The Belmont field looked stable for over a week, and then the changes began after horses did more works and reality began to set in. Out were War Story and Conquest Curlinate - both of whom didn't seem to have a great chance, anyway. In their place, The Truth Or Else, somewhat surprisingly, has come forward as a likely starter. He's a long shot to be sure, but he's out of a stable and with a jockey that both know a thing or two about long shots in the Belmont. So does he have a chance? Let's take a look:
Last race: The good news is that he has won at Belmont - a rarity in this field. In fact, he has done it twice. Most recently it was in an allowance race over a mile and a sixteenth on May 22. You math geniuses will be able to figure out that that means he is coming back on a day over two weeks rest. He also raced on the Derby undercard. If you are concerned that American Pharoah could be too tired given what he has faced in his last five weeks, you have to be concerned about this horse because he has raced just as much in the same time period - though shorter races each time. The allowance win was the best race of his career, though, He was further forward throughout than normal, moved confidently between foes, and led through the final turn and down the stretch.
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Career highlights: He might be late to this field, but he doesn't lack experience -- the allowance win was his 12th career start. He broke his maiden in the second try at Belmont, so he developed his affection for this track early. From there it was seven straight graded stakes outings - and no wins. He was second once and third twice but was typically not quite good enough. On Derby day he was shortened back to a mile, but that didn't seem to suit him particularly well. He seems to need a bit more distance - and he'll certainly get it in the Belmont.
Jockey: Edgar Prado has never ridden the horse, but he'll get the mount for this one. Joel Rosario, who had been aboard the last two times, is on Frosted instead. He'll be on a long shot here, but that certainly doesn't scare him in the Belmont. In 2002 he ended War Emblem's shot at the Triple Crown - Bob Baffert trained War Emblem as he trains American Pharoah - by winning aboard Sarava at more than 70/1. Two years later it was Smarty Jones who fell short of a Triple Crown when Prado again won aboard long shot Birdstone. Prado has been riding far from his best in recent years, though, so he's not the threat he once was.
Trainer: Ken McPeek is not only the trainer of this horse, but he's one of the two owners as well. I always like when a trainer has a personal stake in a horse. McPeek has just one Triple Crown race win - he was at the helm for that massive upset by Sarava. At 70/1 it was the most improbable Belmont winner we have seen. McPeek isn't the best or most accomplished trainer in his field by any means, but he has won plenty of big races and will have this horse as ready as it can be.
Pedigree: The Truth Or Else has some of the best naming ever in his pedigree - his sire, Yes It's True is a son of Is It True. Yes It's True was a winner at Belmont but raced at a mile or less most of the time. There isn't a lot of inspiring stamina-rich runners to find in his offspring. The other side of the pedigree is better, though. The Truth Or Else's damsire is Colonial Affair, the winner of the 1993 Belmont who was the son of 1981 Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony.
Running style: We could have seen a switch in philosophy here - which could be the only thing to explain why he is in this race. For much of his career he found himself well off the early pace, trying to make up ground at the end. The results were underwhelming. Last time out he was pushed much further forward at the start and stuck with the pace early on. It had a very positive result with the win. Given the quick turnaround from that race I have to assume that that is the same approach he will take again in this race. The problem, though, is that most of the rest of the field - American Pharoah, Carpe Diem, Materiality, Frosted and others - also would like to be just off the early pace in a perfect scenario. It could get very crowded, and it's hard to believe that this horse - even improved as he could be with the change in running style - would be good enough against that bunch.
Belmont outlook: I don't really get it. Any horse has a chance, and it helps that he is proven at the track. I just don't see how he wins this race unless several other horses have a very bad day, though, and his breeding is not ideal. The price will be a fat one, but I don't expect there to be any value in it. He's as easy as any horse in the field to toss out.
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