Saturday’s Belmont Stakes lacks any real intrigue this year, with both the Derby and Preakness winners skipping the race. In essence, it is just another big race this year. Still, the good news is there is a big field, there will be big pools and lots of money to be made if you can sort it out.
Irish War Cry will be the favorite, and deservedly so. At his best he can be outstanding. But he also has some puzzling losses, including the Derby, where he simply did not show up. He should perform better today, but it also would not be a shock if he struggled and some long shots show up. The Belmont is a difficult race; at 1 ½ miles it is longer than these horses have ever run or will likely run again. The Belmont is usually won by the horse who can best handle the distance. It is more guesswork than most of the races, but there are some angles that work. Stamina breeding is very important, so you will see plenty of references.
Horses that ran in the Derby but skipped the Preakness — like Irish War Cry — tend to do well. Our bets will center on three long shots — Tapwrit, J Boys Echo and Senior Investment. Our podcast with RJ Bell is available here.
Here we have a complete breakdown of each horse, some key notes and potential plays.
BREAKDOWN OF THE FIELD
No. 1 TWISTED TOM
Race record: 6 races, 4 wins, 0 seconds, 0 thirds.
Jockey: J.J. Castellano.
Trainer: Chad Brown.
Why he can win: The horse has won three straight, and Brown pulled off a huge upset with Cloud Computing in the Preakness. It was an amazing training job and he should have this one ready to run as well.
Why he can’t: He has been facing lesser lights, has not raced since mid-April and really does not have the breeding to go this far. But Brown has been a magician — especially in New York — and it’s hard to throw him out.
No. 2 TAPWRIT
Race record: 7-3-1-0..
Jockey: .Jose Ortiz.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher.
Why he can win: .He has legitimate excuses for his last two races, and was an absolute machine before that. His sixth in the Derby was better than it looked, and his running style should put him in the hunt.
Why he can’t: There really is not one. His best efforts make him a contender, and he has a big shot here. Should get a nice tracking trip behind the speed and the only real question — as it is with all of these — is can he handle the distance?
No. 3 GORMLEY
Race record: 7-4-0-0.
Jockey: Victor Espinoza.
Trainer: John Shirrefs.
Why he can win: He likes to finish first, and he is a win or nothing type. He has two Grade I victories, which makes him the most accomplished runner in the field..Shirrefs is a terrific trainer.
Why he can’t: .He folded bigtime in the Derby after winning a weak Santa Anita Derby. Did most of his best work as a 2-year-old. Hard to dismiss with his record but might be a use on top or not at all kind of horse.
No. 4 J BOYS ECHO
Race record: 7-2-1-1.
Jockey: Robby Albarado..
Trainer: Dale Romans.
Why he can win: Like Tapwrit, he has excuses for the Blue Grass and Derby, and he has a win over Preakness winner Cloud Computing in the Gotham. His 102 Beyer in that race is tops in the field, and a repeat puts him right there.
Why he can’t: Like Tapwrit he should have a legitimate shot here, and the 15-1 price isenticing. Breeding is good enough and he could easily surprise.
No. 5 HOLLYWOOD HANDSOME
Race record: 9-2-0-3.
Jockey: Florent Geroux.
Trainer: Dallas Stewart.
Why he can win: .He seems to be on the improve, and might move up enough to make an impact.
Why he can’t: .He has not run a race fast enough to be competitive, and his breeding does not really scream 1 ½ miles. Probably a fringe player at best.
No. 6 LOOKIN AT LEE
Race record: 11-2-3-2.
Jockey: Corey Lanerie.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen.
Why he can win: Have liked this horse since last year. He always seems to fire and his second in the Derby was huge.
Why he can’t: .He rarely does actually win. He will also be the only horse to compete in all three Triple Crown races, and he had to run hard in the prior two. Might be a bit over the top at this stage. Still worth using but not as in love with him in this spot.
No. 7 IRISH WAR CRY
Race record: 6-4-0-0.
Jockey: Rajiv Maraugh.
Trainer: Graham Motion.
Why he can win: .He will be favored, and he has put up some excellent efforts. But he has also thrown in some serious clunkers when under pressure. Like Gormley, he likely either wins or does not show up at all.
Why he can’t: His impressive wins are easy to poke holes in, and he is not all that consistent. Will have to use him, but won’t fault anyone for tossing him, either.
No. 8 SENIOR INVESTMENT
Race record: 9-3-0-2.
Jockey: Channing Hill.
Trainer: .Kenneth McPeek.
Why he can win: He has been improving steadily, and his third in the Preakness was solid. He should like the added distance and will be a real threat..
Why he can’t: Plodders don’t often win the Belmont despite the long distance. Should get enough pace to run at, but might be more likely to run second or third. Still, should be a serious factor.
No. 9 MEANTIME
Race record: 4-1-2-1.
Jockey: Mike Smith.
Trainer: Bryan Lynch.
Why he can win: Should be the pacesetter, and his prep for this was a solid second. Horses near the lead often do well in the Belmont, but winning wire to wire is rare.
Why he can’t: His last two starts have come in the slop, and it looks like nice weather Saturday. His breeding suggests he won’t get this far. There should be enough speed in here to keep him company early. Still, an intriguing long shot.
No. 10 MULTIPLIER
Race record: 5-2-1-1.
Jockey: Joel Rosario.
Trainer: Brendan Walsh.
Why he can win: He adds blinkers, and was not all that bad in the Preakness..
Why he can’t: Just does not seem to be fast enough, and his breeding screams sprinter.
No. 11 EPICHARIS
No. 12 PATCH
Race record: 4-1-2-0.
Jockey: John Velazquez.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher.
Why he can win: The popular one-eyed horse has talent, and like most of the horses that ran into trouble in the Derby, you can throw that race out. Should handle the distance just fine and has every right to improve.
Why he can’t: .He simply has not run a race good enough yet. He has just a maiden win to his credit, and his second in the Louisiana Derby is his most impressive feat, and it just was not that strong of a race. The outside post does not help.
There are some seriously good races on the undercard. Race 4 should be very competitive. Oaks winner Abel Talsman will take all the money, but Salty is worth a play.
In race 5, Songbird returns, and she will be a heavy favorite. It might be worth playing Highway Star to beat her, and playing exactas with Songbird on top of Highway Star in case Songbird does win.
Race 8 starts the pick 4. I am looking at the 1, 2 and 7.
The 9th is the Met Mile, and the 1-5-8-9-12 are the horses I am looking at. No. 1 Inside Straight is a very interesting long shot and is worth playing at 15-1.
Race 10 is wide open, but will be playing the European No. 6 Potemkin at a solid price.
1–The Belmont is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1 ½ miles. Most likely none of these horses will ever run this far again.
2–Sarava is the longest-priced Belmont winner at 70.5-1 in 2002. His trainer is represented by Senior Investment.
3–In the last 25 years, just five favorites have won. Of the past 25 winners, 12 have left the gate at double digit odds. Irish War Cry is the morning-line favorite, but Epicharis might go off favored at post time.
4–Only three horses since 2000 have competed in all three races and won the Belmont. Lookin at Lee is the only horse this year to run all three.
5–Only one of the last eight Belmont winners ran in the Preakness — American Pharoah in 2015. Only four of the past 18 winners ran in the Preakness.
6–Nine of the last seventeen winners ran in the Derby or Kentucky Oaks and skipped the Preakness. There are five Derby horses who skipped the Preakness this year. There were five last year, and two of them ran 1-2.
7–Of the last 31 runnings, only three have been won in wire to wire fashion.
8–Tapit has sired two of the last three Belmont winners. (Tapwrit).
9–Sire Curlin has had a runner finish in the money in at least one Triple Crown race each year since his debut crop of 3-year-olds was eligible, and Irish War Cry is his only hope of continuing that streak this year.
10–Four horses will be making their Triple Crown debut in the Belmont — Epicharis, Hollywood Handsome, Meantime, and Twisted Tom.
If you want to play what I am playing, the picks are available here. The plays were posted before the scratch of Epicharis. We are simply removing him from the tickets and not making any other changes.