This year’s Belmont Stakes has a bit of a twist in that neither the Kentucky Derby winner nor the top two finishers in the Preakness are entered. Nevertheless, this sets up as a very intriguing race as there are some with fast Numbers and some nice patterns. I have found that over the years, those with a freshness edge, providing they have a competitive Numbers and solid patterns, have done quite well in the Belmont. In Post Position order:
- 20-1 Twisted Tom.3 Best. Marching pattern. Right off the bat, the connections are as good as they get; as this is the same duo that brought you the longshot Preakness winner. Twisted Tom tallied nicely in his last, a minor Stakes at Laurel, while attending a fast pace and drawing off at the end. His 8.3 Best is a bit on the slow side; however, he has an excellent Marching pattern, and comes in off a 7-week freshening. I have the utmost respect for Chad Brown and JJ Castellano. Very dangerous longshot!
- 6-1 Tapwrit. 5.9 Best. Circle Back pattern. He actually ran a decent 6th (out of 20) in the Kentucky Derby as he posted an improving 6.6, circling back to his 9 Best, while passing 9 horses in a troubled trip. Pletcher and Jose Ortiz are excellent connections, and he comes in with a 5-week freshening. He usually sits much closer than he was in the Derby. Very dangerous!
- 8-1 Gormley. 6.7 Best. Marching pattern. Here is another who ran better than it looked in the Derby as he improved to his 7 Best in a fair effort. Connections are no strangers to top-notch racing, and I do like the 5-week freshening. Worth a long look.
- 15-1 J Boys Echo. 8.5 Fading pattern. He has faded in his last two after posting his 8.5 Best while winning the Gotham Stakes. Like many in here, I think you can forgive the poor Derby effort due to a troubled trip and the track conditions. Decent connections and 5 weeks to freshen. Needs to turn things around.
- 30-1 Hollywood Handsome. 9.5 Best. Marching pattern. Improved to that 5 Best in a nice Allowance score 4 weeks ago. Connections have solid stats. He will need much more.
- 5-1 Lookin At Lee. 4.2 Best. One race regression. He posted that very fast 2 Best in a solid second place finish in the Kentucky Derby, and then regressed to 7.3 in the Preakness. He picks up the excellent Irad Ortiz and trainer Asmussen has very good stats. I am concerned about the regression, since he is coming back again in only 3 weeks. His pattern is that of a tired horse, plus I am generally not a fan of deep closers in the Belmont. Needs a turnaround.
- 7-2 Irish War Cry. 3.0 Best. One race regression. Here is the lukewarm morning line favorite, and he is a tough read for me. He has the two fastest Numbers of any horse in the race, but each time he followed that up with a complete clanker. Connections Motion and Maragh have very respectable stats, and this guy also has been freshened for 5 weeks after a disappointing Kentucky Derby effort. Because I have deep respect for the trainer, I am going to lean towards the theory that his fiasco in the Derby was largely due to the off-going. A race anywhere near his Best make him hard to beat!
- 12-1 Senior Investment. 7.1 Best. Paired Best. He essentially paired his Best, posting a 1 in a decent third place finish in the Preakness. Connections have modest stats. Will need a big step forward.
- 15-1 Meantime. 5.3 (Sprint) Best. Circle Back pattern. He figures to push the early running and could take them a long way if Mike Smith is able to get him to relax. Excellent connections. Take a long look before dismissing this one!
- 15-1 Multiplier.5 Best. Marching pattern. Nice Marching pattern, even though he only finished 6th in the Preakness. Connections have excellent stats. Needs another step forward.
- 4-1 Epicharis. No US races. Here is the buzz horse, as he was monstrous in Japan going 4 for 4, and was beaten only a head in the UAE Derby. Trainer and jockey have solid International stats. This Belmont group seems modest based on Numbers compared to recent fields. However, it is a lot to ask for a 3YO to run against top US runners, especially after nearly 3 months on the bench. We’ll see.
- 12-1 Patch. 10.1 Best. Paired Best. He essentially paired his 1 Best with his Kentucky Derby effort. Although it is quite slow for this group. Trainer Pletcher is stellar, and I do note that Patch picks up Velazquez. In an interesting twist, we have the connections that won the Derby vs. those that won the Preakness, but with different horses. He comes in fresh, but he will need much more.
This year’s rendition of the Belmont Stakes looks very competitive to me. I look to Irish War Crime to be very tough, and I trust the trainer that is he is set. As a longshot, Chad Brown’s Twisted Tom deserves respect. There are several others that would not be a huge surprise.
Good luck and mind the freshness factor!