Classic Empire heads the entry list for the 2017 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, New York, on Saturday. He's the pick for the oddsmakers after Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming opted to skip this race.
However, it's not all about Classic Empire, with a number of legitimate dark-horse candidates set to be involved. Among them, J Boys Echo, Irish War Cry and Tapwrit are the ones to watch.
Mike Dempsey of OddsShark has looked at the full entry list and odds.
Backed at 10-1 by Dempsey, Tapwrit is the best of the dark-horse favorites. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Tapwrit is something of a late runner, one with the stamina to stay in touch early before finishing swiftly and strongly.
Pletcher has already confirmed the horse is in excellent condition ahead of the race proper, per NYRA Communications (h/t Horse Racing Nation): "So far, he's doing great."
However, staying consistent will be the key to Tapwrit shocking the favorites, with Mark Inabinett of AL.com outlining the horse's erratic form before finishing sixth at Churchill Downs.
If Tapwrit enjoys a steady start and avoids any collisions, this is a horse capable of making a late surge to leave favorites such as Classic Empire and Lookin At Lee trailing.
Another outsider worth keeping an eye on is J Boys Echo. It's a horse boasting ample pace in reserve, a quality he uses to start well.
As Steve Haskin of BloodHorse.com noted, the horse has the power and style make an impact in New York:
Steve Haskin @SteveHaskin
Haven't seen J. Boy's Echo's work yet, but on video, boy does he look good physically, and loved his gallop out. Very strong to 1/2 mle pole2017-6-4 14:45:55
J Boys Echo can sometimes flatter to deceive, but Matt Shifman of Horse Racing Nation believes his win over Cloud Computing at the Gotham Stakes in March is an indicator of the colt's true talent.
He is a definite long shot at 20-1, but J Boys Echo has the raw physical talent to reward brave bettors and spring an upset.
There's a reason Irish War Cry is valued at 9-1 ahead of next Saturday. The colt hardly covered itself in glory in Kentucky, finishing 10th, and he now has a lot to prove in the final leg of the Triple Crown, per BloodHorse.com: "In a post-Derby work May 27, Irish War Cry went five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 on the Fair Hill dirt. The son of Curlin skipped the Preakness Stakes."
Trainer Graham Motion knows this horse has the pedigree to defy the odds at Belmont. However, much will depend on Irish War Cry avoiding the pitfalls that afflicted him at Churchill Downs, when he collided with McCraken and Classic Empire with the horses barely out of the gate.
This time, the field will be hoping to keep pace with Classic Empire, but there is no doubt the race is wide open with Always Dreaming not involved, while Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing has also opted out.
It means dark-horse candidates have a stronger chance than usual of upsetting the odds.