As we stand right now, just short of two weeks out from the Belmont Stakes, there are still 14 horses being pointed at the race. We aren't likely to have that many in the gate, but it's going to be a larger field - mainly because there is no one to scare anyone off in the group. As is often the case, a large portion of that field is made up of horses who we saw in the Kentucky Derby - eight of the 14 potential runners. Those horses have two big advantage over others - they have run a mile and a quarter already, which is further than any horse who hasn't run in the Derby will have gone, so they will be more ready for the grueling mile and a half of the Belmont. And, simply, they were good enough to get into the Derby, so they are probably better than some of the horses who skipped the biggest three year old race in the world. Here's a quick look at the eight (odds to win the Belmont are from MyBookie ):
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The Iron Horses
Classic Empire (+140): He was fourth in the Derby despite an absolutely brutal trip and controlled the Preakness until being caught just before the wire by Cloud Computing. And his breeding is very well suited to this race - his sire, Pioneerof the Nile, sired a Triple Crown winner and is the son of a Belmont winner. The horse will have a big target on his back because he will be the favorite, so he will need a strong tactical ride from Julien Leparoux. He is fully capable of winning this race, though.
Lookin at Lee (+380): Like Classic Empire, Lookin at Lee has a second and a fourth in the first two Triple Crown races. He benefitted from an absolutely perfect dream trip in the Derby, but was still solid in the Preakness and has made a habit of being a part of most races he runs in. He doesn't like to win, though, so he'll need lots of luck and a bit more determination than usual. With his heart and experience, he's a factor, though.
Coming In More Rested
Irap (+1000): I like almost nothing about this horse except his breeding. His win in the Blue Grass Stakes came in one of the most bizarre and inexplicable prep races I have ever watched in my life - and I watch all of them. His non-effort in the Derby was just embarrassing. And I don't trust jockey Mario Gutierrez to make good decisions in this massively tactical race. And trainer Doug O'Neill is my least favorite trainer in the sport. So, no, I won't be betting on him.
Gormley (+1000): He won the Santa Anita Derby, which puts him in some pretty good company lately. But that race was really slow and just lousy, and this horse looked pretty bad in the Derby - or, at the very least, completely irrelevant. He has multiple graded stakes wins, so he is classy, and his breeding is solid, so he has to be viewed as a factor. The price would have to be right, though - which means better than what the odds are at right now.
Tapwrit (+800): His sire, Tapit, has sired two of the last three Belmont Stakes winners, so for that reason alone this horse has to be taken seriously. After an eye-opening performance in the Tampa Bay Derby which put him near the top of the list of Derby contenders, though, he was awful in the Blue Grass and a very flattering sixth in the Derby. I really can't fight the feeling that this is a colt that peaked too early, but there is talent here if it can be tapped (pun intended) into.
Patch (+1500): This colt has only one eye - a fact you heard about six million times if you watched the entire Derby broadcast. That fact led a lot of casual bettors to back this colt, and they all had their money wasted. He was lousy. I don't like that, and I don't like his real shortage of experience. I would rule him out entirely, but his breeding is ridiculous - his sire (Union Rags) won the Belmont, and his damsire (A.P. Indy) won the race, sired a winner of the race, and is the son of a Triple Crown winner and has another Triple Crown winner as his damsire. He was bred to run in this race.
J Boys Echo (+3000): Three races back he ran a race that was easy to love in the Gotham when he beat Preakness winner Cloud Computing handily. Since then, though, he has been lousy. He was one of the many horses to have a terrible day in that bizarre Blue Grass, and he basically quit right out of the gate in the Derby and was never a real part of the race. I like the talent, and the breeding is okay, but I am not confident we can again see the effort he will need to have to be a factor here.
Irish War Cry (+900): Trainer Graham Motion has started to hint that this horse could be a part of the Belmont field, which made him the fourth possible contender. He was my top choice in the Derby, so I am still bitter - after a rough start he faded badly in the stretch, and finished 10th. He's a much better horse than he showed there, though, so I would relish another shot at backing him.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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