One of the big challenges of handicapping the Belmont Stakes every year is the different amounts of rest that horses have. This year, Classic Empire and Lookin at Lee will be running their third race in five weeks - something horses just don't do anymore. Conquest Mo Money, Multiplier, and Senior Investment are bouncing back from the Preakness, so they are off three weeks of rest - less than is common now, too. Meantime has rested for a month, and the rest are coming off at least five week's rest. Epicharis goes to the other extreme of potentially having too much rest - he last ran on March 25.
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So, how much rest is ideal? And who will benefit most from the rest they have had? Here is a look at the nine potential fresh Belmont horses who have had at least a month to get ready for this race, arranged by amount of rest (Odds to win the Belmont are from MyBookie ):
Meantime (+2200): He has had a month since finishing second in the Peter Pan - the same rest that Tonalist had before winning this race in 2014. He was only second in the Peter Pan, though, and would have to have the race of a lifetime to shine here. He has breeding to overcome in this race, hasn't faced horses of this caliber, and hasn't proven that he is good enough. Hard pass.
Irap (+1000): He was really lousy in the Derby - just awful as he finished 18th - and was not great in the Sunland Derby. His one big win - his only win, actually - came in a Blue Grass Stakes that was as bad as a prep race can possibly be. He could have all the rest in the world and be one of three horses in the field and I still wouldn't bet on him.
Gormley (+1000): He won the Santa Anita Derby. Winners of that race have combined for five Triple Crown race wins in the prior five years. This year's edition was lousy, though, and Gormley had a very forgettable Derby. Still, he has multiple graded stakes wins, so he can't be ignored in this spot.
Tapwrit (+800): His sire, Tapit, has sired two of the last three winners of the Belmont. On that front alone he deserves consideration here. Since winning the Tampa Bay Derby, though, he has been lousy in the Blue Grass and not as good as his sixth-place finish would suggest in the Derby. I don't like his form, but his breeding makes him a factor.
Patch (+1500): Here's another one with lousy form - a terrible Derby and a real lack of experience prior to that. Like stablemate Tapwrit, though, the breeding makes him tough to ignore completely - his sire, Union Rags, won this race, and damsire A.P. Indy won the Belmont, sired winner Rags to Riches, and has Triple Crown winners as his sire and damsire.
J Boys Echo (+3000): He beat Preakness winner Cloud Computing three back in the Gotham. But since then he was one of the lousy runners in the Blue Grass, and he just didn't show up for the Derby. There is talent, but I find him hard to trust. On the other hand, he is the longest shot on the board at this moment, and that's just ridiculous, so there is at least some relative value.
Irish War Cry (+900): Trainer Graham Motion has put this horse under consideration for this race later than any other potential entrant. I like it. He was my top pick in the Derby but never fully recovered from early contact and was a disappointing 10th after fading late. I want another chance to see what he is made of, so if he runs I'll bet on him.
Twisted Tom (+2500): Chad Brown just won the Preakness with a lightly-raced colt, and he is dominant in New York. So if he says that this lightly-raced colt is ready for a big effort in New York, and that he will love the distance, and I am not going to argue.
Epicharis (+380): He has not run since the UAE Derby, where he finished second to Thunder Snow, who imitated a bucking bronco instead of a thoroughbred in the Derby. This is a very concerning layoff for this horse in my eyes - especially since he has to travel so far to get here, his trainer has never run in the U.S. before, and his jockey has only run here a handful of times. He won his first three races by a combined 25 lengths, though, so he has some talent. And his grandsire, Sunday Silence, won the Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic in 1989. He was a true joy to watch, and he left for Japan upon retirement, so we never get to see his offspring here. I'm far from the only one who is excited about that.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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