Even the most ardent horse racing fans would admit this year's Belmont Stakes is missing some of its usual luster since Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing are not in the field for Saturday's event.
What's more, Classic Empire's trainer Mark Casse told Alicia Wincze Hughes of Blood Horse on Wednesday the horse won't race because of an abscess in his right front hoof.
However, it is still one of the marquee events on the racing calendar and features a $1.5 million purse and 1.5-mile length track at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Horses will be tested in the longest of the three Triple Crown races.
While Wednesday's post draw is sure to impact the lines as horses receive favorable and unfavorable starting spots, here is a look at the odds and a predicted winner for the famous race.
The odds are courtesy of OddsShark, as of Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET and had Classic Empire as the favorite at 2-1 before news of his withdrawal broke. That left Epicharis and Lookin At Lee as the favorites before Wednesday's post draw.
Lookin At Lee 5-1
Senior Investment 8-1
Irish War Cry 9-1
Twisted Tom 14-1
J Boys Echo 20-1
Hollywood Handsome *odds unavailable
Predicted Winner: Lookin At Lee
Before the abscess knocked him out, Classic Empire was the pick. After all, he appeared primed to compete for an eventual Triple Crown when he dominated as a juvenile in 2016, with victories at the Breeders' Futurity and Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
He even won the Arkansas Derby after struggling with the foot abscess during a third-place finish at the Holy Bull Stakes and appeared to be in fine form for the majority of the Preakness when he battled Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming for the lead nearly throughout before Cloud Computing made a late charge and left Classic Empire in second place.
The absence of Cloud Computing and Always Dreaming, per the Associated Press (h/t USA Today), cleared the way for a win before Wednesday's news, and Lookin At Lee looks the most likely to benefit.
Lookin At Lee has struggled against Classic Empire in the past, with a fourth-place finish in the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. He also placed in fourth at the Preakness and never truly challenged Classic Empire or eventual winner Cloud Computing.
Fortunately for trainer Steven M. Asmussen and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., those top competitors are not in the way. What's more, Wednesday's post draw shouldn't represent much of a challenge either, considering Lookin At Lee already turned heads with a second-place finish at the Kentucky Derby despite drawing the unfavorable No. 1 post.
He didn't get caught on the rails and demonstrated his head-turning speed that will again be on full display Saturday.
Ortiz Jr. also gives Lookin At Lee an advantage since he won the Belmont last year atop Creator. Ortiz Jr. understands what it takes to win on this stage and will do so again against a lighter field Saturday.