The Belmont field seems to be growing every day as more owners take note of the generally unimpressive field and let their dreams of glory grow. At the latest count we could see as many as 13 horses entered, though 10 or 11 seems like a more likely number. As is always the case, though, there are more horses entered than there are horses that can reasonably win the Belmont - though we need to be careful in this race because Da' Tara and others remind us that long shots often wreak havoc here. Things can and likely will change between now and post time.
As things stand right now, though, there are, to my eyes, five horses that can win the Belmont Stakes (odds to win, when available, are from Bovada):
Exaggerator (10/11): This one, of course, is blatantly obvious. After dominating the Santa Anita Derby, he was a strong second in the Kentucky Derby and then came back to win the Preakness in very convincing fashion. He is a very good horse - no worse than the second-best three year old colt in the country right now. His breeding is sound for this challenge, and he is obviously in strong form. There is always a concern that a horse won't be up to three tough races in five weeks - especially when so few other horses are on the same schedule. There's also a concern in this particular race that the lack of true early speed makes it tough for closers like him to set up the race they want to run. That will cause trouble for all of the many closers in this race, though, and as a general rule the best horses often handle adversity the most effectively. He's unquestionably the horse to beat.
Suddenbreakingnews (6/1): This horse is the clear second betting choice at this time. I find it tough to decide whether that is a good idea or not. The reasons for it are clear. First, he was closing like he was fired out of a cannon late in the Derby, and he would have gotten up from fifth to third if he had just a few more strides. He was running the longest race of his life and still obviously had a lot in the tank at the end. That bodes well. His breeding is also just spectacular for this race. His sire is a two year old champion. His grandsire and great grandsire both won this race. So did his damsire. He was basically bred for the Belmont. He also gets a huge jockey upgrade with Mike Smith taking over for this race. That's all the good news.
There is bad news, though. Most significantly, he just doesn't make a habit of winning. He has one win in four graded stakes outings and has finished fifth twice in that time. He hasn't generally been good enough when it matters before, so how can we trust him now? There are enough positives that I just can't rule him out, though - but I will be very picky about price.
Cherry Wine (8/1): The second-place finish in the Preakness was no fluke. He is rapidly improving - fourth in the Rebel, third in the Blue Grass and second last time out in his last three races. He has trained well for this race, too. I am not at all a fan of having Corey Lanerie as his jockey - the guy loves costing me money. I also don't like how this race is setting up for him - or any of the closers. If he gets some luck, though, then he's probably the second-best closer in the race. That could give him a chance to win.
Creator (22/1): Mostly I am attracted to this horse because the oddsmakers are disrespecting him so much - he's currently the longest shot on the board, though that will change when a price for Trojan Nation is posted. His breeding is sound - sire Tapit sired 2014 Belmont winner Tonalist, and both his dam and damsire won at a mile and three-eighths. Like Suddenbreakingnews, Creator gets a massive jockey upgrade - Irad Ortiz Jr., who wins a ton of races at Belmont, is now on board. He's yet another closer who will have to find a way to overcome a less-than-ideal race setup, but he showed in his Arkansas Derby victory that on his best day he is potent. There is major value at this price - especially in exotics.
Stradivari (9/1): The hype around this Todd Pletcher trainee was likely overinflated before the Preakness, and he wound up running a pretty average race there. He's massively talented, though, and he still has run only four times, so the room for improvement is huge. He has never run at Belmont, but he has trained well on the track. He's ridden by John Velazquez, who knows this Belmont track very well. He's more versatile than much of the field because he has run near the lead before and could feasibly set the pace if forced to. This is a very talented horse and one we can't ignore.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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