The long winding Triple Crown season wraps up at about 6:37 pm today in Elmont, New York with the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes.
This version, unfortunately, has neither Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming nor Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who are both off waiting for a summer campaign. Classic Empire, who would have been favored in here, is out with an injury, leaving a wide open race even more chaotic. Let’s go through the field.
Previously: Belmont Undercard Thoughts
#1 Twisted Tom (20-1) – This horse is filled with stamina in his pedigree and comes off a grinding win at Laurel where he pressed a pretty solid pace. He ran well in the context of that race, but has never run faster than a 78 Beyer and might be overbet due to his connections (Chad Brown and Javier Castellano) and will be a big surprise.
#2 Tapwrit (6-1) – He was a decent sixth in the Derby after a slow start in the Derby (he wasn’t bumped as bad as others because he broke a step slow but was off tardy) and he was moving pretty well late (though on the better inside). Tapit has sired the winner of this race two of the last three years, but we’ve always had doubts about how good this horse is. He was awful in the Blue Grass and his races in the Tampa Bay Derby (a win) and Sam Davis (second to McCraken) were fine, but nothing special – remember, McCraken was hurt and missed the Tampa Bay Derby and the runner-up was Derby longshot State of Honor. We’ll use him underneath and as a backup, but that’s it.
#3 Gormley (8-1) – He ran a little better than it looks in the Derby, tracking the pace while wide the whole way and was eased up on in the last furlong. He was, however, off the good inside for the whole race. That said, his Santa Anita Derby was painfully slow and with a perfect trip and might be better going shorter than longer.
#4 J Boys Echo (15-1) – He’s our upset pick. We used him underneath in the Derby and he had a terrible trip. He got slammed a few strides out of the gate and was shuffled back to the rear of the field (save Thunder Snow), out of position. He wasn’t originally being pointed for this race, but is here after Dale Romans was impressed with his training. Romans, by the way, is at his best when overlooked in big races. His Blue Grass, two back, featured a slow pace that hurt him plus J Boys Echo missed the break in that race. His Gotham was good, albeit with a perfect trip. There are some stamina concerns (his sibling Unbridled Outlaw is better going around a mile) but he is by Mineshaft out of a Menifee mare so there is stamina there), and in a wide open race, we’re going to take him to spring the upset.
#5 Hollywood Handsome (30-1) – Dallas Stewart has made a habit of spicing up the exotics of Triple Crown races and will try again with this runner, off a win in a Churchill Downs allowance race. This horse was outrun in the Louisiana Derby and Illinois Derby and seems up against it here.
#6 Lookin at Lee (5-1) – This late-runner had a perfect rail-skimming trip in the Derby and was fine in the Preakness but didn’t really threaten, while a bunch were coming late – the race was collapsing a bit behind the top two. These late runners are often overbet in the Belmont and 5-1 is an awfully short price for a horse that has gotten good pace after good pace to attack.
#7 Irish War Cry (7-2) – In the initial viewing of the Derby, it looked like he ran terribly – he ranged up beautifully on the outside and had nothing in the lane. Granted, he was wide off the good inside, but he had nothing in the lane and we can’t be too enthused about taking a short price on him today. His big wins – the Wood (speed favoring track) and Holy Bull (very slow pace) – were aided by circumstance. We’re rooting for this Jersey-bred but will tread lightly and use him underneath.
#8 Senior Investment (12-1) – Like Lookin at Lee, he’ll come from way back. He was moving pretty well at the end of the Preakness but just picked up some pieces as the race was falling apart behind the top two. He won the Lexington two back with the benefit of a very fast pace and he’ll beat us.
#9 Meantime (15-1) – He’s half to sprinter/miler Sweet Reason and nearly pulled a 50-1 upset in his debut when second to today’s rival Patch. He’s the pace-setter here, but it’s hard to see him wiring the field. Second in the Peter Pan last time to the impressive Timeline, he drifted way out coming into the lane as well. He’ll probably be loose early on, but is he going to be able to wire the field? Our guess is no.
#10 Multiplier (15-1) – Trainer Brendan Walsh is very good with these marathon types – he won the Las Vegas marathon with Cary Street in 2014 and with Scuba in 2016, the latter a very useful marathon runner, so he can get a horse ready for this type of test. Multiplier ran fine in the Preakness as he was on the inside forced to weave between rivals while Senior Investment and Lookin at Lee were on the far outside. He’s the deep closer that we prefer (though it should be noted his pedigree – by The Factor out of a Trippi mare) is all speed.
#11 Epicharis (4-1) – The Japanese runner has had some foot issues earlier this week and didn’t go to the track after his workout on Tuesday. That, combined with the fact that he hasn’t run in 11 weeks, makes him impossible to trust. While he ran a decent second in the UAE Derby, Master Plan, who would be 25-1 in here, was third so the quality of the field (as dirt runners – Thunder Snow is a top turf horse) is a little suspect too. He’ll beat us. (UPDATE – Epicharis has been scratched)
#12 Patch (12-1) – He got cut off moving between horses on the far turn of the Derby, basically ending his chances. He was way overbet in there (14-1) with fans betting him off of his story – he has one eye. That said, we’ve always thought this horse was a long distance runner. The question of course is of quality. But why can’t he grind his way to an on-the-board finish here? He’s only had four starts, so what chance did he really have in the Derby? He’s been freshened for this and we’re giving him a fighting chance.
The Pace – Meantime should go to the lead with Irish War Cry and Twisted Time up close (we wouldn’t be shocked if they put Twisted Tom on the lead). Epicharis probably won’t be too far out either. We’d expect a fair pace, but not a sizzling one.
Final Analysis – J Boys Echo is our top pick and we hope Robby Albarado keeps him a little closer today, which shouldn’t be an issue as long as he doesn’t have issues out of the gate like his last two starts (last time, he was bumped, two back in the Blue Grass was his own issue). Patch might be the grinding distance runner that can get a piece of this race in just his fifth career start. Tapwrit has been freshened for this race by Todd Pletcher and should get a good inside/out trip. Irish War Cry is the favorite, but has been aided by circumstance in his two big wins.
The Play – We’ll bet J Boys Echo to win and box him in the exacta with Patch, Tapwrit, and Irish War Cry.
$1 – 4 / 2, 4, 7, 12 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 for $28
$.50 – 12 / 2, 4, 7, 12 / 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12 for $14