The Belmont Stakes that takes place Saturday at Belmont Park has the least amount of luster in recent history, in large part because of the disqualification of Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby and the subsequent temper-tantrums by the owners.
It has tarnished the Triple Crown this year, but if War of Will – the winner of the Preakness – can come through here and win again, it may take some of the sting away from the controversy of the Derby.
The race is the 11th on the Belmont card and is set for 3:37 p.m. PDT post time.
Let’s run through the field and look at each of the horses in order of post position.
Joevia (30/1, Jose Lezcano jockey, Gregory Sacco trainer): Every bit the 30/1 shot he’s listed. Coming off a minor-stakes win in the slop at Monmouth in early May, and with two career wins in five starts, his contribution may be as a pace factor breaking from the rail as he has shown to prefer to be on the lead.
Everfast (12/1, Luis Saez, Dale Romans): Was second in the Preakness at 29/1, finishing with a strong closing kick. Has only one win in 11 career starts, but in a 1.5-mile race like the Belmont, any horse that likes to run on late is worth taking a look at as is the case in this spot. Had shown nothing in three starts after running second in the Holy Bull, but the Preakness has him back on the radar.
Master Fencer (8/1, Julien Leparoux, Koichi Tsunoda): Was seventh in the Kentucky Derby after passing tiring horses in the lane. I was not a fan heading into the Derby and not a fan now. I still don’t think he deserved a spot in Kentucky and not going to waste any more space here.
Tax (15-1, Irad Ortiz Jr., Danny Gargan): Did the New York preps and despite winning the Withers and running second in the Wood, he went off at 35/1 in the Derby. He didn’t disappoint the betting public, running a badly beaten 15th (14th after the disqualification). Now he’s been off since then and his works have been average, but the one thing is that he has run well in New York. That being said, I will pass.
Bourbon War (12/1, Mike Smith, Mark Hennig): Did have some supporters after running second in the Fountain of Youth and fourth in the Florida Derby, but didn’t earn enough points to get a spot in the Derby. Entered the Preakness, took some action, then proceeded to run eighth, never factoring in the race. Not sure what to expect here, but he does draw Mike Smith in the irons.
Spinoff (15/1, Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher): His second in the Louisiana Derby did nothing the eyes of the betting public as he went off at 52-1 in Kentucky and finished 18th. The connections will garner interest here and he may get some play as a price horse.
Sir Winston (12/1, Joel Rosario, Mark Casse): Didn’t do much in three Derby preps, but then ran a big second in the Peter Pan over the Belmont track at 14-1. The ability to have some run late does give a reason to consider, as well as that he ran solid over the track as well. Might be one to consider on your exotics.
Intrepid Heart (10/1, Johnny Velazquez, Todd Pletcher): The $750,000 purchase is still pretty new to the game with only three starts, the first of which came in February. Was third in the Peter Pan as the favorite. He was the betting favorite in the race and with the connections winning twice in the three starts, this is a horse that’s going to take some action.
War of Will (2/1, Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse): Was right in the thick of the controversy in the Kentucky Derby and now sits a win here from being in the conversation for 3-year-old of the year. Had issues in the Louisiana Derby where he was ninth, then may have been making a run in Kentucky before being cut-off by Maximum Security. Is the lone horse starting in all three Triple Crown races so there’s going to be concerns about his fitness, but you have to respect his heart and courage that he has shown.
Tacitus (9/5, Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott): Here is your morning line favorite. Crossed the line fourth in the Derby but was moved up to third. Showed guts there and after taking some time off certainly appears deserving of the favorite’s role. His last two works have been solid, including a bullet over the track on June 2. Looks like a horse that can run all day which is exactly what the doctor ordered here.
My picks: I think the win play must be with Tacitus after having the break between the Derby and the Belmont. War of Will and his connections appear to be on a mission and win here does salvage the 3-year-old campaign somewhat. The betting issues here are those two will be heavily favored and as such, give the exacta little or no value if they run 1-2. Plenty will play the duo over a number of horses for the tri or super, once again holding down the payoffs. You best chance to play a box with some priced horses and hope one of them pulls the shocker. For me, I will stay on the outside, going with Sir Winston and Intrepid Heart in my four-horse box with the top two choices.
By Dennis Miller