2018 Belmont Stakes Live Long Shots
Justify looms very large over the Belmont this year as he takes his shot at Triple Crown glory. He was set at 4/5 in the morning line, and there is a good chance that he will fall well below that by post time. It is truly his race to lose - though by now we have learned too well that great horses are very capable of losing this race. When a horse draws that much attention, we are obviously going to have lots of fat prices - lots of long shots to consider. Hofburg is at 9/2, and Bravazo and Vino Rosso are both at 8/1, so you could argue that every other horse other than the top four is a real long shot.
There are two horses that stand out as presenting a lot of potential value considering their morning line price . Before we look at each in turn, though, let's look at what I was generally looking for. When I broke down this race, I believed the obvious - Justify was the centerpiece of the pace, and the story will be about if he can get to the front and what others can do to contain him. There is at least a glimmer of hope if they can challenge him - Good Magic lead him through a tough test for much of the Preakness, and Justify seemed tired by the end. Plus, the Belmont tends to be a race that favors horses that are near the lead early on.
So, I'm looking for talented and well-bred horses who will likely be at or near the front early on. Simple as that. And two jump out as very intriguing:
Noble Indy (30/1): I get why people aren't in love with Noble Indy. But what I don't get is why people are as out of love with him as his price would suggest.
Sure, his run in the Derby was a total and utter mess. And the Louisiana Derby has not been the most inspiring or important of the major Derby races for a long time now. But this is still the winner of a major Derby prep who has won three of four races on a fast track, and so it seems just crazy that he could go off as the longest shot on the board.
Horses that have run in the Derby are particularly solid in the Belmont. That's a checkmark in favor of this horse. Horses that are on or near the lead in this race early on have a better-than-expected performance typically, and Noble Indy is perhaps the horse most likely to challenge Justify early on. Another check. Trainer Todd Pletcher has won this race three times and knows as much about what it takes to win in New York as any trainer alive. Another check. This colt is a grandson of A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont himself and is a direct descendant of two Triple Crown winners. That's a big checkmark - especially considering great-grandsons of A.P. Indy have won three of the last four editions of this race. Noble Indy's damsire is Storm Boot, a son of Storm Cat. The great Storm Cat sired Belmont winner Tabasco Cat, and his bloodlines are littered with top horses. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was his great-grandson, and he is the great-great-grandsire of Justify.
So, we have a well-bred colt with strong connections, a reasonably favorable running style, past success, and Derby experience. I'm not saying he is my top pick by any means. But if he goes off at anywhere close to his morning line price there will be real value here - especially in the exotics.
Restoring Hope (30/1): All eyes are on Bob Baffert in this race, so it only makes sense that we pay a little attention to the other Baffert horse. Like Noble Indy, this colt had a truly horrifying outing on Derby day - this time in the Pat Day Mile on the undercard. Given the track on that day, though, and the general craziness of that particular race, I am willing to pretend that that event never happened. I've drawn a line right through it.
He has trained brilliantly since and was a fast-improving colt leading up to the Pat Day. His breeding is very sound - he has the same Storm Cat blood as Noble Indy does, though it is on his sire side in his case, and his damsire is Tapit, who has sired three of the last four Belmont winners and who is a grandson of A.P. Indy and all of that great blood. He's a horse willing to mix it up early on, and that is where I like horses to be in the Belmont.
Again, I don't think he is a likely winner, but I really don't think he should be the longest shot on the board, either. At close to this price he would be attractive in exotics.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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