The field is set for Saturday's Belmont Stakes
Although the Belmont Stakes loses some of its luster without a Triple Crown on the line, this year's installment of the mile-and-a-half test of champions promises to be a thrilling final installment of racing's historic trilogy.
From top to bottom, the 14-horse field is loaded with legitimate contenders trying for their own place in the record books. Orb and Oxbow, the victors of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, will aim to add a second jewel to their crowns and decide who is the best three-year-old of all.
Here is a rundown of the field for Saturday's Belmont Stakes with potential strategies and predicted outcomes.
Post Position: 1
Frac Daddy's greatest strengths are his sharp acceleration and tactical ability to stalk the pace. In this race, he will likely have to drop back right after the break and let the front-runners drop over on top to secure their position on the rail. He should ideally be in the second flight of horses off the pace.
Since his poor performance in the Kentucky Derby, he has been training sharply with a pair of scintillating bullet workouts at Churchill. His workout at Belmont was less impressive, but he debuted over a muddy track at Belmont. That experience may help him.
Predicted Finish: Seventh
Post Position: 2
This horse needs the lead to be successful. Expect him to come out of the gate sharply and secure a spot out front on the rail. His chances improve with the potential for rain and an off track, as he handled it well in the Peter Pan Stakes.
With likely company out front, he will not have an easy time on the lead even if he does get his preferred off track., He has yet to show he can run with the top group of three-year-olds and may find horses like Oxbow too much to handle.
Predicted Finish: Ninth
Todd Pletcher and Mike Repole will team up with Overanalyze.
Post Position: 3
Overanalyze does his best when running off the pace and will try to capitalize on what could be a contested lead. Few riders know Belmont's long stretch as well as John Velazquez does, and with him back aboard, this colt's chances improve.
Although at first glance this colt does not have the stamina needed in his pedigree to get the demanding distance of 1 1/2 miles, his sire Dixie Union produced Union Rags, the winner of last year's Belmont Stakes. And who was aboard? John Velazquez.
Predicted Finish: Fifth
Post Position: 4
The best strategy for Giant Finish might be to sit this one out and wait for a softer spot. He is a front-runner and is in over his head trying to get the lead against these horses.
This colt was overmatched in the Kentucky Derby and has yet to win a stakes race. His best efforts against stakes company have come on synthetic surfaces. For all appearances, it seems he may have some distance limitations.
Predicted Finish: 14th
This is what Orb thinks of his doubters.
Post Position: 5
If the Preakness Stakes was any indication, this horse cannot get stuck on the rail if he has any chance of succeeding. Pace can make the race in the Belmont, and with several front-runners, he should have speed to shoot at if Joel Rosario can get him comfortable on the outside.
The Preakness Stakes was a disappointing race, no question about it. In under two minutes, Orb went from being the next great star to a potential one-hit wonder. He gets to prove the doubters wrong on Saturday and show that his Derby was not a fluke.
Predicted Finish: First
Post Position: 6
This lightly raced, royally bred colt could not make up ground over a sloppy track in the Peter Pan but showed tremendous professionalism and class with a narrow victory two starts back. He has tactical speed and seems like he can be placed close to the pace or can close effectively. That versatility helps his chances.
This colt has a tremendous pedigree and is a son of Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy out of a multiple stakes-winning mare. He has been slow developing this spring, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is no stranger to winning this race with a late bloomer. He did so in 2006 with Jazil.
Predicted Finish: Third
Gary Stevens and Oxbow will try to take the third jewel.
Post Position: 7
As resilient and tough as he is, Oxbow does his best running on the lead, and there will be a target on his back after he and Gary Stevens stole the Preakness with an uncontested lead. This colt will have to contest the lead, and it is just a matter of how long he can hold on.
After a season full of demanding races, this colt is due to bounce and regress. The 1 1/2 mile distance of the Belmont may be farther than he can extend his speed. If anyone softens him on the lead, he will be in hot water in the stretch.
Predicted Finish: Sixth
Todd Pletcher will saddle five horses in the Belmont.
Post Position: 8
From only three career starts, it is difficult to get a handle on Midnight Taboo's true running style. He ran well despite traffic last time out, and that sort of experience can be beneficial for a young, unproven horse. His winning effort came out front, so he may be another horse vying for the lead.
He is endowed with plenty of stamina in both sides of his pedigree but has done nothing on the racetrack so far to indicate he is anything special. Owner Mike Repole will send out three contenders in the Belmont, a race he desperately wants to win. This one seems like the one least likely to win.
Predicted Finish: 13th
Post Position: 9
Revolutionary made a bold move up the rail in the Kentucky Derby, and jockey Javier Castellano will likely try to replicate that effort. The horse has an explosive closing kick, and it will be crucial that his late move is well timed or he will run the risk of flattening out in Belmont's long stretch.
This battle-tested colt has a tendency to find trouble and traffic. Despite that, he has proved he can overcome adversity and win. He comes in well rested after his third-place finish in Kentucky and should be tough.
Predicted Finish: Fourth
Will Take Charge
Post Position: 10
Will Take Charge has been most successful from off the pace. Before he got stopped in traffic, he was launching his move at the same time Orb was in the Derby. His best bet is to try to repeat that and not let the other closers get the jump on him.
Will Take Charge seems up against it here. After a credible effort in the Derby, he was a nonfactor in the Preakness and seems like a horse that may be regressing after a demanding spring campaign. But, as we learned in the Preakness Stakes, trainer D. Wayne Lukas still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Predicted Finish: 12th
Post Position: 11
Vyjack demonstrated a devastating closing kick when he launched himself into the Kentucky Derby picture after winning the Gotham Stakes. It would serve him well to try to return to that. He can be difficult to handle and may be slightly more composed at his home track.
While he does not have the deepest pedigree of the field, it is not outside the realm of possibility that he can get the distance. The biggest question is how good is the company he was keeping? Though Verrazano was a no-show in the Derby, Normandy Invasion indicated the Wood Memorial may have been a good prep race after all.
Predicted Finish: 10th
Palace Malice shoots to the lead in the Derby.
Post Position: 12
All strategy and planning went out the window the moment the gates opened in the Kentucky Derby, and Palace Malice, thanks to his new addition of blinkers, rocketed to the lead. He hung on gamely after setting serious fractions, and with the blinkers back off, he may be able to be more tactical here.
Sitting out the Preakness and targeting this race was likely a wise choice. Coming in fresh will only work to his advantage. Thanks to a great deal of stamina in his pedigree, he should be able to handle the distance.
Predicted Finish: Second
Rags to Riches, a filly, won the Belmont in 2007.
Post Position: 13
Though she was unable to secure the lead early in the Kentucky Oaks, she pulled like a horse that needed to be out front. Her best efforts come when she is forwardly placed, and she will have a tough task ahead contesting with several speedy front-runners to secure the lead, particularly from an outside post.
While it is not unprecedented for a filly to take on the boys successfully in a Triple Crown race, this filly has a long way to go before she can be held in the same regard as Rachel Alexandria (Preakness 2009) and Rags to Riches (Belmont 2007).
Predicted Finish: 11th
Post Position: 14
Golden Soul surprised a lot of people on the first Saturday in May with a runner-up finish at massive odds. His best races come from off the pace, and he will again be trying to close and pick up the pieces.
In the Derby, Golden Soul was closing fast, and while it might have looked good, he was only passing tiring horses and moved up considerably because of the sloppy track. Unless it pours, he may be less effective in the Belmont.
Predicted Finish: 10th