An outstanding afternoon at Belmont Park on Saturday is topped by the track’s signature race, the G1 Belmont over a mile and a half, the final leg of the Triple Crown series. This searching stamina test is notable for the return of shock Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who renews rivalry with Churchill Downs fifth and sixth Mo Donegal and Barber Road, as well as taking on runaway G3 Peter Pan winner and lone speed influence We The People plus G1 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Nest, in a thrilling clash over unknown territory. Here our Belmont Stakes Future book Odds preview!
The Belmont Stakes, the third jewel in the Triple Crown and the main event at Belmont Park on Saturday, is always one of the most fascinating and complicated races of the year for bettors, even when – as in this case – there is no dominant candidate and no Triple Crown on the line.
The issue with the Belmont is the distance, a mile and a half, a complete unknown for all the runners. In most Graded stakes class is the premier attribute, but a horse can have all the class in the world and if the gas tank runs dry with three-sixteenths to travel then he won’t win a Belmont. There aren’t many Secretariats or American Pharoahs out there.
It’s a jockey’s race, more so than the Derby or the Preakness. How fast to go, when to push the button, how much to save for the gruelling stretch run – all these questions are more important than usual when it comes to the Belmont. This goes double when there’s only one pace factor in the race, as there is this year.
All the early speed belongs to morning-line favourite We The People, who proved he has sufficient class for this level by thrashing his rivals in the G3 Peter Pan here over a mile-eighth, leading at every call and clearing right away to win by more than ten lengths from Golden Glider, who kept on late without ever seeing which way the winner went.
The sloppy track assisted We The People, and there’s rain forecast for Saturday, but can he really stretch out that speed for another three furlongs? If he can, he wins; they won’t get near him. If he can’t, then he’s just a moving target for one of the late closers to shoot down.
He has the benefit of hot ticket Flavien Prat in the saddle, whose fine racing brain is ideal for the task at hand, and if he settles on the lead he has a real chance, but it’s very hard work to make all in a Belmont.
Late closers, we got ‘em. Obviously the most interesting is Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, who upset America’s greatest race at 80-1 when making the most of a colossal pace meltdown, picking up the pieces with an irresistible rail run to catch subsequent Preakness runner-up Epicenter. The big question here is whether Rich Strike is simply a one-hit wonder, having done nothing of any note pre-Derby as his boxcar odds might suggest, and it would be no great surprise to find out that he is, and was simply in the right place at the right time.
The way he finished off his race in the Derby – given the crazy speed disintegration – doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to go further, it just means that the shape of his race left him as one of the few moving forward late on. He will inevitably be closer to the pace here, as will Derby fifth and sixth Mo Donegal and Barber Road, who also came along late at Churchill Downs but not with the same panache, finishing three and three-quarter lengths and four and three-quarter lengths behind the winner.
Unlike Rich Strike, both these horses have indicated that they may well go long enough to figure in a Belmont. Mo Donegal needed every yard of the Aqueduct stretch when a) nailing Zandon in the G2 Remsen and b) catching subsequent Preakness winner Early Voting in the G2 Wood Memorial, both races over a mile-eighth. He seems likely to appreciate the Belmont’s mile and a half and will be doing his best work from the final turn, and his resume speaks to class more than any other runner here.
His grinding style is similar to that of Barber Road, who hit the board in five consecutive stakes before the Derby without ever looking like winning one, always keeping on well in the closing stages but never close enough to score, a routine amply demonstrated in the G1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park over a mile-eighth – with, incidentally, We The People a distant seventh after a wide trip. Barber Road is too slow at that distance and lacks class, but this test may bring out the best in him.
Mo Donegal’s barnmate Nest adds another dimension to the race, a filly against the colts like Secret Oath in the Preakness, although that didn’t work out so well. Nest’s stamina claims rest on her victory in last year’s G2 Demoiselle over a mile-eighth at Aqueduct – much the same profile as Mo Donegal’s Remsen win – and her cantering success in the G1 Ashland over Keeneland’s mile-sixteenth.
It’s not a lot to build on and she was clear second-best behind Secret Oath in the mile-eighth G1 Kentucky Oaks, which suggests that if that filly can’t beat the colts, then why should Nest? Her pedigree says there’s a chance she’ll stay, but – like Barber Road – she doesn’t look good enough unless she can improve plenty for the extra yardage.
Preakness third and fifth Creative Minister and Skippylongstocking never posed a solid threat behind Early Voting at Pimlico and have the shortest rebound time in the field, with just three weeks since those exertions. More can be expected from Creative Minister, with just four starts to his name, but he doesn’t appear the most obvious candidate to be transformed by going another two and a half furlongs, while Skippylongstocking is well exposed, and his third spot in the Wood Memorial gives him plenty to find with Mo Donegal even without other considerations of stamina and class.
Belmont Stakes Betting Prediction
A race full of unknowns as ever, but MO DONEGAL has always shaped as though he could stay this distance and has a dash of class that most of his rivals lack. Barber Road can hit the board at a longer price.
Belmont Stakes Future Book Odds
|CONTENDERS||HORSE RACING ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
|We The People||+275|
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