Belmont Stakes 2022: Early Predictions for Rich Strike, Top Contenders

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IIMay 23, 2022

Belmont Stakes 2022: Early Predictions for Rich Strike, Top Contenders

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting will be one-and-done in Triple Crown events, but Rich Strike will soon return to the track to race.

    While the Kentucky Derby winner is going to be in the field for the Belmont Stakes on June 11, Early Voting won't be. Trainer Chad Brown said Sunday that his colt will not compete in the Belmont and it's undecided when he will return to competition.

    Epicenter, who finished second at both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, is also unlikely to race in the Belmont. Owner Ron Winchell said it's a "stretch" that he could participate in the third and final race on the Triple Crown schedule.

    So will Rich Strike, the 80-1 long-shot Derby winner, storm to victory again at the Belmont? Or will each of the three Triple Crown races have a different winner in 2022?

    Here's a look at some of the likely top contenders at Belmont Park, along with early predictions for each.

Rich Strike

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Rich Strike may have had the longest odds to win of the 20 horses in this year's Kentucky Derby, but that won't be the case for the Belmont.

    The colt showed what he's capable of with his improbable surge through the field to win the Run for the Roses on May 7, and he'll likely be among the top favorites for the final leg of the Triple Crown slate.

    It could depend on which horses are entered into the Belmont, but Rich Strike could be the early favorite when odds are released. The Eric Reed-trained colt has finished in the top three in five of his past seven races, and he could end up in the money again at Belmont Park.

    After winning the Derby, Rich Strike wasn't entered into the Preakness. So he's had plenty of time to prepare for the Belmont.

    "Skipping the Preakness was still one of the toughest decisions I had to make as a trainer," Reed said. "I just don't think he would've been mentally ready to run against those horses again."

    Rich Strike only has two career wins, and there will be some strong competition in the Belmont, even if Early Voting and Epicenter won't be there.

    So, the prediction here is that Rich Strike will have a solid showing but will come up a bit short of his second straight victory.

    Prediction: Rich Strike finishes in the top three.

Creative Minister

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Creative Minister didn't participate in the Kentucky Derby, but he was at Churchill Downs the weekend of the race and notched an allowance win on the undercard for the big race. After that, it was decided he would be entered into the Preakness.

    Although the three-year-old didn't win at Pimlico Race Course, he had a strong showing. He ended up in third behind Early Voting and Epicenter. And neither of those horses is going to be at the Belmont, where Creative Minister is likely to be entered, according to trainer Kenneth McPeek.

    Prior to the Preakness, Creative Minister had finished either first or second in each of his first three career races. However, he hasn't gotten a ton of experience, so he could be challenged in the 1½-mile Belmont while going up against numerous horses that competed in the Kentucky Derby but not the Preakness.

    Because of that, don't be surprised if Creative Minister finishes outside of the money. It's unlikely he falls too far back in the pack, though, but expect him to end up outside the top three.

    Prediction: Creative Minister finishes fourth or worse.

Mo Donegal

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    At the Kentucky Derby, Mo Donegal ended up in fifth behind a quartet of strong horses. Before that, the Todd Pletcher-trained colt had three wins and a pair of third-place finishes over his first five career races. And one of those victories came at the Wood Memorial Stakes in April.

    The three-year-old wasn't entered into the Preakness, so he hasn't competed since the Derby, where he didn't have the best luck in the post-position draw. He started from the No. 1 post and didn't get off to a great start, which set him back for the rest of the race.

    However, there's reason to believe Mo Donegal could fare much better in the Belmont. Notably because he's had some success at Belmont Park in the past, having raced there twice last year and recorded one win and a third-place finish at the track.

    Although Rich Strike and others will pose a challenge, he should be up for it, especially if he draws a good post and can get off to a strong start. That's why he's the early pick to win in Elmont, New York this year.

    Prediction: Mo Donegal wins the Belmont.