The 151st running of the Belmont Stakes will signify the end of a bizarre Triple Crown season in which Maximum Security was disqualified as the winner of the Kentucky Derby for interference; the horse who was awarded the victory, Country House, skipped the second leg; and a riderless horse, not the winner, War of Will, dominated headlines in the Preakness Stakes.
On Saturday, War of Will, the only horse in the field to compete in all three Triple Crown races, will be trying to become the 12th horse to win the Preakness and the Belmont after being defeated in the Kentucky Derby since the Triple Crown became widely recognized in 1930.
The Belmont horses are listed in order of post position, with comments by Joe Drape and Melissa Hoppert of The New York Times. The morning-line odds were set by David Aragona of the New York Racing Association.
Purse: $1.5 million guaranteed Distance: One and a half miles
Track record: 2:24 (Secretariat, 1973) Weight: 126 pounds
Post time: Saturday at 6:37 p.m. Eastern
How to watch: NBC has the broadcast, beginning at 4. NBC Sports Network coverage runs beforehand from 2:30 to 4.
Coverage will also be streamed on NBC Sports Live.
Joe Drape’s win-place-show picks: Tacitus, Intrepid Heart, War of Will
Melissa Hoppert’s picks: Tacitus, War of Will, Sir Winston
Here’s how we see the field:
Trainer: Greg Sacco Jockey: Jose Lezcano Odds: 30-1
Drape: This colt offers some early zip, but can he carry it a mile and a half?
Hoppert: A win in the Long Branch at Monmouth his last time out does little to inspire confidence.
Trainer: Dale Romans Jockey: Luis Saez Odds: 12-1
Drape: He won his first race and has lost 10 since. He did finish second in the Preakness at 29-1.
Hoppert: With Joel Rosario aboard, he had a perfect inside trip in the Preakness, and he now picks up Maximum’s Security jockey, Luis Saez, in the Belmont. But lightning won’t strike twice.
3. Master Fencer
Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda Jockey: Julien Leparoux Odds: 8-1
Drape: Bred and based in Japan, this colt has plenty of frequent-flier miles but needs to get better in a hurry to have an effect here.
Hoppert: He impressed in the Derby, mounting a furious late rally to place sixth, but he took an awkward step in a recent workout, which is not the best omen ahead of a marathon race.
Trainer: Danny Gargan Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. Odds: 15-1
Drape: This gelding did not like the sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby and finished way, way up the track. He is better than that.
Hoppert: The 14th-place Derby finisher has a top jockey who knows his way around this track and a grinding style that could help him hit the board.
5. Bourbon War
Trainer: Mark Hennig Jockey: Mike Smith Odds: 12-1
Drape: This closer finished eighth in the Preakness; coming from behind is tough to do at this marathon distance.
Hoppert: He sheds the blinkers that were added for the Preakness and picks up Mike Smith as his rider. Will he finally live up to his potential? Add him to your exotics just in case.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Javier Castellano Odds: 15-1
Drape: Like Tax, this colt didn’t take to the peanut-butter surface on Derby day, so his trainer is rightfully giving him another shot. A maybe horse.
Hoppert: The 18th-place Derby finisher is working well and has a trainer who knows how to win this race, but his pedigree suggests he may be better suited to shorter distances.
7. Sir Winston
Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Joel Rosario Odds: 12-1
Drape: He earned a spot here with an impressive runner-up finish in the Peter Pan over this track.
Hoppert: Rosario was able to coax a lot out of this colt in the Peter Pan, unleashing his powerful closing kick. He’s been training well since then and has the pedigree to win. A viable upset pick.
8. Intrepid Heart
Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: John Velazquez Odds: 10-1
Drape: The third-place finisher in the Peter Pan has only raced three times, but each was better than the last. He has upset potential.
Hoppert: He’s a son of Tapit, who has produced three of the last five Belmont winners, and a half brother to Commissioner, who was second in 2014. His pedigree aside, he did not impress his last time out.
9. War of Will
Trainer: Mark Casse Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione Odds: 2-1
Drape: This colt is as tough and gritty as they come. He’s the one for Tacitus to beat.
Hoppert: Finally, a clean trip in the Preakness allowed this colt to live up to his huge potential. He’s also the only horse in the field to run in all three Triple Crown races, which surely will take a toll.
Trainer: Bill Mott Jockey: Jose Ortiz Odds: 9-5
Drape: This striking gray colt had a troubled trip in the Derby but still placed third. He’s rested and working well.
Hoppert: This versatile colt is also a son of Tapit, and his dam is a champion mare who has won at longer distances. Plus, he has two New York stalwarts on his side in Bill Mott and Jose Ortiz. He’s also fresher than War of Will, so he has my vote in what looks to be a two-horse race.
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