Hofburg Odds to Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Tonalist, who won the Belmont in 2014, was a son of Tapit. So was Creator in 2016. And Tapwrit last year. So, it's no surprise that Hofburg, the only son of Tapit in the Belmont field this year, is getting more attention from bettors than he would likely get if he had his same record and lesser breeding. Hofburg is well-situated to be the second betting choice in the Belmont Stakes by post time - he's there right now in the futures betting. It's a low price for a lightly-raced horse that has yet to have a real breakthrough in a major race. But he is well-bred enough and seemingly talented enough to, if you'll pardon the pun, justify the attention.
Last race: The Derby, frankly, wasn't great for this horse. He looked like exactly what he was - a horse that was short on experience and got into some trouble he couldn't handle. He found some contact at the start and twice ran into contact that broke him from his stride and kept him near the back of the field. He was moving at the end - or at least maintaining his pace, and he moved all the way up to seventh. It was not a terrible effort, and several other colts were much worse, but it certainly didn't come in at the top end of his potential in the race. I was really dreaming of having him as a part of the trifecta at an overinflated 27/1.
Prior experience: The colt had run just three times prior to the Derby, so his inexperience in the biggest of races was no surprise. He made his debut in September at Saratoga, but it went poorly. He was given time off to mature and, presumably, to heal from things that were bothering him. When he came back in March he was a different and clearly better horse. He had trouble loading into the gate in his second maiden race at Gulfstream, but he overcame that to win solidly. Then he took the big jump up to the Florida Derby for his third career start. He was well off the pace early on but made a very nice charge down the stretch. He was no match for the winner Audible, but he was clearly better than the rest of the field. It was a nice performance that set him up well for the Derby.
Trainer: Bill Mott is best known as being the trainer of the great Cigar. That horse was one of the best ever - my favorite in a lifetime of being a racing fan. But Mott is much more than just the trainer of one gelding. He's a Hall of Famer and three-time Eclipse Award winner for top trainer, and among his many top stakes wins are 10 Breeders' Cup race wins. He's the real deal. But he spends very little time contesting Triple Crown races. He just doesn't seem to care about young colts. When he has a good one he can make the most of it, though. He got his only Triple Crown race win in the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer, a colt who went on to win the Breeders' Cup Classic the next year. Mike Smith, who will ride Justify this year, was aboard for both of those wins. Because Mott doesn't typically pursue races like this one or the Derby, and because he is usually more patient than he has been in pushing this horse into these races, it really stands out that the colt is here. That made him very intriguing in the Derby and still intriguing here.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. has ridden this horse for two of his four starts, including the Derby. And his brother Jose rode him the other two times. Ortiz is still only 25, but he has already had a very accomplished career. He was finished second or third in the nation in earnings each of the last four years and sits third again this year. He also has a massive lead in wins, with 155 to 127 for second place Luis Saez. Ortiz won his only Triple Crown race aboard Creator in the 2016 Belmont. Ortiz rides primarily in New York, so he knows this track very well. The colt is in very good hands here.
Breeding: The biggest reason bettors are liking this horse so much is his breeding. He's built for this challenge. Hofburg is a son of Tapit, who has incredible Triple Crown bloodline - and especially in the Belmont. Tapit is a grandson of Belmont winner A.P. Indy. A.P. Indy is turn is the son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and the grandson on his dam side of Triple Crown winner and stakes record holder in all three races Secretariat. Tapit himself had only moderate success on the track but has more than made up for it in the breeding shed. He has been the nation's top sire three times and has sired three of the last four Belmont winners - only American Pharoah in that stretch was not his son. And that's not where the good breeding ends. Hofburg's damsire is Touch Gold, who won this race in 1997, ending the Triple Crown dreams of Silver Charm. This horse is bred to run in this race.
Odds: Hofburg sits at +400 to win the Belmont at Bovada , which makes him the current second choice, far behind heavy-favorite Justify at -125 but well ahead of third-choice Bravazo at +700.
Can Hofburg Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes?: Sure. Inexperience remains a concern, but he is a talented and well-bred colt with strong connections, and his racing style could be fine for this challenge. He should be somewhere mid-pack early on in the race. If Justify has struggles up front or gets caught in a problematic pace then this colt could be poised to take advantage. At the very least he should be in good shape to get a piece of things.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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