An eventful Triple Crown season culminates with War of Will aiming to notch a second consecutive race victory at Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
After the Kentucky Derby ended in controversial fashion with Maximum Security disqualified after crossing the line first, the Preakness Stakes commenced with Bodexpress ditching his jockey to run freely at Pimlico Park.
Derby winner Country House ended any chance of Belmont Park hosting a Triple Crown pursuit after not entering the Preakness due to illness, and he and Maximum Security are again both off this weekend's card.
At least the final leg features the previous race's victor, as War of Will looks to add another jewel to his crown at Elmont, New York. He'll run right alongside fellow favorite Tacitus, who placed third at Churchill Downs following a trio of triumphs.
Let's take a look at Belmont's competitive 10-horse field, with odds courtesy of the race's official website as of Friday evening, to see who will prevail.
2019 Belmont Stakes Schedule
Date: Saturday, June 8
Start Time: 6:35 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBC Sports Live
1. Joevia (17-1)
2. Everfast (13-1)
3. Master Fencer (10-1)
4. Tax (10-1)
5. Bourbon War (7-1)
6. Spinoff (11-1)
7. Sir Winston (8-1)
8. Intrepid Heart (6-1)
9. War of Will (4-1)
10. Tacitus (5-2)
War of Will carries a distinct disadvantage as the only horse who will compete in every Triple Crown event. Having previously placed ninth at the Louisiana Derby and seventh at the Kentucky Derby, it looks wise to pivot away from the Preakness champ with odds that leave little room for profit.
If desiring a top contender, pick Tacitus. The William Mott trainee is more rested after skipping the Preakness. He stormed back from a sloppy start on a sloppier track to finish third at the Run for the Roses, making him the Kentucky Derby's top finisher competing at Belmont.
Per Equibase, Tacitus has notched a Speed Figure of at least 105 in each of his last three races. The proven closer will benefit from a smaller field with no inclement weather in the forecast. Another strong finish could be enough to cross the finish line first this time.
Plenty of underdogs have prevailed at Belmont, so one must search beyond the front-runners. Since Todd Pletcher has trained three past winners, his two entrants particularly stand out as strong alternatives.
Discussing his Belmont success, courtesy of the Associated Press' Mike Farrell, Pletcher credited his tendency of foregoing the Preakness unless he wields a Kentucky Derby winner.
"It's a race we really cherish," Pletcher said of Belmont. "It's home for us. I think one of the advantages is most of our horses have trained five weeks at Belmont after the Derby. It helps, and it's a race we really enjoy."
After finishing second to By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby, Spinoff sagged all the way down to 18th at the Kentucky Derby. A muddy course derailed the speedster, who was also poorly suited for the lengthy track.
He'll have a veteran rider in Javier Castellano, a two-time Preakness winner who has registered three runner-up finishes at Belmont in the last decade.
The Washington Post's Neil Greenberg identified Spinoff as a possible winner because of his "tactical speed" and strong pedigree as the sire of Hard Spun, who finished second, third and fourth at the 2007 Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, respectively.
It likely won't require as much convincing to sell bettors on Intrepid Heart. There's an even stronger case to make from his pedigree. Like Tacitus, Intrepid Heart is sired by Tapit, whose offspring have won three of the last five Belmont Stakes.
Although absent from both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, fresh hooves and the mystery of the unknown may work in his favor. He also has familiarity with Belmont Park, placing third at May 11's Peter Pan Stakes after winning his first two races.
Per the NYRA Press Office, via the race's website, Pletcher said he has always focused squarely on this event for Intrepid Heart.
"In Intrepid Heart's case, literally, since the day he was purchased, the thought was in our minds that this horse is really bred for the Belmont Stakes," Pletcher said.
Based on the shifting odds, it appears the public is on board with a horse that's no longer much of a longshot.