While there is no chance at a Triple Crown this season, there is a much more balanced field at the Belmont Stakes and the potential for a memorable finish Saturday.
American Pharoah spoiled us last year as the first thoroughbred since Affirmed in 1978 to win all three of the American classics. With Nyquist winning the Kentucky Derby and Exaggerator taking home the Preakness Stakes, this feat won't be replicated. Of course, there is still a $1.5 million purse and plenty of bragging rights in winning one of the biggest races of the calendar year.
Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form also noted the size of the field is bigger than usual:
All of this could equal an exciting battle to the finish at Belmont Park with a lot of qualified contenders. Anything can happen, but here are the latest predictions along with a full look at the field for Saturday's race in Elmont, New York.
|Belmont Stakes Post Positions and Odds|
|1||Governor Malibu||Joel Rosario||12-1|
|3||Cherry Wine||Corey Lanerie||8-1|
|7||Seeking The Soul||Florent Geroux||30-1|
|8||Forever d'Oro||Jose Ortiz||30-1|
|9||Trojan Nation||Aaron Gryder||30-1|
|12||Brody's Cause||Luis Saez||20-1|
|13||Creator||Irad Ortiz Jr.||10-1|
Show: Cherry Wine
Not only does trainer Dale Romans have two horses in the 13-entry field, but both of them have a good chance of contending for a win. Steve Sherack of Thoroughbred Daily News was impressed by both horses on Wednesday morning:
Between the two, however, Cherry Wine has been the more consistent. Brody's Cause does have wins at two Grade 1 races, including the Blue Grass Stakes in April. However, he finished in just seventh place at the Kentucky Derby, which matched his finish in the Tampa Bay Derby earlier this year.
On the other hand, Cherry Wine has finished no worse than fourth in 2016, including a second-place finish at the Preakness Stakes over previously undefeated Nyquist. While Exaggerator got the majority of the press for his win—and deservedly so—Cherry Wine also had an impressive showing on the muddy track.
Now he has the chance to finish in the money once again in another competitive field. Jockey Corey Lanerie has done a good job with Cherry Wine to this point and should be a serious threat once again.
While Suddenbreakingnews only has a single win in his last five starts, this course might give him the best chance for a successful showing.
As trainer Donnie Von Hemel noted, the longer track will give his contender an advantage over the field, per the Lexington Herald-Leader:
It looks like, with the way he ran in the Derby and with his pedigree, the mile-and-a-half distance should suit him well. It’s one of the few mile-and-a-half races we have left in America so I think we need to go run in it. Pace is always an issue and we’ll have to see how that shapes up, but he can go a mile-and-a-half so we’ll do what we can do.
The pedigree he discussed includes Mineshaft, who won a handful of Grade 1 events on the Belmont track throughout his career, as well as Afleet Alex, the 2005 winner of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. He is even a decedent of Seattle Slew, who is famous for winning the 1977 Triple Crown.
Success on the New York track is in his blood.
After a respectable fifth-place finish at the Kentucky Derby and some valuable rest while others were competing in the Preakness, Suddenbreakingnews could be a top contender at Belmont.
It's true that Exaggerator's two biggest wins came in sloppy conditions. Both the Santa Anita Derby and the Preakness Stakes were muddy tracks, opening up the opportunity for the experienced horse to earn the victories.
Of course, this horse has proved itself as an elite runner no matter what the conditions. Exaggerator has finished in the money in nine of 11 career starts. He has been even better with Nyquist not in the field, winning four of six such races.
Even after beating Nyquist in the Preakness, the path to victory is much easier without the talented opponent.
While jockey Kent Desormeaux had some off-track trouble with a rehab visit, he is apparently ready to compete Saturday. This is big news, as the veteran has seven career wins at Triple Crown races, including the 2009 Belmont Stakes.
With a talented, experienced horse and a quality team around him, there is no reason to doubt Exaggerator regardless of the weather.
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