Post positions for the 2017 Belmont Stakes are set to get drawn Wednesday shortly after 12 p.m. ET. The proceedings from Rockefeller Center in New York City can be viewed on NYRA's official website ahead of Saturday's running of the Third Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Notably absent from the projected field are Kentucky Derby champion Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes champion Cloud Computing. The lack of a Triple Crown hopeful or a showdown between the two previous winners always lessens the amount of intrigue heading into the race.
That said, there are still some storylines worth tracking in the Triple Crown finale. Let's check out all of the important details for Saturday's showcase. That's followed by a look at the expected contenders and an early race preview.
Race Viewing Information
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
When: Saturday, June 10 at 6:37 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
Projected Belmont Horses
Horse (Trainer; Jockey; Odds)
Epicharis (Kiyoshi Hagiwara; Christophe Lemaire; +500)
Gormley (John Shirreffs; Victor Espinoza; +1600)
Hollywood Handsome (Dallas Stewart; Florent Geroux; TBA)
Irish War Cry (Graham Motion; Rajiv Maragh; +900)
J Boys Echo (Dale Romans; Robby Albarado; +2000)
Lookin At Lee (Steve Asmussen; Irad Ortiz Jr.; +500)
Meantime (Brian Lynch; Mike Smith; +2500)
Multiplier (Brendan Walsh; Joel Rosario; +2500)
Patch (Todd Pletcher John Velazquez; +1800)
Senior Investment (Kenny McPeek; Channing Hill; +800)
Tapwrit (Todd Pletcher; Jose Ortiz; +1000)
Twisted Tom (Chad Brown; Javier Castellano; +1400)
Vegas lines, which were posted before Classic Empire's scratch, via OddsShark.
An already wide-open Belmont became even trickier to forecast Wednesday morning when it was announced expected favorite Classic Empire wouldn't compete.
Mark Casse confirmed the decision to Alicia Wincze Hughes of BloodHorse. The trainer said a recurring "foot abscess in the bulb of his right front" forced the withdrawal.
"This morning his foot is bugging him again," Casse said. "It's the same thing that got him after the Holy Bull. When we came in this morning, he could hardly get around. And there is a very good chance that in the next hour it will bust and he'll be fine, but even with that, we wouldn't want to do that to him."
He was the morning-line favorite in the Kentucky Derby before a nightmare trip at Churchill Downs left him without a path to victory en route to a fourth-place finish. He rebounded with a solid second-place showing in the Preakness, but he couldn't outduel Cloud Computing late.
Classic Empire was the king of last year's two-year group thanks to wins in the Breeders' Futurity Stakes and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. And, while he did win the Arkansas Derby earlier this year, he's failed to shine on the sport's biggest stages so far.
While it's possible for a horse to have a successful career without a Triple Crown, the latest setback is nevertheless a disappointment for the talented colt's connections. There were high hopes when the horse arrived to Churchill Downs last month, and now he leaves the Triple Crown trail without a marquee win.
Among the hopefuls Saturday will be Patch, the sentimental favorite in the Kentucky Derby after his story of losing an eye stole the headlines.
The Belmont Stakes showcased the popular colt getting some light work in leading up to the race:
Belmont Stakes @BelmontStakes
#BelmontStakes probable, PATCH hitting the training track this morning with @ljlmvel! https://t.co/QPPbL8QEvn2017-5-27 11:59:34
Patch rose to prominence with his second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, but he finished a distant 14th at Churchill Downs in the Triple Crown opener. After skipping the Preakness, he's back and should be a bigger threat this time around.
The Belmont, which is the longest race of the trio, always seemed like a better fit. Trainer Todd Pletcher admitted as much leading up to the Kentucky Derby, per Jared Peck of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
"He's by a Belmont winner. He's out of an A.P. Indy mare," Pletcher said in early May. "We think the (mile-and-a-quarter Derby) distance is ideal for him. If anything, the (mile-and-a-half) Belmont would be even a better distance for him."
While Patch figures to receive most of the attention, especially after Classic Empire's departure from the field, it's actually a well-rounded group overall. Irish War Cry, Lookin At Lee and Tapwrit are among the other noteworthy contenders.
Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form provided his updated take on the race:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
Have to think with Classic Empire out, Irish War Cry will inherit favorite's role for #BelmontStakes. 12 entered as of now. Draw at noon.2017-6-7 13:27:17
All told, it should make for an entertaining finish to the Triple Crown season, even though the typical top stories aren't in play for the 149th running of the Belmont.