Belmont Park was the center of the sports world just two years ago.
That's because American Pharoah was making a bid to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and the horse had given every indication he could accomplish the feat after stellar performances in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
American Pharoah famously accomplished the feat and it was a heady time for the Sport of Kings.
Two years later, neither the Kentucky Derby (Always Dreaming) champion nor the Preakness Stakes winner (Cloud Computing) is competing in the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes, and neither is Classic Empire. That highly rated three-year-old had the look of the favorite prior to midweek, but trainer Mark Casse had to scratch the horse as a result an abscess in his hoof.
The 2017 Belmont Stakes is a wide-open affair with 12 competitors, and it appears that a number of horses in the field have a legitimate chance to win the race.
Irish War Cry and Japanese import Epicharis are the two favorites in the race at 3-1 and 7-2, respectively, according to OddsShark. Both are solid horses, and it would not be a surprise if either one of them hit the board.
However, neither of those horses are going to win the race. This is the race to go with a long shot, and the choice here is J Boys Echo, who will be ridden by Robby Albarado and is trained by Dale Romans.
Belmont Stakes Post Position, Horses, Odds, Predicted Order of Finish
1. Twisted Tom, 20-1, 11th place
2. Tapwrit, 15-2, Fifth place
3. Gormley, 12-1, eighth place
4. J Boys Echo, 16-1, winner
5. Hollywood Handsome, 33-1, 10th place
6. Lookin At Lee, 11-2, third place
7. Irish War Cry, 3-1, second place
8. Senior Investment, 13-2, sixth place
9. Meantime, 14-1, ninth place
10. Multiplier, 16-1, 12th place
11. Epicharis, 7-2, fourth place
12. Patch, 25-1, seventh place
J Boys Echo is a 16-1 shot, and he has done his best running with Albarado in the saddle. Romans is making the right move by putting them back together, and the feeling is that J Boys Echo will do his best running down the long stretch at Belmont Park and he will find the wire first.
Look for J Boys Echo to get off to a decent start from the fourth slot, bide his time behind the leaders and then turn it on in the final 300 yards.
His backers will be delirious, especially if they couple him with Irish War Cry, who had a solid start in the Kentucky Derby but finished poorly. Irish War Cry has been training smartly leading up to the Belmont Stakes, and he should be able to come through with a solid effort.
His starting spot from the No. 7 hole should help him get a good trip.
Epicharis is a fine-looking horse who has performed well in limited competition, so he may have a hard time beating the best horses in the field. Epicharis should have a solid effort, but he will finish no higher than fourth and his win, place and show backers will be left tearing up their tickets.
Lookin At Lee has an excellent chance to hit the board and get a third-place finish. Lookin At Lee is an 11-2 shot, and he is ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. and trained by Steve Asmussen. We expect Asmussen will have his horse prepared to do his best running down the stretch, and Lookin At Lee would benefit greatly from a hot early pace.
Lookin At Lee will position himself near the back of the field and close to the rail for the first half of the race or more before he turns it on and hits full speed down the stretch.