It has been an unconventional Triple Crown series this year, with a wildcard longshot winning the Kentucky Derby but missing the Preakness, and a Preakness winner who missed the Derby and will miss the Belmont too. Here we examine the next moves for horses coming out of the Preakness and look ahead to the final leg of the Triple Crown and the potential contenders for the Belmont Stakes – including the return of shock Derby winner Rich Strike.
2022 Preakness Review
Voting earmarked for big Travers test
The G1 Preakness at Pimlico last Saturday was a much more ‘normal’ race than the first leg of the Triple Crown at Churchill Downs, and it produced arguably a better winner than did the Kentucky Derby.
There was plenty of confidence behind Early Voting before the race and he justified it in a contest that played to his strengths. He wasn’t on the lead as in his previous races but sat right behind a horse who wasn’t good enough to go all the way to the wire, enabling Jose Ortiz to have the luxury of choosing his moment to challenge. When he asked Early Voting to move, his natural speed bought him an advantage that his rivals couldn’t peg back.
Early Voting will miss the Belmont and be aimed at the G1 Travers at Saratoga on August 27, with either the G1 Haskell (Monmouth Park, July 23) or the G2 Jim Dandy (Saratoga, July 30) beforehand, depending on the schedule of Chad Brown’s other sophomore stars Zandon and Jack Christopher.
Epicenter has now come out second best in both Derby and Preakness, and was compromised at Pimlico by being squeezed at the start and then getting an unimaginative ride from Joel Rosario, which left him with too much ground to make up in the stretch. There is a big race in him but it won’t be the Belmont, as he is due a break before being pointed towards the Haskell and then the Travers.
Creative Minister ran a huge race on his stakes debut to finish third and will move on to the Belmont, as will fifth-placed Skippylongstocking (see below), while Derby fourth Simplification will spend some time on the sidelines after finishing sixth at Pimlico.
The Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath came up short again on her second race against colts, being unable to make her big move around the turn stick and flattening out into fourth place. She will stay against her own sex now, with Wayne Lukas pointing her towards the G1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Saratoga on July 23.
One factor that has emerged from the Derby and Preakness is the weakness of the California division this year. Taiba, Messier and Happy Jack all sank without trace in the Derby, while Armagnac and the returning Happy Jack finished well in arrears in the Preakness. If last year’s champion juvenile colt Corniche reaches the racetrack again – he is now in the care of Todd Pletcher – there is no guarantee that his form will stand up outside the Sunshine State.
2022 Belmont Stakes Preview
Rich is ready to strike back
With no Triple Crown on the line, there is no frenzied anticipation for the G1 Belmont on June 11, and several of those already mentioned as contenders do not quicken the pulse overmuch.
That doesn’t of course apply to Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike (5-1), who is scheduled to return for the final leg of the Triple Crown after his 80-1 upset at Churchill Downs. There is no knowing what to expect from a colt who had done very little before winning the biggest race in America, but he’ll never be 80-1 again and the Belmont’s mile and a half should be within his grasp.
Derby fifth and sixth Mo Donegal (2-1) and Barber Road (8-1) were both seen doing their best work late at Churchill Downs and sat out the Preakness to wait for the greater stamina test of the Belmont. Mo Donegal had previously beaten Preakness winner Early Voting in the G2 Wood Memorial and could form part of a two-pronged attack from Todd Pletcher alongside Kentucky Oaks runner-up Nest (9-1), who may continue this year’s trend of fillies taking on colts in major races. Pletcher won the Belmont in 2007 with Kentucky Oaks winner Rags To Riches, by far the most recent of three distaff winners of the race.
As mentioned earlier, only two Preakness runners are expected to travel on for the Belmont – the third Creative Minister (5-1) and fifth-placed Skippylongstocking (25-1), who was previously third in the Wood Memorial behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting. Neither horse has won in stakes company, another indication that this year’s Belmont may not be as hard to win as in previous years.
The G3 Peter Pan at Belmont Park is often seen as a good prep for the Belmont, and this year’s romping gate-to-wire winner We The People (3-1) is expected to take his chance over an extra three furlongs. It was a big step up from his lukewarm seventh in the G1 Arkansas Derby, and he is just the type of progressive new shooter who could make his mark in the Belmont, especially in a year without a dominant candidate.
We The People ran the opposition right out of town in the Peter Pan, and could renew rivalry next month with runner-up Golden Glider (25-1), beaten ten and a quarter lengths in New York after running fourth in the G1 Blue Grass on his previous start. Fourth-placed Western River (25-1), a barnmate of We The People, is also under consideration.
Derby defector Ethereal Road (8-1), whose absence left the way clear for Rich Strike to take his chance, returned to action at Pimlico on Saturday and was an authoritative winner of the ungraded Sir Barton, strolling home over the mile-sixteenth by four and three-quarter lengths. That was a distinct improvement on his earlier form and he is described as a ‘possible’ by trainer Wayne Lukas.
Another ‘possible’ is G2 Rebel winner Un Ojo (20-1), who was forced out of both Derby and Preakness with a bruised foot. The injury may yet keep him out of all three legs of the Triple Crown, but if he recovers in time for the Belmont he will be easily the freshest horse in the field.
2022 Belmont Stakes Odds
|Horse||Jockey||Odds by JazzSports|
|Rich Strike||Sonny Leon||+500|
|Creative Minister||Brian Hernandez Jr.||+500|
|Mo Donegal||Irad Ortiz Jr.||+200|
|Barber Road||Reylu Gutierrez||+800|
|We The People||Flavien Prat||+300|
|Golden Glider||Dylan Davis||+2500|
|Ethereal Road||Luis Saez||+800|
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