Irish War Cry is the favourite to win the 2017 Belmont Stakes on Saturday, and the winner could receive $800,000 for doing so.
With Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing—the winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes—not competing, the stage was set for Classic Empire, who finished fourth in the former and second in the latter, to make it third time's the charm.
However, per BloodHorse.com's Alicia Wincze Hughes, he will not be competing because of an abscess:
Alicia Wincze Hughes @BH_AHughes
Champion Classic Empire will not run in Belmont Stakes due to abscess in right front, Mark Casse says. (Cont)2017-6-7 12:11:30
Alicia Wincze Hughes @BH_AHughes
The foot abscess is same that plagued Classic Empire after the Holy Bull. "This morning his foot is bugging him again,"Casse said2017-6-7 12:17:00
That leaves Irish War Cry at the top of the pile with the bookies at 3-1. Here's the breakdown of the field's post positions and odds, per Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer:
1. Twisted Tom (15-1)
2. Tapwrit (6-1)
3. Gormley (7-1)
4. J Boys Echo (15-1)
5. Hollywood Handsome (20-1)
6. Lookin At Lee (5-1)
7. Irish War Cry (3-1)
8. Senior Investment (10-1)
9. Meantime (15-1)
10. Multiplier (12-1)
11. Epicharis (7-2)
12. Patch (15-1)
The field will be competing for a total purse of $1.5 million, per the Belmont Stakes' official website. It's likely to break down similarly to last year, which had the same purse, according to TheTripleCrown.com.
If it does, the winner will receive $800,000, while $200,000 will go to the runner-up and rounding out the podium places will earn $150,000. From fourth down through eighth, the prize money would be as follows: $100,000, $60,000, $45,000, $35,000, $30,000.
Irish War Cry is perhaps a slightly surprising favourite after Classic Empire was scratched, given he did not race at Preakness and laboured to a 10th-placed finish in Kentucky having matched Always Dreaming for eight furlongs before fading badly in the final two.
Even trainer Graham Motion was surprised:
Never imagined we would have the favorite for the Belmont when I left Fair Hill this morning #lucky7 ☘️2017-6-7 16:57:39
Per BelmontStakes.com, he hadn't planned to run Irish War Cry after the disappointment at Churchill Downs, but he believes the horse has convinced him over the last fortnight:
"He's had a good couple of weeks. I can honestly say this was not my original plan. After the Derby, when he ran so disappointingly, I wanted to go home and just forget about the Triple Crown, which is what the Derby does to you when you don't run well.
"He breezed well last weekend, [six furlongs in 1:14 on June 3] and I felt he needed to be here."
Prior to competing in the Triple Crown, Irish War Cry won four races, most notably at the Wood Memorial in April, so he has shown some winning pedigree.
His performance in Kentucky is still something of a concern, though, given Belmont is even longer at 12 furlongs.
Another top contender is the now familiar Lookin At Lee, who is the only horse to compete in all three Triple Crown races this year, per Jay Privman of the Daily Racing Form:
Jay Privman @DRFPrivman
22,905 registered No. American foals of 2014, some of whom were among 425 nominated to Triple Crown. Lookin At Lee lone one to run in all 32017-6-7 19:12:18
The colt has been consistent thus far with a second-placed finish in Kentucky and a fourth-placed finish at Preakness, and with Classic Empire out, he could be set to enjoy the spotlight himself.
He has looked good during his preparations, per the DRF's Mike Welsch:
Mike Welsch @DRFWelsch
Lookin at Lee gets in a little gate schooling before galloping a very easy 1 1/4 miles2017-6-7 11:23:31
Trained by Steve Asmussen, who guided the slight outsider Creator to victory at Belmont last year, Lookin At Lee has an excellent chance of coming out on top in the 149th running of the Triple Crown's final leg.
Prediction: 1. Lookin at Lee, 2. Epicharis, 3. Irish War Cry