-starter and bounced back in a big way with a gate to wire score in the Peter Pan Stakes (G2) on May 11. Under jockey Luis Saez the colt set sharp early fractions over a sloppy speed favoring racing strip to win by 13-¼ lengths.
Best Asset: The colt brings plenty of early zip to the race and has shown he can handle a wet track. However, his best asset may be the fact that the colt still has some upside. If we toss the Wood debacle, he only has one true test against stakes company.
Morning line odds: 8-1
Post position: 2
Why He's Here: His Arkansas Derby (G1) victory back in April was his third graded stakes win, but the colt never really got untracked in the Kentucky Derby, checking in 11th and beaten 13-½ lengths at odds of 16-1. His trainer Todd Pletcher bypassed the Preakness Stakes with his entire stable, and he now brings this colt back off a five-week break.
There are just three in the race that have won three graded stakes, and this guy is one of them. The other two are Orb and the filly Unlimited Budget.
Best Asset: Aside from having Pletcher calling the shots, this guy seems to bounce back from subpar efforts with a win. In other words, he seems to fire his best every other race, meaning he may be ready to fire a good one on Saturday.
Morning line odds: 12-1
Post position: 3
Unlimited Budget suffered her first career loss in the Kentucky Oaks
Why She's Here: The filly has unlimited talent, a winner of four of her five career starts including a trio of graded stakes wins. Her lone loss came in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) where she checked in third. Pletcher saddled the filly Rags to Riches to win the 2007 Belmont Stakes, the first filly to do so since Tanya in 1905.
Her owner, Mike Repole, is a native New Yorker who wants to win the Belmont Stakes really bad, and of the three the owner will send out (Overanalyze and Midnight Taboo are the others), this filly appears to have the best shot of winning.
Best Asset: Her best asset may be that she is flying under the radar this week and may end up offering decent betting value on Saturday. She is 8-1 on the morning line, and having not competed in the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, she may end up getting overlooked at the betting windows.
Morning line odds: 8-1
Post position: 13
Why He's Here: The colt showed he belonged in this class with a neck loss in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland over polytrack. The colt was sent off at 23-1 in the Kentucky Derby, but the addition of blinkers set him rolling early and he set fast early fractions and had nothing left, fading to finish a well beaten 12th.
Pletcher skipped the Preakness with this colt, and he looked very capable of bouncing back with a better effort here under hall of fame rider Mike Smith, who won the 2010 Belmont Stakes aboard Drosselmeyer.
Best Asset: What may prove to be his biggest asset is Pletcher taking the blinkers off. Blinkers tend to put speed into horses and this guy just went too fast early in the Kentucky Derby. If Smith can get him to relax early, he will bounce back with a better effort.
Morning line odds: 15-1
Post position: 12
Gary Stevens stole the Preakness aboard Oxbow
Why He's Here: The colt bounced back from his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby by stealing the Preakness Stakes under a crafty ride from Gary Stevens, who sent the colt early while none of the other speed materialized.
The colt snapped a four-race losing streak that dated back to his win in the LeComte (G3) at Fair Grounds in January.
Whether Stevens takes him to the front or he sits back, this colt has enough pedigree to handle 1-½ miles. He is by Awesome Again out of the mare Cee’s Tizzy, who is a full sister to two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow.
Best Asset: His Hall of Fame connections is his best asset. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has now won 14 Triple Crown races, the most in history. Lukas has won the Belmont Stakes four times including three years in a row from 1994-96.
Jockey Gary Stevens came out of retirement and barely had any dust to blow off. The Hall of Fame jockey has booted home three Belmont Stakes winners, but it has been a while. His last win came aboard Point Given in 2001.
Morning line odds: 5-1
Post position: 7
Revolutionary came up the inside for third in the Kentucky Derby
Why He's Here: Another Pletcher trainee, this colt came up the inside under jockey Calvin Borel and made a good late run to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, beaten just 3-½ lengths for the top spot. The colt may have been closer, but Borel had to wait for a bit of running room nearing the quarterpole.
The colt showed his gameness with neck wins in the Louisiana Derby (G2) and Withers (G3) in his two previous starts and looks capable of handling the extra ground. He is out of the stakes winner Runup the Colors, who was sired by A.P. Indy.
Best Asset: Pletcher switches jockeys to Javier Castellano, who was aboard the colt for his two stakes wins. While Calvin Borel has owned the Kentucky Derby, he has not won the Belmont Stakes. Castellano also has not won the third jewel of the Triple Crown, but he is a regular rider at Belmont Park and is perfect in two starts on the colt.
Morning line odds: 9-2
Post position: 9
Derby winner Orb and jockey Joel Rosario will be looking to bounce back in the Belmont
Why He's Here: His Kentucky Derby win in the slop had just about everyone talking about a Triple Crown sweep, but that ended abruptly when he finished fourth in the Preakness Stakes behind Oxbow. The loss snapped a four-race winning streak and he certainly looks capable of bouncing back with a better effort.
The colt is in good hands with Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, and he appears to be coming into the race not showing any signs of wear and tear as he makes his third start in five weeks.
Best Asset: His talent is the most obvious asset coming into the race, but he also has the genes to be able to handle 1-½ miles. He is by Malibu Moon, who was sired by A.P. Indy, the 1992 winner of the Belmont Stakes. His mare is by Unbridled, who has sired the winners of all three jewels of the Triple Crown: 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, 2000 Preakness victor Red Bullet and 2003 Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.
Morning line odds: 3-1
Post position: 5