Belmont Stakes a better field than the Kentucky Derby!

The Belmont Stakes is a better race and has a stronger field than the Kentucky Derby this year.

Wow, that’s a statement I can’t remember making. That’s not to say it hasn’t been the case before, but if it all, it’s been too few times that I can’t remember.

The Belmont Stakes is the 12th race on the Belmont card Saturday and is set for a post time of 4:02 p.m. PDT. The 1.5 mile race is the longest race of the Triple Crown series and will be the longest race many of these horses will race in their careers.

Scratches over the last few days before the Derby and the on-going issues between Bob Baffert and Churchill Downs with the suspension still in effect on Baffert at the track, robbed the Derby of its best potential field.

In its place was a lukewarm group, devoid of the race favorite Forte after a last minute scratch.

Mage went out and won the Derby, but I think I speak for horse racing fans everywhere when I say – meh.

Here we are five weeks later for the Belmont and for the first time during this Triple Crown run, barring any last minute scratches, we have close to worthy field for a Triple Crown race.

Let’s shoot through the nine-horse field listed by the morning lines. This is written Wednesday, three days before the race and given what happened in the days leading to the Derby, the race could massively change by the time they get to the gate.

Forte (Todd Pletcher trainer, Irad Ortiz Jr. jockey, 5/2): Scratched late out of the Derby and has not run a race since the Florida Derby since April 1. Has looked good in the morning and seems ready to roll. He should be full of run when they turn for home.

Tapit Trice (Pletcher, Luis Saez, 3/1): Looked to be one of the favorites in the depleted Derby field, then went out and had a disastrous trip after a poor start. Now he has a field of nine as opposed to 18 horses. Has been doing well for Pletcher in the morning and the added distance should be to his liking. Will be coming late.

Angel of Empire (Brad Cox, Flavian Prat, 7/2): Ended up being the favorite in the Derby and was moving late before finishing third in the race. Should love the extra distance as the small field will give him the perfect trip.

National Treasure (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 5/1): A testament to the strength of this field compared to the Derby and the Preakness. This is your Preakness winner, and he is the fourth choice on the morning line. Took advantage of a snail’s pace in the Preakness to wire the field. Was reunited with Baffert for the Preakness and did get the win. There is going to be a lot more heat in the lane here.

Arcangelo (Jena Antonucci, Javier Castellano, 8/1): Only four starts, getting the maiden score in the third start. Wheeled back and captured the Grade III Peter Par over the Belmont track on May 13. Has worked well for the race and will be another that prefers to sit off the pace and close late.

Hit Show (Cox, Manny Franco, 10/1): Was 24-1 in the Derby – his first time in six starts he wasn’t the favorite – and ran a blah race, finishing a well-beaten fifth. Prefers to sit close to the front pack then get first run. Did win the Withers in New York back in February.

Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 15/1): Was fourth in the Preakness and wheels right back here, a good sign from the barn. Was nails earlier in the year finishing second in both the Southwest and the Rebel, a pair of preps at Oaklawn. Had a bad run in the Arkansas Derby, followed by a win in a smaller stake, now steps back on to the big stage.

Il Miracolo (Antonio Sano, Marcos Meneses, 30/1): Was badly beaten sixth in the Fountain of Youth at 103-1, then was again a badly beaten sixth in Florida Derby at 98-1. Came back in an optional claimer, was the favorite and wired the field. That convinced the connections to run here – huh? The best thing this runner can do here is go out and ensure an honest pace for the closers.

What happens in the race?

I loved Forte heading into the Derby and that is not going to change here. He has done just about everything asked of him thus far. The distance should not be a problem and I think this is your winner.

Angel of Empire is a strong threat as it will be a much cleaner race than he faced in Kentucky. If Forte has any issues during the race, this could very easily be your winner.

One scenario that concerns me is that National Treasure gets the same trip as the Preakness and finds himself with an easy lead he can nurse along. As they turn for home in that scenario National Treasure may have too much left. I am hoping one of the other runners pushes the pace, making National Treasure work early, giving Forte and Angel of Empire an honest pace to run at in the lane.

By Dennis Miller