For most casual horse racing fans and bettors, the season is only three races long: The Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. That’s just the state of the popularity of the sport – once arguably the most popular in the USA – these days. The 151st Belmont Stakes is Saturday from Belmont Park in New York.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
The Belmont can draw huge TV ratings and betting action if a horse is going for the Triple Crown. Twice since 2015 that achievement has been accomplished at the Belmont with Justify last year and American Pharoah in 2015. However, there is no Triple Crown at stake this year in what has been a wild and wacky season.
At the Kentucky Derby, Maximum Security was the original winner but eventually was disqualified – a first at that race. Country House was named the winner. Neither of those two horses ran at the Preakness Stakes and won’t at the Belmont.
All eyes, then, will be on War of Will, who is trying to become just the 13th horse to complete the Preakness/Belmont sweep in the same year after not winning the Kentucky Derby. War of Will is +225 to do so Saturday. War of Will earned a personal-best 99 Beyer Speed Figure in winning at Pimlico. The Preakness was the shortest of the three Triple Crown races, while the Belmont is the longest at 1½ miles.
War of Will trainer Mark Casse had never saddled a Preakness winner and hasn’t in the Belmont, either. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione hadn’t won a Triple Crown race before the Preakness. Finally, War of Will is the only horse this year to run in all three Triple Crown races. He was seventh in the Derby.
The favorite Saturday is Tacitus at +200, and he will start from Post 10 in the 10-horse field, right next to War of Will. Tacitus has not raced since he was moved up to third in the Kentucky Derby following Maximum Security’s DQ. Being that well-rested could give Tacitus a big edge over War of Will. Trainer William Mott looks for his second Belmont winner, also saddling Drosselmeyer in 2010. Jockey Jose Ortiz won the 2017 Belmont aboard Tapwrit.
Master Fencer is +700 and Intrepid Heart +800. Master Fencer, starting from Post 3, became the first Japanese-bred horse to run in the Kentucky Derby and placed sixth. Jockey Julien Leparoux looks for his first Belmont win; he has finished third twice. Intrepid Heart is trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, who has three Belmont wins. He also has Spinoff (+1200) in the field. Intrepid Heart starts from Post 8 and Spinoff No. 6.