Since the inception of The Triple Crown horse racing series in 1875 only twelve horses have won all three legs, which culminates with The Belmont Stakes held at Belmont Park. If JUSTIFY wins on Saturday he will not only join that elusive, exclusive club, but he would be the second Bob Baffert trained horse to accomplish this feat in the last three years. Here is a look at the last three probable entrants in what will be (barring injuries) a field of ten.
GRONKOWSKI. He has never raced on dirt. (synthetic surfaces & grass) He has never raced in the states. He hasn’t race in 9 weeks. Normally that would be enough (for me anyway) to toss him out of consideration. But…..and this is a BIG BUT, he now has the east coast whiz kids on his team. Top trainer Chad Brown took over the handling last month, and it has been confirmed that jockey extraordinaire Jose Ortiz will be in the saddle, who just last year rode TAPWRIT to victory in The Belmont Stakes. The early morning line on GRONKOWSKI is 20-1. All the casual bettors in Boston alone will drive his odds down to 10-1 or less. Don’t let the money line fool you.
RESTORING HOPE. For a Triple Crown perhaps. This is another Baffert trained colt, and despite what ‘The Baff’ says publicly, this guy is his rabbit. He will be forwardly placed right out of the gate, and go as fast as he can, for as far as he can. I suspect NOBLE INDY will be the one who gets caught up in the early speed duel with him. Meanwhile JUSTIFY can sit back, a bit off the pace with modest fractions, and cruise past the burnt-out wreckage in the final quarter mile. This is his first effort in the Triple Crown series. Know him early.
FREE DROP BILLY. When last seen FDB was finishing 16th in the slop at The Kentucky Derby. The KD was his 8th graded stakes race and his second out of the money. He raced well, and won twice as a two year-old. But his best showing as a three year-old was 2nd place in the Holy Bull Stakes back in early February. Apparently this Dale Romans trained horse is having very good work-outs at Churchill Downs and will ship to New York on Wednesday. His daddy was 2012 Belmont Stakes winner UNION RAGS, so his breeding would indicate that he can get the distance. A win here would be a huge step up for a colt who seems to be going in the wrong direction.
DRB has learned that post positions will be drawn Tuesday night prior to the Mets home game at Citi Field. The trainers and jockeys are normally on hand for this process, which usually takes place at the track, so this will be a different venue for them. Should be fun. But be advised, if you see a jockey or trainer walk out of the Mets bullpen onto the field for the ceremony, do not bet on the horse they are associated with. Not a lot of wins have come out of there recently.