War of Will Odds to Win the 2019 Belmont Stakes with Picks and Predictions
We have yet to see the Kentucky Derby winner, or the one who was disqualified, return to the track since that race. But at least we have the Preakness winner here for the Belmont. War of Will is on track to be the only horse to have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year, and he has a real chance to add a second title to his trophy room in this spot. He isn't likely to be the favorite, but he will be right up there. And if he gets the trip he wants and has a strong day, then he could easily come out on top.
Last race: Despite again drawing the inside post position, the Preakness turned out about as perfectly as it could have for the colt. He settled off the early pace, and when he went to move he found an almost impossibly wide open lane along the rail to cruise through to the lead. He won by well over a length and was still driving as if he had plenty to give at the wire. The Preakness lost a lot of luster with the defection of the Derby winner this year - both of them, really. But I truly believe that that effort would have been good enough to win the race regardless.
Career highlights: He will, of course, always be remembered as the horse that took the brunt of the contact in the incident that caused Maximum Security to be disqualified in the Derby. The more I have watched that replay, the more amazed I have become that this horse not only managed to stay on his feet, but that he didn't even stumble. It was a very athletic display. The Derby was already the ninth start of his career. An oddity that stands out in his two-year-old year was that he broke his maiden in a maiden race in late November at Churchill Downs in a race that came after the colt had already appeared in three graded stakes, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in which he finished fifth. You very rarely see a maiden race come after races like that, though it did mark a move from the grass to the dirt, so it makes some sense. He was an improved horse at three as he stayed on the dirt. He won the LeComte at Fair Grounds very handily in January and rebounded to win the Risen Star almost as impressively a month later, beating Country House in that effort. Then came the Louisiana Derby, which was an unmitigated disaster. He was clearly struggling early and essentially gave up on the race. It seemed certain given how he ran that he had been badly injured, but somehow he emerged just fine. The showing was a mystery.
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione. To be honest, I haven't always been the biggest fan of this rider, which is tough because I like Casse and the two are regular partners. But his rides in both Triple Crown races have been exceptional. To survive the chaos in the Derby was impressive, and he handled the Preakness very well. Gaffalione is 24 and is clearly continuing to improve. He is based mostly at Gulfstream, where he has won six meet titles already. I think maybe I need to re-evaluate my opinion of the guy. After this race I just may do so.
Trainer: For quite a while now, I have been thinking of Mark Casse as the best trainer not to have won a Triple Crown race, but now that mantle can be passed on to someone else. Casse started his training career in Canada, where he has been named the nation's top trainer 11 times, including the last eight years. Over the last several years, though, he has been focusing more of his business south of the border. He has won five Breeders' Cup races and is just an all-round excellent trainer.
Pedigree: War of Will is a son of War Front, a grandson of the great Northern Dancer via Danzig. War Front is among the most expensive stallions to breed to in the world right now, though that is driven more by success in Europe - and on turf more than dirt. He also sired Omaha Beach, who would almost certainly have been the Derby favorite if he hadn't been scratched just before the race, so it could have been an even better year for the stallion. War of Will's damsire is Sadler's Wells, who is a son of Northern Dancer, giving this colt a favorable cross-breeding influence in his pedigree. Sadler's Wells was born in the U.S. but raced and stood in Europe. He was a wildly successful stallion there, siring 323 stakes winners and becoming a truly impressive broodmare sire as well. We don't see a ton of his influence over here. However, when we do, we know to expect stamina. This is a fairly sound pedigree for this race. Not as good as the favorite, Tacitus, but solid enough to not be a real concern.
Running style: There is some versatility here. He has run on the front, and he has run off the pace somewhat early one as well - closer to the middle of the pack. He isn't a horse that needs the lead, and he doesn't have blistering natural speed. However, if things set up for him to go to the front, he will. It was widely expected he would do so in the Derby, but the inside post position made that too difficult to attempt. In the Belmont we could see him further forward than other races because there isn't a ton of speed in the field.
Belmont outlook: He is the +200 second choice in the field. On paper he is clearly the second-best horse at least - and he and Tacitus are separated by a canyon that makes the Grand Canyon look small from the rest of the field. Tacitus is a little fresher, a little better bred for the race, and a little better ridden, though, so the difference in odds for the two isn't unjustified. I respect the horse, and will use him, but I am not seeing much value in this price.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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