There's no Triple Crown to be had for the 35th straight year as horse racing's most prestigious three races moves to New York, but that won't stop any of the 14 horses in contention from giving it their all during the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
The Run for the Carnations will commence on Saturday evening in Elmont, N.Y., as Orb, Oxbow and 12 others all look to capture the longest running in the three-race schedule that makes up the Triple Crown.
Just like it did at the 2013 Kentucky Derby, weather is expected to dampen the Belmont Stakes when the horses are walked to the starting gate prior to post time. The forecast for the weekend (via Weather.com) is likely to clear up on Saturday, but Friday's rain could have far-reaching impacts on the field if the track is sloppy.
NBC Sports had this post on Twitter as the rain was coming down at the track:
While no trainer, jockey or owner will admit that the rain will affect these horses during the race, there's a good chance it affects the field enough to rethink earlier predictions to factor in the rough conditions that these horses will be traveling.
When it's all said and done, though, a winner will emerge from the field and be crowned the Belmont winner, maybe even in the fashion that Triple Crown winner Secretariat did in 1973 (via Classic Pics on Twitter):
Saturday's race will mark the 145th time that the starting gates have been filled, emptied and put away only to be done again the next year. Although the Triple Crown is the beacon of light that keeps horce racing's casual fans interested heading into the Belmont, make no mistake—this race has enough history, prestige and contenders this year to carry it's own weight just fine.
Let's take a look at a race preview and a few predictions below.
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
When: Saturday, June 8
Post Time: 6:20 p.m. ET
Distance: 1.5 miles (Grade I)
Purse: $1 million
2013 Belmont Stakes Layout
|1||Frac Daddy||Alan Garcia ||Ken McPeek ||30-1|
|2||Freedom Child ||Luis Saez ||Tom Albertrani||8-1|
|3||Overanalyze||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher||12-1|
|4||Giant Finish||Edgar Prado||Anthony Dutrow||30-1|
|5||Orb||Joel Rosario||Shug McGaughey||3-1|
|6||Incognito||Irad Ortiz Jr.||Kiaran McLaughlin||20-1|
|7||Oxbow||Gary Stevens||D. Wayne Lukas||5-1|
|8||Midnight Taboo||Garrett Gomez||Todd Pletcher||30-1|
|9||Revolutionary||Javier Castellano||Todd Pletcher||9-2|
|10||Will Take Charge||Jon Court||D. Wayne Lukas||20-1|
|11||Vyjack||Julien Leparoux||Rudy Rodriguez||20-1|
|12||Palace Malice||Mike Smith||Todd Pletcher||15-1|
|13||Unlimited Budget||Rosie Napravnik||Todd Pletcher||8-1|
|14||Golden Soul||Robby Albarado||Dallas Stewart||10-1|
*Odds via BelmontStakes.com.
|BELMONT PAST WINNERS|
|2012||Union Rags||John Velazquez||Michael Matz|
|2011||Ruler on Ice||Jose Valdivia Jr.||Kelly Breen|
|2010||Drosselmeyer||Mike Smith||William Mott|
|2009||Summer Bird||Kent Desormeaux||Tim Ice|
|2008||Da'Tara||Alan Garcia||Nick Zito|
|2007||Rags to Riches||John Velazquez||Todd Pletcher|
Orb went to Pimilco Race Course and the 2013 Preakness Stakes as the only horse still alive in the Triple Crown race, but Oxbow managed to crush that dream with an impressive run in Baltimore in the second of the three races.
Now, as the race moves to Baltimore, the two big winners from this summer season are the favorites at Belmont Park. Orb (3-1) is the odds-on favorite at, while Oxbow (5-1) is slightly less-favored than Revolutionary (9-2), who hasn't raced since finishing third at the Derby.
Other horses fans will recognize in the field include Kentucky Derby runners Frac Daddy, Overanalyze, Giant Finish, Will Take Charge, Vyjack, Palace Malice and Golden Soul, the last of whom surprised us all by cracking the top-two at the Derby.
New horses to the mix include the only female in the field, Unlimited Budget, and others like Freedom Child, Incognito and Midnight Taboo.
While the post position certainly didn't hurt the Derby and Preakness winners, it also didn't hurt a few other notable horses. Frac Daddy lines up in the No. 1 post (23 wins all-time) and must find a way to break to the outside quickly to have any chance of not being swallowed up by the middle of the pack.
Revolutionary and Unlimited Budget will both have different challenges to overcome from the No. 9 and No. 13 posts, respectively, but both are noted winners in their races this season and would likely rather have the luxury of space on the outside.
Orb drew post No. 5 and should be in a similar position to the one he was at the Kentucky Derby, while Oxbow maybe made the biggest splash of any horse by grabbing the post (No. 7) that has produced three out of the last five Belmont winners.
Other factors to watch include the fact that D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher dominate the trainer field yet again, with the duo teaming up for exactly half of the horses in this 14-competitor race. Lukas brought home the Preakness with Oxbow, but Pletcher is still looking to make a splash with five more horses in the field for Saturday's race.
Trainers are also a story to watch and there's no jockey in the field with the success that Oxbow's rider, Gary Stevens, has had at Belmont Park over the years. His three career wins is a mark that is one of the best all-time, and it just so happens he's riding the last horse to win a leg of the Triple Crown.
John Velazquez (Revolutionary) and Mike Smith (Palace Malice) also have career wins at the Belmont Stakes, but a young, motivated group of riders that includes Derby winner Joel Rosario and Rosie Napravnik look to crash the veteran party.
With rain expected to play a factor and only 14 horses in contention for the title, it's truly anyone's race—a slogan we've seen ring true with Oxbow's impressive victory at the 2013 Preakness. However, the favorites at this race are well-equipped to handle the rain, and we aren't writing them off because of a few small showers.
By the time sunset hits Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon, the race for the 2013 Triple Crown will be over. Here's a few predictions for the final leg.
Orb will be used to the wet conditions at the track on Saturday, having already won the Derby in similar fashion after breaking out of the back of the pack around the final turn.
He enters this race as the favorite again, and in post No. 5, Orb couldn't be happier with his draw and what it might mean for winning two of the three races in the Triple Crown this season.
Here's a look at Orb at the long track on Friday, courtesy of Barbara Livingston of Daily Racing Forum:
Shug McGaughey had to be disappointed in the draw and the finish at the Preakness, but that unpredictability and struggle is one of the reasons we rarely see any horse have a chance to win the Crown when they head to New York.
Orb is perfect for this long track because of the stamina and sprint ability he's shown on both tracks this year, and there won't be many who grumble about the odds-on favorite winning his second race of the year at Belmont Park.
The third-place finisher in the Derby, Revolutionary sat out the Preakness but is back in contention in Elmont this weekend.
It just so happens he's riding with John Velazquez (the 2012 Belmont winner) at the helm, and has done nothing at the track this week to lose muster or standing with respect to his 9-2 odds heading into Saturday morning.
Jay Cronley made his picks for ESPN.com earlier in the week, and he too thinks Revolutionary is a horse to watch, picking the thoroughbred to finish third behind Orb and Overanalyze.
Like Orb, Revolutionary is one of the few horses in the field that won't be questioned when it comes to the longer distance and the full lap around the track at Belmont Park, and I like this Velazquez/Pletcher horse to finish just shy of the top of the podium.
Show: Unlimited Budget
Jockey Rosie Napravnik is already making history by being the first female to ride all three Triple Crown races in the same year (via Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News), but she can double-up on that by being the second female to win the event.
Winner of four-straight races before stumbling at the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Unlimited Budget has done quite enough to run with the boys and put her name in the hat to be the fourth filly to ever win the Belmont Stakes.
With an outside post position and arguably the sport's hottest up-and-coming jockey, Unlimited Budget is a sleeper pick to take home the carnations and the title on Saturday. As it is, Napravnik can best her finish last year (fifth) and make good on a few bets by finishing in the money.
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