The 2017 Belmont Stakes will pit 10 of the most talented three-year-olds in horse racing against one another this Saturday as one of the biggest prizes on the American racing circuit awaits the victor.
For the second year in succession, the Triple Crown will find three different champions, as Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing—winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, respectively—are set to miss out.
Those absences have left Classic Empire free to grasp the favourite tag ahead of Saturday's showdown at Belmont Park, with the rest of the field seemingly playing catchup.
That being said, outside sleepers like Tapwrit have since made rises of their own leading up to the New York meet, with this year's Belmont Stakes perhaps a lot tighter than recent runnings of the race.
Read on for a preview of Saturday's Belmont Stakes and a look at several horses who could make the run from deep to outperform their expectations.
Trainer Chad Brown may have lost one top contender for the Belmont Stakes after it was revealed Cloud Computing won't contend for a second leg of the Triple Crown, but Twisted Tom gives him another bright hope in the running.
There has been a case to argue some of those victories for Twisted Tom came against lesser opposition, but broadcaster XBTV posted footage of him looking impressive in training nonetheless:
While this will be the longest distance he has travelled over, Twisted Tom is seeking a fourth win in succession in New York and has terrific lineage coming into the contest, according to horse racing writer Steve Haskin:
It would be a major achievement for Brown if he were to train two different horses to victory in two legs of the Triple Crown, and this could be the 38-year-old's year to shine.
An opportunistic draw in the post positions would undoubtedly aid Twisted Tom in his efforts to stay until the end, and his potential for a strong finish will also lend itself well in his bid for glory.
If any international product has the potential to cause an upset in this year's Belmont Stakes, Japanese star Epicharis may be the contender with the talent to match.
This is a race of special significance for Epicharis, whose team have been preparing him precisely for this race after missing the Kentucky Derby, and Daily Racing Form photographer Barbara Livingston lauded the entrant's fine looks:
Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara commented on Epicharis' performance since coming to Belmont Park and expressed satisfaction with the colt's progress thus far, per Blood Horse:
"I am pleased with his work. He looks fine and he moved sharply. He has been doing well. Considering the long trip to Belmont via Anchorage and Chicago, I will give him one more timed work in Japan at the same course on Sunday and the last one will be at Belmont on Tuesday or Wednesday the week of the race."
Despite having only two races under his belt, Epicharis lost out to Thunder Snow by slim margins to take second in the UAE Derby in March, with his other result being a win in the Hyacinth Stakes in Tokyo a month prior.