Expert Belmont Stakes Handicapping: Early Look at Field
The Belmont Stakes is still more than two weeks away, and a lot will change between now and the time that horses are being loaded into the gate. But at this point, we have a first indication of what the race might look like and which horses will have a shot at claiming the third jewel of the Triple Crown. There are, at this point, six horses that seem probable, and seven more that are considering the race. If I were making a bet now, I would guess we are looking at a field of eight to 10 horses in the end. Here's what we know at this point (Odds to win the Belmont Stakes are from BetOnline):
One Triple Crown race winner
We still aren't going to see Kentucky Derby winner Country House, or almost winner Maximum Security, for that matter. Neither horse has returned to training yet after the Derby. But we are expecting to see War of Will, the Preakness winner, back for more. He survived the Derby debacle without incident and got a great trip to win the Preakness in nice fashion. And now he is in line to be the only iron horse running in all three legs of the Triple Crown. His Preakness win was no fluke, and he absolutely is a contender in this spot as well. He's the second choice in the field at +375 at this point
The rest of the probables
The most interesting potential runner here is Tacitus, the Bill Mott-trained colt we last saw finishing fourth - placed third - in the Derby. He's the +250 favorite here, and a whole lot of that has to do with the breeding. He's a son of Tapit, the sire who has sired three Belmont winners already - Tonalist, Creator and Tapwrit. Tapit is essentially bred for this race. His sire, A.P. Indy, won the Belmont. A.P. Indy was sired by Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and his damsire is Triple Crown winner Secretariat, who holds the record for the race. Tapit's damsire is Unbridled, who won the Derby, and was second in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont. And, among many other top horses, Unbridled sired Belmont winner Empire Maker, is the grandsire of Belmont winner Birdstone, and the great-grandsire of Belmont winner Summer Bird and Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. With breeding like that, it's no surprise that this horse is favored - and likely to stay that way.
The rest of the probables are much longer shots. Everfast (+1200) was the stunning runner-up in the Preakness last time out at a huge price. Master Fencer (+1200) is the Japanese-bred colt who was sixth in the Derby but never truly threatened. He has been training at Keeneland since then. Sir Winston (+1600) comes from the same Mark Casse stable as War of Will, and was second in the Peter Pan, a key local prep for the Belmont, last time out. Intrepid Heart (+1400) was third in that same race.
The possible runners
The biggest name here is Game Winner (+550), the reigning two-year-old champion who was among the Derby favorites this year. He was fifth in that race, but he ran a very wide trip and actually looked quite good after a rough start. The biggest problem, though, is that he's had an excuse for every race this year. I'm getting tired of excuses -- I just want to see him reach his potential again. Bob Baffert has won this race twice in the last four years, though, so I have some faith.
Owendale (+700) was a somewhat surprising third-place finisher in the Preakness, though he had his share of late wise guy support in that race. Trainer Brad Cox has never been in this race, and it feels like he isn't entirely committed to this spot if you read between the lines on his comments so far.
Two other Derby runners remain possible. UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait (+1800), who was eighth in Kentucky, and 14th place finisher Tax (+2500) are both listed as possible. I would be quite surprised, though, if Tax doesn't make his next start on the grass.
Rounding out the list of possibles is Global Campaign (+1400), who won the Peter Pan. This distance feels like a real stretch for him, though, and his connections really seem more focused on the Travers, with a lesser race between now and then.
Bourbon War, who was a disappointing eighth in the Preakness after drawing a lot of betting attention, and Spinoff, the Todd Pletcher colt who was 18th in the Derby, are both listed as possible at this point, but I would put them in a highly doubtful category myself.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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