Bravazo Odds to Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes with Picks and Predictions
D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Bravazo, has won 14 Triple Crown races, with his last in 2013. He's 82 but showing no signs of ever slowing down. Calumet Farm, which owns and bred this colt, has won the Kentucky Derby a record eight times, the Preakness a record seven, and has produced two Triple Crown winners, but the last Derby came in 1968. The two legends of the sport came together to win the Preakness in 2013 with Oxbow. Can they recapture some magic - and relive old times -- here with an upset in the Belmont?
Last race: Is it an insult to say that the best race a horse has ever run came in a race he didn't win? Too bad, I'm doing it anyway. Bravazo showed more potential in losing the Preakness than he had in any of his wins. He stalked the pace early, being smart enough not to get into the staring contest that was going on between Justify and Good Magic in front of him. He lost some ground as he worked to find a path entering the stretch, but then he shifted gears and was gamely moving forward as the line approached. Justify had not locked onto him yet as he was coming, so if the race was a couple of strides longer he may have been able to steal it. But if Justify had seen him and engaged then I don't think Bravazo would have won. Still, it was a nice race and a very well-ridden one.
Prior experience: We have complained this year about inexperience and how tough that makes it to judge horses, so it is refreshing on that front to see a horse like this who is making his 11th career start in the Belmont. Rather than inexperience, though, it is consistency that has been the issue for this colt. He has won big races - like the Risen Star. And he has thrown up absolute duds - like the Louisiana Derby next time out, in which his eighth-place finish was still somehow flattering. He's been run from off the pace, as he was in the Kentucky Jockey Club at two and in the Derby. And he has stalked the pace like in the Preakness, or especially in the Risen Star where he pushed it. And he has had six different riders through his career - though thankfully he will have the same one two races in a row here. I would imagine that this has been a frustrating horse to train, because he'll show so much one time out and then just can't follow it up. At his best he could be pretty good and could claim a big race this summer or fall. But if he came out and finished 11th in the Belmont then I would be no more surprised than if he was second.
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas is, simply, a legend. The 82-year-old has not only won 14 Triple Crown races, but in his prime he redefined what a Triple Crown-chasing racing stable looked like, creating a model that Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert and others have adopted in some form since. And perhaps his greatest legacy is his training tree - Pletcher is the highest-profile of many top-caliber trainers who were once Lukas assistants. Lukas runs a dramatically scaled-back stable now, but that doesn't mean he isn't still sharp. And his history is just remarkable. The guy won the Preakness and Belmont in 1994, then he won all three races the next year and added the Derby in 1996 for good measure. Then he missed on the Preakness that year but got back to winning ways in the Belmont. That's seven of eight Triple Crown races he won - and he did it with five different horses. Just incredible.
Jockey: Luis Saez rode the horse for the first time in the Preakness, and it only makes sense he is back again after getting such a solid effort out of the colt. Saez is in the midst of an excellent year, sitting second nationally in wins and fourth in earnings. He has neither a Triple Crown nor a Breeders' Cup win to his credit, but along with the second in the Preakness he has twice been runner-up in Cup races. He's a capable rider who will have a breakthrough one day, and he is based in New York, so he knows the quirky Belmont track very well. He's the right choice here.
Breeding: Bravazo and Justify have more in common than just that they are the only two horses on track to run in all three Triple Crown races this year. Bravazo is a son of Awesome Again, who is Justify's maternal great-grandfather. Awesome Again was a Breeders' Cup Classic winner, and his offspring include Classic winner Ghostzapper, who is Justify's damsire. There is plenty of good stamina influence there for this colt. Bravazo's damsire is Cee's Tizzy, who is best known for siring Tiznow, the only two-time Classic winner. Whatever concerns you might have about Bravazo in the Belmont, his ability to handle the distance should not be at the top of the list.
Odds: Bovada has Bravazo at +700 to win the Belmont, which makes him the third choice behind heavily-favored Justify at -125 and ideally-bred Hofburg at +400.
Can Bravazo Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes?: If you are ever counting out a D. Wayne Lukas colt in a Triple Crown race then you are making a mistake. He looked good in the Preakness and wasn't terrible in the Derby. I don't believe he stands a chance against Justify if the favorite is on his game, but that goes for any horse here. If he can patiently stalk the pace like he did last time out, though, and if things get crazy up front, then there is a decent chance he could pick up the pieces. He's a contender, though not one who offers much value at this price.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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