The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes were inaugurated as The Triple Crown of horse racing in 1875. Since that time 35 colts have gone into The Belmont Stakes with a chance at racing history. Twelve horses have basked in the glory while 23 others had Triple Crown dreams dashed. Will JUSTIFY prevail Saturday? Or will he become the 24th casualty to crumble in the 1.5 mile “Test Of Champions” at Belmont Park?
If you’ve read previous posts here on DRB you’ve seen the profiles of these horses, with some insight into their background. Here is a recap of the entrants along with post position, jockey, trainer, and morning line odds.
1. JUSTIFY. Jockey: Mike Smith. Trainer: Bob Baffert. ML: 4-5. He is certainly the best of this years crop of 3 year-old’s and could be a superstar. He has not lost a race yet, going 5-5, and has the highest speed figure (107) in this field. If you want reasons to bet against him, start with the 4-5 odds. He could be worn out. He had no foundation of racing prior to the KD, which didn’t seem to matter. Now maybe 3 races in five weeks has taken its toll on these not-so-battle-tested legs. His race to lose.
2. FREE DROP BILLY. Jockey: Robby Albarado. Trainer: Dale Romans. ML: 30-1. Morning line might actually be too low. He won the Breeders Cup Futurity Cup and it’s been down hill ever since. He hasn’t won a race as a three year-old. Had a decent trip in the slop in the KD, and then traveled backwards to finish 16th. Seems outmatched here.
3. BRAVAZO. Jockey: Luis Saez. Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas. ML: 8-1. This guy and JUSTIFY are the only two horses to compete in all three TC races. Was charging hard at the end of The Preakness and with another half a furlong he would have won the race. The distance shouldn’t be an issue, and this race sets up nice for him as a horse who stalks just off the pace.
4. HOFBURG. Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Trainer: Bill Mott. ML: 9-2. Despite traffic issues in the KD, he made up a lot of ground to rally for 7th place. His daddy (TAPIT) has sired the Belmont Stakes winner in 3 of the last 4 years. (TONALIST 2014, CREATOR 2016, TAPWRIT 2017) The five week lay-off will serve him well and he is primed for a great effort. Dangerous.
5. RESTORING HOPE. Jockey: Florent Geroux. Trainer: Bob Baffert. ML: 30-1. Can only be entered here in order to help Baffert’s Triple Crown chances. He’ll play catch-me-if-you-can for three quarters of a mile and then fade like cheap paint. He doesn’t get the distance and won’t catch the bottom of a superfecta ticket.
6. GRONKOWSKI. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Trainer: Chad Brown. ML: 12-1. Jockey and trainer are two of the best NYRA has got, but I don’t think they help here. This European shipper named after an American football player has never raced on dirt, only turf and synthetic tracks. He missed the KD due to injury and hasn’t raced in nine weeks. Methinks the competition is a bit too much for him on this side of the pond.
7. TENFOLD. Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr. Trainer: Steve Asmussen. ML: 12-1. Another colt who did not race as a two year-old. He is 0-2 in graded stakes races, but made a run at JUSTIFY in The Preakness before BRAVAZO got by him for second place. Seems to be peaking at the right time, and would certainly be one to take advantage of a brisk early pace. Has a chance.
8. VINO ROSSO. Jockey: John Velazquez. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. ML: 8-1. Classic Pletcher move to run in the KD, (not win) skip The Preakness and ready his horse(s) for Belmont. Second highest speed rating (98) in the group. Not sure if the slop took its toll on him in the KD but he seemed gassed in the stretch run. A sure closer, he too will certainly benefit from a fast pace on the lead. It wasn’t that long ago that if you got 8-1 odds on this jockey/trainer combo you would empty your wallet. Not that sure here.
9. NOBLE INDY. Jockey: Javier Castellano. Trainer: Todd Pletcher. ML: 30-1. The second of the Pletcher entrants. Didn’t care for the slop in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 17th. Will probably go out early here with RESTORING HOPE, and the both of them will go hard, but not long. This guy seems to be a couple rungs below the upper echelon in this race.
10. BLENDED CITIZEN. Jockey: Kyle Frey. Trainer: Doug O’Neill. ML: 15-1. Has won on dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks. He likes this track as he won the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes here on May 12th. Another closer, the added distance will work to his advantage. He has gotten his best speed ratings as a three year-old, while adding blinkers. He is maturing, and getting better. Has a chance.
DRB will take a closer look at this fields past performance numbers, and then have some more definitive picks and wagers 4 (wink, wink) you on Friday. So come on back.