There will be no Triple Crown winner this year, but the 2017 Belmont Stakes is up for grabs since the Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming, and Preakness Stakes winner, Cloud Computing, will not be participating.
Cloud Computing, who stole the Preakness Stakes away from Classic Empire during the final stretch, opted not to run at Belmont along with Always Dreaming. The absence of the two horses left the Belmont Stakes Classic Empire's race to lose until he had to pull out of the race early Wednesday morning due to a bout of foot abscess, according to his trainer Mark Casse.
The third leg of the Triple Crown is any horse's race heading into Saturday. Here are the latest updated odds for each horse courtesy of Odds Shark:
Irish War Cry: +300
Lookin At Lee: +550
Senior Investment: +650
J Boys Echo: +1600
Twisted Tom: +2000
Hollywood Handsome: +3300
With a field lacking star power, Irish War Cry has suddenly become the favorite to win the Belmont Stakes with 3-1 odds.
It's hard to argue why Irish War Cry shouldn't be looked at as the strongest colt in this race as he finished first in the Holy Bull (G2) and the Wood Memorial (G2) earlier this year. However, he struggled in the Kentucky Derby with a 10th-place finish. He did not race in the Preakness Stakes.
But now that Irish War Cry has returned to the track, expectations for him have soared over the past day and a half, which even caught his trainer off guard when he found out his horse was the new favorite to win after Classic Empire pulled out.
"It's just very odd," said Graham Motion, Irish War Cry's trainer, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). "This goes to show how quickly things can go wrong. It just takes a little thing like a foot abscess. They're animals, and things can go wrong at any time."
While it's a shame to see a horse like Classic Empire have to pull out due to injury, the reality is that horse-racing fans will be able to focus their attention on other horses to cheer and bet on, such as fan favorite Patch.
In this case, the name truly fits the horse. Patch, the one-eyed horse, may not have the best odds heading into Saturday's race, but he certainly has the faith of his trainer, Todd Pletcher, to perform well this weekend despite a 14th-place finish at the Derby.
"We're optimistic that the distance is within his range," Pletcher told Newsday this past Monday. "His pedigree suggests that the mile-and-a-half is something he can handle."
Patch will have some competition, however, if he can defy the odds and make a run towards the front of the pack at Belmont. Lookin at Lee has been a consistent figure in the three legs of the Triple Crown this year. In fact, he's the only horse racing this weekend who will run all three legs, per Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form:
Outside of Lookin at Lee, it's hard to imagine any other horse providing Irish War Cry with any real challenge. Lookin at Lee finished second in the Derby and fourth in the Preakness but will be looking to secure a Triple Crown jewel of his own at Belmont. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, believes that his horse has the right demeanor to pull off the victory, per Daily Racing Form:
"He's a unique horse in how strong he is, how he takes things, how he comes out of his races, how gritty he is, how durable he is," Asmussen said of Lookin At Lee. "We realize how fortunate we are."
In terms of assessing the outcome of the race, it's difficult to predict the top-three finish. Patch, as great a story as he is, hasn't performed well recently and will find it difficult to outpace the field, allowing other horses such as Epicharis and Senior Investment to enter the fray.
Irish War Cry will take home first place, followed by Lookin at Lee and Epicharis. I have Patch finishing an encouraging sixth.
Prediction: 1) Irish War Cry 2) Lookin at Lee 3) Epicharis.