Don't look for Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming or Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Belmont Stakes.
If you think the decision not to run those horses in the 1½-mile race leaves it wide open for contender Classic Empire in the final Triple Crown race, that thought needs to be erased. The 2-1 pre-race favorite had to pull out of the race Wednesday morning because of an abscess on his right hoof, much to the consternation of trainer Mark Casse.
This will be an unusual edition of the Belmont Stakes without either of the two winners of the prior jewels of the Triple Crown represented in the race.
That should allow the horse racing fans at Belmont Park to see a wide-open race, and one of the top contenders should be Epicharis.
Belmont Stakes Odds (courtesy of OddsShark)
Irish War Cry, 3-1
Lookin At Lee, 11-2
Senior Investment, 13-2
J Boys Echo, 16-1
Twisted Tom, 20-1
Hollywood Handsome, 33-1
Epicharis was narrowly defeated in the UAE Derby and easily could have won that race. However, jockey Christophe Lemaire is going to have to be at his best if he is going to pilot Epicharis to the winner's circle. He's a speed horse and should be able to get to the front, but he doesn't want to get burned out by running too hard in the early stages.
Epicharis is the son of Gold Allure, and that horse is out of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Sunday Silence. Epicharis comes into the race with odds of 5-1, according to OddsShark.
"He's in good form right now," said Epicharis' trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara, per Kieran Darcy of ESPN.com. "Although it was a long trip [from Japan], he handled the trip well. He's good right now."
Lookin At Lee is also a 5-1 shot, and horse racing fans are familiar with him since he ran in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
The son of Lookin At Lucky had a dream trip in the Preakness, but he was outfinished in that race. He is a closer, and this has often been a race that gives top closers a good opportunity to win. However, if the pace is not strong through the first six panels, it's going to be difficult for Lookin At Lee to burn the horses in front when he comes down the stretch.
If he does get the kind of fast start from the rest of the field that he needs, look for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to give him an excellent ride.
Senior Investment comes into the race at 8-1, and the son of Discreetly Mine has a solid strategist in trainer Kenny McPeek plotting his course. Jockey Channing Hill is going to have to give him the ride of his life.
Senior Investment has been improving recently, and he has the kind of long, loping stride that could allow him to eat up ground around the far turn and down the long stretch at Belmont Park.
Don't count out Irish War Cry at 9-1. This horse is somewhat inconsistent, but when he is on his game, he may be as good as any three-year-old running.
The son of Curlin will be piloted by Rajiv Maragh, who knows how to pull his mounts in and out of traffic.
Blood line information courtesy of DRF.com unless otherwise noted.