The Belmont is still a week away and the field is anything but certain. However, it is looking like we will have the top seven horses from the Kentucky Derby all run—the first time that has ever happened.
In fact, as the Daily Racing Form reported earlier in the week, the previous record was the top five horses, which occurred more than 60 years ago.
That said, this is shaping up to be a very good and very accomplished field.
Who will run? At what odds? And who will win? Turn to the next couple of slides to find out!
As of right now, it's looking like 13 horses are going to run in the Belmont (the race is maxed out at 16, but 13 is unusually large for this 1 1/2-mile race).
Here's my early morning line, with the horses numbered from longest-price to shortest price. Complete rundowns of each horse will come next week:
13. Monzon (30-1)
12. Harlan's Hello (30-1)
11. Isn't He Perfect (30-1)
10. Ruler On Ice (20-1)
9. Jaycito (20-1)
8. Stay Thirsty (20-1)
7. Brilliant Speed (20-1)
6. Santiva (15-1)
5. Master of Hounds (12-1)
4. Mucho Macho Man (10-1)
3. Shackleford (5-1)
2. Nehro (9-2)
1. Animal Kingdom (9-5)
As in the Derby, there likely won't be much of a pace for the closers to run at. Shackleford could have an uncontested lead as none of the new shooters are likely to want to be up front.
Expect Animal Kingdom to drop back towards the rear of the field, but John Velazquez is likely not to allow him to sit as far back as he did as Pimlico if he can help it. It was too much ground to make up.
However, all the blame he has been taking is unfounded. When a horse doesn't want to run, it's hard to urge him up. Velazquez got the most out of Animal Kingdom and that is all that can be asked. He ran into a better horse that day. It was a good ride.
Nehro, who ran second off of a perfect trip in the Kentucky Derby, will be an interesting nugget to the story. He was surprisingly close to the lead at Churchill Downs and it made all the difference. The fractions were slow and he avoided the traffic that stalled up many of the top contenders. What will trainer Steven Asmussen ask of Nehro? I suspect he's going to send him to stalk just off of Shackleford again.
Other than Animal Kingdom, the other deep closers to look at are Santiva and Brilliant Speed, who ran sixth and seventh in the Derby.
I made it no secret a month ago that I was banking on Brilliant Speed for the Belmont and I still am. He had to come eight-wide in the Derby and was rapidly closing to finish seventh.
Santiva, who was my pick to win the Kentucky Derby despite 27-1 odds, didn't have to go wide, but he was squeezed while trying to make up ground and finished strongly in the stretch to steal sixth place. The distance of the Belmont is a slight question, but it doesn't worry me.
None of the newcomers (horses that ran in neither of the Derby or the Preakness) should be considered major challengers.
Jaycito, who missed the Triple Crown trail with an injury, is being asked too much. The distance is too long anyway, but especially so for his first race in four months.
Ruler On Ice, who will be a longshot, is quickly improving and could get the distance. He ran second last out in the Federico Tesio at Pimlico, but he was better than that performance. Expect him to close from mid-pack and maybe even take the lead in the stretch. At a long price, he's worth a luck.
The others shouldn't even be worth your time.
Obviously, it's hard to chose what to bet before the entries are drawn, let alone the post positions, but based on my morning line, there is some very good value.
Ruler On Ice is the only newcomer worth his price, and if you can get him over 20-1, he's worth a look.
There will also be good value again in Santiva and Brilliant Speed, my two Derby longshots. I still believe that if Animal Kingdom doesn't smoke this field, it'll be up to Brilliant Speed to take the win.
Of the favorites, the only one I can see winning is Animal Kingdom. I love Shackleford, but the distance is way too much. I don't think Nehro is good enough.
Master of Hounds, the British horse who ran fifth in the Kentucky Derby, could be worth a play, but it depends on his odds.
We'll give you more betting advice next week.