There will be no Triple Crown bid up for grabs, but horseplayers will still be looking forward to the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on June 8 and it is Tacitus that has opened as the betting favorite for the third jewel of the Triple Crown.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won his first Kentucky Derby (G1) with Country House, will saddle Tacitus, who is the 2-1 favorite in early Belmont Stakes wagering at USRacing.
The Belmont Stakes will be one of 10 stakes on an outstanding card. Three of the races slated for Belmont Stakes Day are Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” races.
Let’s take a look at the early contenders for the Belmont Stakes:
The Mott trainee rallied for fourth in the Kentucky Derby at 6-1 and was moved up to third after the disqualification of Maximum Security. The colt sat out the Preakness Stakes and looks like a major player. The colt won his previous two starts, taking the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) on March 9 and the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct on April 6.
War Of Will 7-2
The Mark Casse trainee took the worst of it in the Kentucky Derby and rebounded with a great trip to win the Preakness Stakes as our top pick, returning $14.20. The colt rallied up the rail and got a seam to burst through. The inner paths of the Pimlico racing surface did seem to be the best place to be that day.
Game Winner 4-1
The 2018 Eclipse Award winner for top juvenile has not won in three starts this year, checking in sixth and placed fifth in the Kentucky Derby. He ran second in his final two preps, coming up short in the Rebel (G2) and Santa Anita Derby (G1). Baffert is calling Game Winner’s participation in the Belmont Stakes as “maybe” right now. I don’t see Baffert wanting to miss this dance., and Game Winner seems like the logical runner from his barn to head to New York.
This colt raced down toward the inside much of the trip in the Preakness and then was angled out seven wide, rallying to finish third and beaten just a nose for the runner up spot, costing us the exacta. He bounced back from his eighth-place finish in the Risen Star (G3) at Fair Grounds with a smart looking victory in the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland on April 13. The Brad Cox trainee is heading in the right direction and has enough pedigree to get the distance.
Code of Honor 8-1
His trainer Shug McGaughey could change his mind, but it does not look as if the colt is headed to the Belmont Stakes at this time.
Plus Que Parfait 10-1
The colt earned his way into the Kentucky Derby by winning the UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai, a race that has not had much of an impact on the Triple Crown. The colt raced down along the inside much of the trip in the Kentucky Derby and crossed the wire ninth, elevated to eighth via the disqualification. He showed some promise as a juvenile, running second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs, but his best finish in the U.S. since then was his fifth in the Lecomte (G3) at Fair Grounds in January.
Intrepid Heart 11-1
This colt is one of two likely to be sent out by trainer Todd Pletcher. The colt has just three starts under his belt. He broke his maiden in his debut, then beat first level allowance foes. His lone start in stakes company was a third last out in the Peter Pan (G3) over the Belmont Park main track. The colt is a half brother to Commissioner, who finished second to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont. Commissioner was my top pick in that race and was beaten a head at odds of 28-1, a beat that still stings to this day.
Master Fencer 12-1
The Japanese import was seventh in the Kentucky Derby (placed sixth) and he made up some ground late after having some trouble early. He veered out early and was in a bit tight and raced awkwardly early. He took ahold of the track and was making up ground late.
The Dale Romans trainee came into the Preakness having been beaten by 18 ½ lengths in the Fountain of Youth (G2), 15 lengths in the Florida Derby (G1) and 10 ¼ lengths in the Pat Day Mile (G3). He went off at 29-1 in the Preakness and it seems like his odds should have been double that. However, he ran big, edging Owendale for the runner up spot and completing a $2 exacta that paid $947.00.
Sir Winston 16-1
Trained by Casse, who also will send out War of Will, this colt has not won in four starts this year. He was a good second in the Peter Pan last out, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Global Campaign. He started off the year by running fourth in the Withers (G3), then was fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby and then seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland.
Pletcher’s second runner, this colt was not a factor in the Kentucky Derby, checking in 18th at 52-1. The colt showed some ability as a juvenile last year, running third in the Saratoga. Special (G3). His best effort this year was a runner up finish in the Louisiana Derby (G2) where he was beaten three-quarters of a length by By My Standards.
Trained by Danny Gargan, the colt skipped the Preakness after a 14th (placed 13th) in the Run for the Roses at 35-1. The colt came into the race having won the Withers and then ran second in the Wood to Tacitus, beaten 1 ¼ lengths.