The 150th Belmont Stakes Picks and Preview
The time has come for Justify to potentially make history as only the 13 th US horse racing winner of the most coveted prize in thoroughbred racing. The final leg of the Triple Crown will prove to be more than just a formality for the talented 3 year-old. The field of competitors looks to be Justify's toughest challenge yet. The longer distance and wide turns of Belmont will put a lot of pressure on jockey Mike Smith to ride the colt well in order to lead him to victory .
Belmont Stakes Picks and Preview Horse by Horse
Lets take a look at the field, and outline what each horse needs to do in order to win the Test of the Champion .
1. Justify- 4/5 Odds
Justify is following the training pattern outlined by previous US horse racing Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah under their trainer Bob Baffert. The hoof bruise that seemed to bother him after the Kentucky Derby is no longer a thought at all as Justify went through his pre-race workouts without any issues. Justify arrived at Belmont on Wednesday and looks to relax the rest of the week as he gets accommodated to his surrounds .
Belmont 2018: Watch Justify's first gallop in New York and comment by trainer Bob Baffert
This will be the longest race of Justify's career, and its yet to be seen if the colt can manage the extra distance. He lacks the pedigree that some of the other US horses have that would indicate that they would succeed well on the dirt at Belmont .
Another aspect we can look at is that Justify's Preakness gave us his lowest Beyer speed figure to date, 97. The only horse in the field to put up a higher number was Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial with a 98. The rest field pales in comparison to Justify's best day, and if he gets out to the front, he'll have an easy ride to the finish .
2. Free Drop Billy- 30/1 Odds
Dale Romans makes another attempt to challenge Bob Baffert and Justify with Free Drop Billy. This colt finished 16 th in the Kentucky Derby, and hadn't won a race since the Breeders Cup Futurity back in 2017.
The one bright spot for this horse is his sire, Union Rags, who won the Belmont himself. If the horses pedigree allows him to hang out for a longer distance, we could see him make a move near the end .
3. Bravazo- 8/ 1 Odds
Bravazo constructs his return here at Belmont as the only horse besides Justify to compete in all three leg of the Triple Crown. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has continued to believe in is colt along the way. Bravazo comes off of an impressive performance in the Preakness, where he almost edged out an upset over Justify at the wire .
Lukas hopes to keep his momentum going, seeking his first win since the G2 Risen Star Stakes in February. The horses running style should have him off the leading, near the front. If he can stay close to the leaders, he may be in position to make an impressive move at the end, much like he did at Pimilico .
4. Hofburg- 9/2 Odds
Hofburg enters the day as the 2nd favorite behind Justify. Much like Justify, this colt merely began running as a 3 year-old, and has continued to learn and grow from each of his performances. After violating his damsel in early March, trainer Will Mott entered Hofburg in the Florida Derby, where he finished 2nd behind a victory from Audible. This qualified him for a spot in the Kentucky Derby, where he finished an impressive 7th in merely his 4th race out .
Will Mott clearly assured great potential in this horse, and jumped him right into the G1 action after his damsel. As an offspring of legendary sire Tapit, Hofburg has the pedigree to go the distance at Belmont, and with his extra time off, he could prove to be a big factor in this race .
5. Restoring Hope- 30/1 Odds
Justify isn't the only Bob Baffert colt running in this race. Restoring Hope comes in to this race off of a terrible 12 th place finish in the G3 Pat Day Mile as part of the Derby undercard, as well as a 3rd place finish behind Vino Rosso in the Wood Memorial in April .
Nothing in this horses record would say that he has a shot in this race. His lone victory came in Santa Anita in February in a Maiden Special Weight at 1 1/16 mile. The fact that Bob Baffert is letting this horse run against Justify should be a indication that he doesn't believe he is a legitimate threat to Justify's Triple Crown bid .
6. Gronkowski- 12/1 Odds
Besides Justify, this is the horse that will get the most attention from the general racing public, and that's because of his iconic name. Gronkowski won his way to the Kentucky Derby through his performance on Europe, and many thought he would be outclassed and embarrassed if he showed up that day. While his team had every intention to run him, he spiked a fever and was forced to drop out .
Since then, Gronkowski has moved to America, and has established himself with new trainer Chad Brown. Brown, also the trainer of Good Magic, has helped to establish Gronkowski as a potential contender on Saturday. While his previous races and competition haven't been anything impressive, his long period of rest, as well as his new train regiment could provide surprising results for those that wrote him off early .
7. Tenfold- 12/1 Odds
Tenfold is another lightly raced late bloomer, along with Justify and Hofburg. This son of Curlin is coming off of an impressive showing in the Preakness, finishing 3rd behind Justify and Bravazo .
Much like Hofburg, Tenfold jumped right into the G1 action after winning his first two races out. He finished 5th in the Arkansas Derby. Trainer Steve Asmussen has utilized these races as learning experiences for Tenfold. This as ways to prep him for his ultimate destination at Belmont. Tenfold looks to continue to improve on his last two out. He will hope that the extra distance will allow him to make up some room at the end. This was apparent when he ran at the Preakness .
8. Vino Rosso- 8/ 1 Odds
Vino Rosso, trained by Todd Pletcher, is looking to get back in the Winners Circle in New York. After only so-so performances in the G3 Sam F. Davis and G2 Tampa Bay Derby, Vino Rosso stunned everyone when he came back to Aqueduct to win the G2 Wood Memorial, earning himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby by doing so. His performance at Churchill Downs was not ideal, and he aimed up finished 9th off of a bad trip .
The Belmont Stakes looks to be the perfect race for Vino Rosso. Bringing him back to New York, and extending the distance should help him get back to board. As a son of Curlin, and as the only horse to post a Beyer Speed Figure higher than Justify's Preakness, Vino Rosso has all of the tools needed to make a play for the win .
9. Noble Indy- 30/1 Odds
The second horse trained by Todd Pletcher to enter this race, Noble Indy looks to bounce back after an embarrassing 17 th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Noble Indy previously had won 3 of its 4 previous races, with its merely lost coming in the G2 Risen Star to Bravazo .
Many are claiming that Noble Indy has the speed to pushing Justify early, and could be used as a rabbit to tire the lead horse out for others to come in. With Winstar Farms, proprietors of Justify, also have a stake in this horse, its hard to see that they would intentionally run a horse merely to sabotage their Triple Crown Favorite. Repole Stables, the other co-owner, also has ownership in Vino Rosso, and may hope to see Vino benefit from Noble Indy's performance, one way or another .
10. Blended Citizen- 15/1 Odds
Blended Citizen is going off of an impressive victory in the G3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 12 th, building him the only horse to have a recent start or win at Belmont. US horse Blended Citizen finished behind Free Drop Billy in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes, but finished 1st in the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes back in March .
As the horse with experience at Belmont, as well as dangerous closing speed, Blended Citizen could be worth a second look as a potential longshot to upset the crown .
Watch Blended Citizen win 2018 – The Peter Pan Stakes
Belmont Stakes picks Final Thoughts
Justify has done everything right up until this phase. He is still the horse to beat and the top of the Belmont Stakes picks. Barring an incredibly bad trip, should be coming home with the Carnations around his neck. While everyone loves the story of a champion, every horse in this field has earned their spot, and a win from any of them would be worthy of recognition.
The weather is shaping up to be another factor as rainfall is once again on the forecast for the final leg in the Triple Crown. If Justify manages to pull out the victory, he could be the first Triple Crown winner to running all three of his races on a wet track.
So many firsts for this astonishing colt, can he add even more to his already impressive resume ?.
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