As it sits now, we seem to be looking at a field of 11 runners for the Belmont Stakes - 10 plus American Pharoah. Incredibly, eight of those 11 also ran in the Kentucky Derby - a higher proportion than we typically see in this race. Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah is the only one who also ran in the Preakness, but seven others who weren't good enough on the first Saturday in May are poised to come back for another shot on the first Saturday in June. Here's a look at these horses (all odds are from Bovada):
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The iron horse
American Pharoah (1/1): The heavy Belmont favorite will also be the only horse that has run in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. The reason why fewer horses are doing this now than ever before is simple - it doesn't work very well. No horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 has won the Belmont after running in the previous two legs of the Triple Crown, and we obviously have to go back to Affirmed in 1978 for a horse that won all three. It's a daunting task.
The fresher runners
Carpe Diem (16/1): He was the solid third choice in the Kentucky Derby but had a truly disastrous outing in that race. He finished 10th, and there was no obvious reason to explain the flop. I'm reminded, though, of another Todd Pletcher horse - Palace Malice. In the 2013 Derby he went insane, running crazy early fractions and burning himself out completely. He skipped the Preakness to regroup, though, and came back to win the Belmont in a very professional manner. I'm not saying that Carpe Diem will repeat the result, but he should improve here and is a bargain at the price.
Frammento (50/1): He was 11th in the Derby and was totally underwhelming - both leading into the race and during it. You can't ignore him, though, for one simple reason - trainer Nick Zito. Zito pulled off a big shocker in 2004 when Birdstone ended the Triple Crown hopes off Smarty Jones, and a much, much bigger one four years later when Da' Tara ran the only good race of his life to win at about a million-to-one in Big Brown's year.
Frosted (5/1): He'll likely go off as the second choice in the Belmont after a strong fourth-place showing in the Derby. He made a monster move around the final turn in that race and was moving forward in the stretch despite slowing down. A few more strides and he would have been third. He'll need to outrun his pedigree to come out on top in this one, but he's certainly a factor.
Keen Ice (25/1): I'm split on this one. On one hand, despite a seventh-place finish in the Derby, I wasn't any more impressed with him after that race than I was before - and that's not a compliment in this case. He's pretty forgettable as a horse. He's a son of Curlin, though, and his damsire is Awesome Again, so there is no doubt that he can handle the distance. I'd be shocked if he won it, but he could be a factor at the bottom of exotics for sure.
Materiality (15/2): My big complaint about this horse heading into the Derby was that he lacked experience and maturity since he had only run three times. Inexperience caused him to miss the start, and he was at the back of the pack early in the Derby. That was the first adversity he had really seen, and I was impressed with how he handled it. Instead of quitting with a face full of mud, he made a solid move up to sixth in the end. It will help him down the line. I'm not sure if he is mature enough now to be a factor, but by the summer he should be a beast.
Mubtaahij (14/1): This Middle Eastern invader was eighth in the Derby, but I was not at all impressed. He got an easy, ground-saving trip, but didn't look to have much left down the stretch. I like that he is getting a Belmont-based jockey this time instead of a European one, but I still don't think he'll get the distance.
War Story (33/1): Hard to know what to expect here. He was a hopeless 16th in the Derby. His trainer, Tom Amoss, didn't seem committed to the Belmont early on, but the owner enthusiastically not only told us that the horse was running but that he'd have a new jockey and that he'd be setting the pace early on. Seems crazy, but what can you do?
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