As is often the case, a large portion of the potential Belmont Stakes field is made up of horses who also ran in the Kentucky Derby. Also as usual, most of those horses haven't run since the Derby. This year we are looking at a Belmont field that could be as big as 13 horses, but it's more likely to be about 10 or 11. Seven of those horses were also in the Derby. There is a strong chance that one of those seven will be the winner of the Belmont, so it only makes sense to take a closer look at all seven (odds to win, when available, are from Bovada):
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The iron horses
Exaggerator (10/11): What can you say about Exaggerator at this point? After a strong second in the Derby he rebounded by convincingly winning the Preakness. He's a very classy horse. His sire Curlin was an all-time legend. Jockey Kent Desormeaux has won this race once and finished in the Top 3 four more times in just nine career starts. Trainer Keith Desormeaux has a hot touch right now. He's clearly the best horse in this field by a wide margin. If he can handle the strain of racing three times in five weeks then the win will be there for him to take.
Lani (14/1): If you had asked me before the Derby to pick the horses that would run in all three Triple Crown races I would have needed about 18 guesses to land on Lani. He just didn't seem that impressive coming in. After seeing him run twice in the Triple Crown, it doesn't make any more sense that he is here. He was very slow out of the gate in both races and was too far back to make any real impact with his solid late charge. He seems to be training reasonably well at Belmont - though it's hard to tell because the training methods used on him are so odd to our eyes. I guess he could be a part of the exotics, but I sure don't see him winning. His sire, Tapit, won the race just two years ago with Tonalist, though, so anything is possible.
The fresher runners
Brody's Cause (12/1): Which horse will we see here? The one who was a solid winner of the Blue Grass Stakes - a result made more impressive when third-place finisher and stablemate Cherry Wine, who is also aimed for the Belmont, came back to finish second in the Preakness? Of the horse that finished seventh in both the Tampa Bay Derby and the Kentucky Derby, failing to mount much of a charge from his position deep in the field both times? At his best this horse is a solidly-bred, reasonably-talented threat to get a piece. At his worst he's basically invisible. Trainer Dale Romans is very high on how the horse is working right now. However, is that enough to trust him? This is a tough one to figure out.
Creator (22/1): I am honestly surprised that Creator is currently the longest price on the board - though he wouldn't be if Bovada had posted prices for new possible entrant Trojan Nation. He's far from consistent and his Derby was a total disaster, but his Arkansas Derby win over likely second choice in the Belmont Suddenbreakingnews was fully legitimate, and his breeding lends itself reasonably well to this race. Let me put it this way - there are definitely horses in this race I hate more, so in that sense there is some value here. He gets a massive upgrade in the stirrups as Irad Ortiz Jr. takes over the mount, and that is a serious benefit for the horse.
Destin (10/1): I really hated that this horse had been off for eight weeks heading into the Derby. I am not thrilled that this will be just his second race in 13 weeks. He is too inexperienced to be coming in so fresh. His breeding is only okay, but his biggest asset is his running style - though not a speed horse, he is more comfortable being closer to the lead than most in the field, so given the lack of speed he could be well positioned in relative terms. The talent is definitely there, but I question if he has been positioned to maximize it. On the plus side, his jockey Javier Castellano is so successful at Belmont that one day they might name the place after him.
Suddenbreakingnews (6/1): He's suddenly the hot horse - at least the hot horse other than Exaggerator, who everyone knows is by far the best in the field. He was fifth in the Derby, but that was a better result than it seems - he was way out of the race early thanks to a combination of bad luck and bad riding and needed a rocket of a late move to wind up where he did. If the race were two or three strides longer he would likely have been third. The big knock against him is that he hasn't made a habit of winning against the best competition he faces. His breeding is basically perfect for this race, though, and he gets a huge upgrade in the saddle as Mike Smith takes over the ride. He is certainly intriguing - and perhaps the second-best choice, though not if the price goes much lower than it is now.
Trojan Nation: I was legitimately surprised when it was announced this week that Trojan Nation was heading to the Belmont. He is still a maiden, which means he has never won a race. This is a very tough spot to look for that first victory. He earned his spot in the Derby with a surprising second-place finish in the Wood Memorial but then didn't back it up - his Derby was just awful. He ran into trouble out of the gate in Kentucky and just quit, ultimately finishing 16th - a result that flattered his effort. He went right back to California, and I assumed we would never hear his name again unless we happened to be betting a random Wednesday allowance at Del Mar or something. But here he is. His connections say he has worked well and is ready. I couldn't be more skeptical. He did run up front once in a race, so I have to believe that the strategy will be to get him involved in the (largely absent) early pace and hope for the best. He won't be getting my betting support.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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