Racing to the Belmont Stakes

With any hopes of a Triple Crown winner effectively wiped out by a controversial Stewards’ ruling in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes was still witnessed by over 131,000 fans.

Even though “Maximum Security,” who won the Derby before being disqualified, was not at the Preakness, “War Of Will” was. War Of Will was in the center of the controversial interference ruling in the Derby, and “who interfered with whom” may never be agreed upon. Suffice it to say that War Of Will not only showed up for the Preakness, he was an impressive winner of the second leg of the Triple Crown, and will be the only horse to run in all three races. Even “Country House,”who was declared the Kentucky Derby winner after crossing the finish line second, did not run in the Preakness and is not contesting the Belmont.

“Tacitus,” who was last seen being elevated from fourth to third in the Derby due to the disqualification of Maximum Security, is the narrow morning line betting favorite at odds of 9-5. He will break from outside post No. 10 in the ten-horse field. He is a beautiful horse who may benefit from the extra time off of five weeks between races that War of Will, by racing in the Derby on May 4, the Preakness of the 18th, and now, three weeks later in the Belmont, does not have. That is one of many factors that makes winning the Triple Crown so difficult.

War Of Will drew post No. 9, and is the second betting choice at 2-1. He has reportedly gained 40-50 lbs since running in the Preakness, so it appears that he has not suffered from the close proximity between these classic races. He will likely try and sit just off the early pace setters. The biggest question for War Of Will, and all the entries for that matter, is the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes distance, which is 1/4 mile (440 yards) further than the Derby and 5/16ths of a mile (550 yards) longer than the Preakness.

Other horses in this year’s Belmont who last ran in the Kentucky Derby include “Spinoff,” “Master Fencer,” and “Tax.”

Spinoff finished 18th in the Derby and was never really a factor in that race. He has two wins, a second and a third in five lifetime starts. Spinoff is currently 15-1 and certainly will need to improve around the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Park track. He reportedly did not like the sloppy going in the Derby, and faded badly after contesting the early pace. Look for Spinoff to be at or near the lead early.

Japanese entry, “Master Fencer,”will garner some attention. He did close for 7th in the Derby and will have the Japanese nation rooting for him. He only has two wins and two second place finishes in seven lifetime starts. His odds are currently only 8-1.

“Tax” was elevated from 15th to 14th in the Derby, and has two wins, two seconds and a third in six lifetime starts. He did finish a fast closing second in the Grade Two (G2) Wood Memorial behind Tacitus in April. He currently sits at 15-1.

“Everfast,” last seen finishing second in the Preakness to War of Will, is 12-1. He only has one victory in eleven lifetime starts, as well as two seconds and a third. He is considered a deep closer and will hope for a fast, early pace by the front runners.

Two Belmont entries, “Intrepid Heart” and “Sir Winston,” were last seen finishing third and second, respectively, in the G3 Peter Pan Stakes on May 11 at Belmont Park. Intrepid Heart only has three lifetime starts, with two wins before stumbling at the start of the Peter Pan as the favorite in that race. Although he has a lot of upside, Intrepid Heart will need to step up his game in this Classic. His pedigree is bred for the longer distance. The questions are whether Intrepid Heart’s inexperience and facing tougher competition will be too much to overcome.

“Sir Winston” has already raced nine times, with two victories to show for it. He may be the other entry that might relish the added distance, as the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes will be the longest race any of these horses have competed in.

“Bourbon War,”at 12-1, was last seen as a non threatening eighth in the Preakness. He has two wins and a second in six starts, including a Graded Stakes placing in the G2 Fountain of Youth back in March. He also finished fourth in two other G2 races, so he is used to competing at a higher class of racing than some of the other entries. He is also considered a closer.

“Joevia,” who draws the rail (post No. 1), may be the early leader in a race that really does not seem to have many early-speed type entries. He has raced five times, picking up two wins and two seconds. Joevia crossed the finish line seventh in the G2 Wood Memorial before being disqualified to last for causing crowding in the home stretch in his only race against Graded Stakes Company. He was last seen winning the non-graded, Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on May 11.

With this race being at the unusual for three year old thoroughbreds distance of 1 1/2 miles, a long shot could win. NBC will telecast the Belmont, with post time set for 6:37 p.m. This race will certainly play a factor in this topsy-turvy three year old thoroughbred season. Even though Maximum Security was disqualified from his Kentucky Derby win, he still remains the horse to beat for year-end Championship Three year Old honors. If either War Of Will or Tacitus wins the Belmont, that could change as we proceed deeper into the 2019 racing season.

“And down the stretch they come!”