With the field set, horses will learn of their posts for the 2017 Belmont Stakes in a matter of hours.
This year's Belmont Stakes field is arguably more notable for who isn't running rather than who is. Trainer Todd Pletcher ruled out Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, while Chad Brown confirmed Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing won't make the trip, either.
With two of his top challengers out of the way, Classic Empire is an even stronger favorite to win the Belmont. Below are the odds for the 13 horses in this year's field and their race odds, per OddsShark:
- Classic Empire (2-1)
- Epicharis (5-1)
- Lookin At Lee (5-1)
- Senior Investment (8-1)
- Irish War Cry (9-1)
- Tapwrit (10-1)
- Twisted Tom (14-1)
- Gormley (16-1)
- Patch (18-1)
- J Boys Echo (20-1)
- Multiplier (25-1)
- Meantime (25-1)
- Hollywood Handsome (Odds unavailable)
The Belmont Stakes will either offer redemption for Classic Empire or serve as the conclusion for an underwhelming Triple Crown.
"We're as excited as you can be coming into a race," said Norman Casse, son of Classic Empire trainer Mark Casse, per Daily Racing Form's Marty McGee. "We've got the big dog coming into this fight. We'll have the bull's-eye on our back; we understand that."
After reeling off four wins in six graded-stakes races, Classic Empire finished fourth at the Kentucky Derby. He appeared to have things wrapped up at the Preakness before Cloud Computing's final surge moved him ahead at the finish.
There's no doubting Classic Empire's ability, but competing in every step of the Triple Crown can be a physically taxing pursuit. The fact the Belmont Stakes is the longest of the three races exacerbates the problem.
As a result, fresher horses can be at an advantage. Last year's Belmont champion, Creator, skipped the Preakness in favor of having more time to prepare for the trip to Elmont, New York. In 2014, California Chrome's Triple Crown bid ended at the hands of Tonalist, who had nearly a full month off before winning the Belmont Stakes.
The same general warning will apply to Lookin At Lee, who was runner-up at the Derby and fourth at the Preakness. There's little reason to expect that won't continue at Belmont Park, but at the same time, it wouldn't be surprising to see Lookin At Lee's workload catch up to him on the track.
Irish War Cry will have an edge in terms of stamina. He hasn't run since placing 10th at the Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Wood Memorial, he'll be a big threat to Classic Empire.
A lot of eyes will also be on Epicharis. The Belmont Stakes shared his accomplishments on the track to date:
Epicharis has never been tested on the kind of stage he'll encounter at Belmont Park—the UAE Derby was his longest race, which comes in at 1 3/16 miles. The Belmont Stakes will be a big adjustment for the colt.
Despite a capable group of challengers, Sunday's race is Classic Empire's to lose. Following a bad day at Churchill Downs, he showed his true talent at Pimlico and narrowly missed out on a victory.
Without Cloud Computing around to spoil his day, Classic Empire should get his long-awaited Triple Crown win in the Belmont Stakes.