Justify’s biggest threats in completing the Grand Slam

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July 8th 2018

After Diversify’s impressive win in the Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park yesterday, I had to do some quick research to come up with a list the top Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders that represent the biggest threats in thwarting Justify’s bid to become the 2nd Grand Slam winner of North American horse racing.

No decision has been made yet on when and where Justify’s next start will come, but it won’t be in the Haskell Invitational scheduled for the end of this month. However, they are planning to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 3rd and a prep race before then. My guess on the prep race is that it will be the Travers Stakes on August 25th at Saratoga.

Below are the top four horses in the older horse division that I feel are the biggest threats in preventing Justify joining American Pharoah as a Grand Slam champion. Really this should be a top three list as I doubt Diversify will be entered into the Classic:

2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic Contenders

1) Accelerate –Accelerate completed the Big Cap-Gold Cup double this spring having been victorious in the Santa Anita Handicap in March and Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes on May 26th. Next Start: The TVG Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18th.

Career: 19 Starts 7-5-5-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 2
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 3 Starts  2-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>1st
Sire: Lookin At Lucky
Trainer: John Sadler
Jockey: Victor Espinoza (2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.38 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 1112018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2017: 111 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2018 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes  

2) Thunder SnowAs a 3-year-old, many fans will remember his “I’m outta here” start in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. However, he bounced back from that performance to win a couple of Group 1 races: The 2017 Prix Jean Prat (on turf) and the 2018 Dubai World Cup (beating the Bob Baffert-trained West Coast). Next Start: Nothing has been confirmed to date but they are eyeing the Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park on September 29th.

Career: 18 Starts 7-5-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 1 Starts 0-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd->1st
Sire: Helmet
Trainer: Saeed bin Suroor
Jockey: Christophe Soumillon
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: N/A
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 111 – 2018 Dubai World Cup

3) West Coast – Another Breeders’ Cup Classic contender from Bob Baffert’s barn. West Coast finished 3rd in last year’s Classic. This year, he has two 2nd places finishes in the Pegasus World Cup and the Dubai World Cup. He has never finished off the board in 11 career starts and has the highest Beyer Speed Figure this year (117) of active horses still in training. He will have a different jockey than Mike Smith if both Justify and West Coast are entered in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Next Start: Nothing announced to date. But my guess would be the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on August 18th.

Career: 11 Starts 6-4-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  1-0-1-0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>2nd–>2nd
Sire: Flatter
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2014, 2015 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (1997, 2009, 2011 & 2016 Breeders’ Cup Classic Winner)
Fastest 1 1/4 Mile Time: 2:01.19 – 2017 Travers Stakes 
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 112 – 2017 Breeders’ Cup Classic
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup 
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 117 – 2018 Pegasus World Cup 

4) Diversify – The 5-year-old gelding eclipsed the $1 Million dollar mark in career earnings with his win in the Suburban Stakes. His biggest career win was the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup race at Belmont Park. He runs great in the state of New York and especially at Belmont Park. The question is, can he transfer this form to another track? Last year, he finished 4th in the 9 furlong Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Next Start: The Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 1st. 

Career: 14 Starts 9-2-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Career in 1 1/4 Mile Races: 2 Starts  2-0-0-0
Last 3 starts: 7th–>1st–>1st
Sire: Bellamy Road
Trainer: Richard Violette
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Fastest 1 1/4th Mile Time: 1:59.84 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 1 1/4 Mile Race: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes
Best Beyer Speed Figure in 2018: 110- 2018 Suburban Stakes
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 110 – 2018 Suburban Stakes


On the Docket…

I should have an article for US Racing coming out in the next few days that highlights how I became a fan of horse racing. I think you might enjoy it.

Update: Here’s the link: https://www.usracing.com/news/features/became-fan-horse-racing

–Michael

My Boy Jack is Back! Entered in the Belmont Derby

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July 6th 2018 – Updated July 7th 2018 5:15 PM CST

One of the more popular horses on this year’s Kentucky Derby Day–My Boy Jack-is making his first start of the year since the Run for the Roses in tomorrow’s Belmont Derby. The Belmont Derby will be aired live on Fox Sports 2 between 5 and 6 PM CST.

The Belmont Derby is a high profile turf race for 3-year-olds that carries a $1.2 million dollar purse. That is just $300,000 less than what the Preakness and Belmont Stakes offered. And it has attracted a great field which includes a winner of a recent Royal Ascot race, Hunting Horn, who won the Group 3 Hampton Court Stakes for trainer Aidan O’Brien.

Below are the entries, post-positions, weights, jockey assignments and morning line odds:

The Belmont Derby

The Belmont Derby – 1 1/4th Mile – Race #10 at Belmont Park – Post-Time: Saturday July 7th at 5:30 PM CST. Televised by NBC 

Post/Horse/Jockey/Weight/Trainer/Odds
1. Channel Cat (122) – Saez/Pletcher – 30/1
2. Encumbered (122) – Gutierrez/Callaghan – 30/1
3. Analyze It (122) – J.Ortiz/Brown – 5/2
4. Hunting Horn (122) – Moore/O’Brien – 7/2
5. Maraud (122) – Velazquez/Pletcher – 12/1
6. Kingstar (122) – Boudot/Brandt – 12/1
7. Catholic Boy (122) – Castellano/Thomas – 4/1
8. Hawkish (122) –  Franco/Toner – 7/2
9. My Boy Jack (122) – Desormeaux/Desormeaux – 6/1

Race Commentary: One thing I have learned over the years, don’t try to handicap turf races. At least North American turf races. They are usually wide-open and totally unpredictable. That being said, you can make a boat load of money on exotics for this type of race (big purse, turf, distance, 3-year-olds). My recommendation, just enjoy the race and if you are going to bet, make small wager exotics using longshots. I might make a few myself but it wouldn’t be prudent to recommend them to my readers as they aren’t likely to hit. But if they do, they will pay out well.

Update:

The Belmont Derby is being aired live on Fox Sports 2. NBC’s coverage of the Belmont Park races stopped at 5PM.


On the Docket…

I should have an article for US Racing coming out soon that highlights how I became a fan of horse racing. I think you might enjoy it.

–Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patch to race tomorrow in the Stephen F. Foster Handicap

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June 15th 2018 – Updated June 16th 2018 6:45 PM CST

Tomorrow evening, NBC Sports will air the Stephen F. Foster Handicap, a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Post time is 9:39 PM EST, 8:39 PM CST.

The one-eyed horse Patch was entered and drew the 2nd post and was given 10-1 Morning Line Odds. He’ll have some stiff competition in Backyard Heaven (6/5), Irish War Cry (5/1), Pavel (5/1), Lookin’ At Lee (12/1) and last year’s Stephen F. Foster Runner-Up–Honorable Duty (6/1). This will be a very interesting race because 7 out of the 9 entries are all coming off of wins in their last start.

I was planning on previewing this race, but life got in the way. The birth of my grandson Madden Joseph came unexpectedly late last night. And I have finally added a Grandson to my Grankid Trifecta.

Anyway, you can see the full Stephen F. Foster Handicap field on Equibase by clicking HERE

Update: You can see the Brisnet Past Performances by clicking HERE. When looking at the Brisnet Prime Power Ratings, this should be a close and exciting race. The horses that I would put in my Trifecta would be: Backyard Heaven, Honorable Duty and Patch. But I would give this a low confidence rating because this field is so close in talent. 

Backyard Heaven is the deserved favorite, but I am not sure he really deserves odds as low as 6/5 in this field. I don’t feel that this is the best distance for Patch but I feel his chances of hitting the board are pretty good. One horse that many liked last year, Pavel, could pull a surprise performance. He finished 4th in the Gold Cup race at Santa Anita Park back three weeks ago. 


On the docket…

I submitted my article for US Racing today that is tentatively titled: “Justify vs American Pharoah: Who’s Better?” This should come out in the next few days and I would guess by Monday evening at the latest. I’ll keep you posted.

–Michael

My Triple Crown Dream Was Justified

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June 12th 2018

I don’t even know where to begin when writing about my experience at the 150th Belmont Stakes or what adjectives to use to describe it. I checked off something that was at the top of  my bucket list by witnessing a Triple Crown Championship won in person. And the cherry on top was the fact that Justify became only the 2nd Triple Crown Champion to go through all three legs undefeated. Justify’s great-great-great grandsire Seattle Slew is the other.

I didn’t get to post this on my blog in time as this article for US Racing was posted while I was at the track Saturday but I did call this race. See: Why Justify Will Become the 13th Triple Crown Champion. 

Perhaps, it best that I share the two videos I took below and you will get idea of what I experienced. This race undoubtedly goes into my Top 5 sports memories viewed in person along with American Pharoah’s win in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic to make him the first Grand Slam Champion of American Thoroughbred racing.

 

Gronkowski

I was really surprised how well the Aidan O’Brien-trained colt Gronkowski performed in the Belmont Stakes with his 2nd place finish. This colt had never raced further than a mile and had raced mostly on turf or synthetic surfaces. I didn’t really think this was the best race for him but he exceeded all expectations. Unfortunately for me and quite a few others, Gronkowski killed all of my exotic bets.

TV Ratings

Although the Belmont Stakes on NBC was the most watched TV program all weekend, the ratings are down from when American Pharoah and California Chrome made their Triple Crown attempts at Belmont. The theory is that since Justify didn’t race as a 2 year old, that he hadn’t developed the following along the way as the other two.

At any rate, my blog views this year were down considerably from January thru May over the last two years. I blame some of this on the fact the Older Horse division lacks stars due to so many key retirements. And also the fact that the most popular Derby contenders in this class entering the year were more lightly raced than in year’s past.

However, Justify is just what this sport needed. The interest seems to be back better than ever as my blog views for the month of June have already set a new record over previous years. So, I foresee that this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Churchill Downs will break a lot of records if Justify races in it as expected.


On the docket…

I am currently working on another article for US Racing that is tentatively titled: “Justify vs American Pharoah: Who’s Better?” This should come out in the next week or so.

For my blog, I also plan to preview this coming Saturday’s Stephen F. Foster Handicap if Patch is entered. So far this has not been confirmed.

–Michael

2018 Belmont Stakes Race Analysis

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June 8th 2015

From experience, I will state up front that the Belmont Stakes is the toughest of the three Triple Crown races to handicap. Even tougher than the 20 horse Kentucky Derby. Why? Stating the obvious, the Belmont Stakes is 12 furlongs (1 1/2 mile) and the furthest these 3-year-olds have raced is usually the 10 furlong (1 1/4 mile) Kentucky Derby.

It is easier to extrapolate and project how colts will fare moving from the final 9 furlong Derby preps to the 10 furlong Kentucky Derby. You really don’t know how some colts will respond to the added distance. And sometimes, colts that you think should take well to the distance due to their pedigree, don’t always produce to your level of expectations. It is sort of a crap shoot some years.

I have had limited success in the Belmont Stakes. So I decided to delve into Pre-Belmont Stakes Brisnet Past Performances to look for clues to improve my handicapping of race that seems to be harder to hit than a moving target. I would have liked to go back further but all I could find is past performances from the last six years starting in 2012. You can see this year’s Belmont Stakes Past Performances by clicking HERE.

So here is what I uncovered from the last six Belmont Stakes winners from Brisnet Past Performances:

  • All six had produced a 100 or better Brisnet Speed figure during their 3-year-old campaign. Horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby who failed to meet this criteria are: Bravazo, Tenfold, Free Drop Billy and Restoring Hope. Gronkowski is an incomplete because they don’t compute Brisnet Speed Figures for horses outside of North America. But I guarantee you that Gronkowski is not winning the Belmont Stakes.
  • All six winners had a Brisnet Prime Power rating over 140. Horses who failed to meet this criteria include: Blended Citizen 138.9, Free Drop Billy 135.7 and Restoring Hope 135.6.

There are other Brisnet Past Performance ratings such as Speed Last Race, Average Class Last 3 Races, Early Pace Last Race, Late Pace Last Race but none of these really shook out anything meaningful.

So from the above analytics, I have narrowed down the potential 2018 Belmont Stakes winner to three colts: Justify, Vino Rosso and Hofburg.

All three post-positions fit well for each colt’s running style. For Justify, Early Speed Types do well in the first three posts. In fact, they have had a 61% win percentage from these three posts for dirt route races at Belmont Park since April 27th to June 3rd. This is an early clue for my next US Racing article which should be out sometime today for why I believe Justify will win the 2018 Belmont Stakes and become the 13th Triple Crown Champion.

How do I see this race playing out? I think Justify will get out of the gate well and go to the front quickly. I think Restoring Hope will take the early lead and Justify will assume the position of a presser. Around the 6 furlong (3/4th mile mark) I foresee jockey Mike Smith sending Justify and I think that he will go on to win the race with a late challenge from either Hofburg or Vino Rosso.

If I had to predict the final finishing order, I’d go with this: 1) Justify, 2) Vino Rosso, 3) Hofburg, 4) Bravazo. In my exotics, I am going to throw in Blended Citizen and Tenfold in the 3rd and 4th place spots. I am kind of concerned that Bravazo may be coming off a peak performance and may not run as well as he did in the Preakness Stakes on a dry, fast track.

So for a Superfecta, 1 over 4,8 over 3,4,8,10 over 3,4,7,8 10. This $1 superfecta would cost $18. But don’t expect it to pay out well. A $2 Superfecta in 2015 when American Pharoah won only returned $570. You may consider higher dollar Exactas using 1 over 4 & 8.

–Michael

2018 Belmont Stakes Post-Positions and Odds

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June 5th 2018 – Updated June 6th 2018 11PM CST
Below are the entries, post-positions, jockey assignments and morning line odds for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes. The race will be aired live on NBC this coming Saturday around 5:37 PM CST.
One interesting factoid, three out of the last four Belmont Stakes winners (Tonalist, Creator and Tapwri) were sired by Tapit. This is why Hofburg is the second favorite, though I really think Vino Rosso is the 2nd most talented colt in this field behind Justify.

2018 Belmont Stakes Field

1) Justify (4/5) – The 2018 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner. He will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown champion.


Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2001 & 2015 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2010 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby

2) Free Drop Billy (30/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Breeders’s Futurity winner. He had a disappointing 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. His entry in the Belmont Stakes will depend on how he trains this week. His sire, Union Rags, won the 2012 Belmont Stakes/


Career: 9 Starts 2-3-2-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>16th
Sire: Union Rags (Finished 1st in the 2012 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes

3) Bravazo (8/1) – The Risen Star Stakes winner had the best run of his career in the Preakness Stakes, finishing 2nd behind Justify by a half length. Trained by four time Belmont Stakes winner D. Wayne Lukas. Bravazo will be the 2nd favorite with bettors on Belmont Stakes day. H was coming like a runaway freight train in that last furlong in the Preakness Stakes and made the race interesting.


Career: 10 Starts 3-2-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>6th–>2nd
Sire: Awesome Again
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1994, 1995, 1996 & 2000 Belmont Stakes.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2018 Preakness Stakes

4) Hofburg (9/2) – After a 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby (shown below), Hofburg followed up this effort with a 7th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He has a former Belmont Stakes winning trainer and jockey in his corner.


Career: 4 Starts 1-1-0-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>7th
Sire: Tapit
Trainer: William Mott (2010 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr (2016 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Florida Derby

5) Restoring Hope (30/1) – Another new shooter who finished 3rd in the Wood Memorial (shown below). He had a disappointing effort in the sloppy Pat Day Mile, finishing 12th.


Career: 5 Starts 1-1-2-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>3rd–>12th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2001 & 2015 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 -2018 Wood Memorial

6) Gronkowski (12/1) – A European runner who is named after New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski. He is now being trained by Chad Brown. Gronkowski has primarily raced on synthetic or turf surfaces and has never raced longer than a mile. So he appears to be a better fit for the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes day.


Career: 6 Starts 4-1-0-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>1st-->1st
Sire: Lonhro
Trainer: Chad Brown
Jockey: Jose Ortiz (2017 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

7) Tenfold (12/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt finished 5th in the Arkansas Derby and had a surprising 3rd place finish in the Preakness Stakes.


Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2016 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Preakness Stakes

8) Vino Rosso (8/1) – The Wood Memorial winner. He finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby. He has a proven Belmont Stakes winning trainer and jockey behind him.


Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-1 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>9th
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007, 2013 & 2017 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velasquez (2007 and 2012 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Wood Memorial

9) Noble Indy (30/1) – The surprise winner of the 2018 Louisiana Derby winner. He bombed in the sloppy Kentucky Derby with a 17th place finish. Trained by Todd Pletcher who is one of the best at preparing 3-year-old colts for the mile and a half.


Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>1st–>17th
Sire: Take Charge Indy
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007, 2013 & 2017 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

10) Blended Citizen (15/1) – A new shooter. He is coming off a win in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. So you know he likes track surface. He finished 5th in the Blue Grass Stakes.


Career: 10 Starts 3-0-2-0 Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Proud Citizen (Finished 5th in the 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Kyle Frey
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Peter Pan Stakes


On the docket…

My next blog will provide race analysis. I will also have an article for US Racing on Justify’s chances of winning the Triple Crown.
–Michael

Patch Nominated for Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day

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June 1st 2018 – Updated June 4th 2018

Patch, the one-eyed fan favorite from last year’s Kentucky Derby, was recently nominated for this year’s Metropolitan Handicap (aka “The Met Mile). Check out my latest US Racing on article: “Patch is Back! And He’s Better Than Ever! 

https://www.usracing.com/news/patch-back-hes-better-ever

For a full list on Met Mile nominations, click HERE 

Update: Patch is not going to run in the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day. Instead, he is being pointed towards the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16th. But this is probably a better fit for him.

–Michael

2018 Belmont Stakes Early Preview

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May 26th 2018 – Updated May 29th 2018 6:00 PM CST

We are now two weeks away from the final leg of the Triple Crown. Below is an early look at the 2018 Belmont Stakes field. I have included my best guess on their morning line odds.

Thus far, it appears to be Justify with a field of closers and little early speed which bodes well for those of us who will be there hoping to see the 13th Triple Crown champion.

Looking at Brisnet Past Performances for this Belmont Stakes field (CLICK HERE), Justify has Prime Power rating of 161.0 that is more than 10 over the next colt in this field (146.1 – Vino Rosso). Historically, this equates to a 55% win percentage for Justify in this race.

When looking at the past 25 years of Belmont Stakes winners, 17 of 25 raced in the Kentucky Derby. Only 7 colts who won the Belmont Stakes were new shooters (those making their first appearance in a Triple Crown race). Only 1 of the winners came out of the Preakness Stakes that didn’t also race in the Kentucky Derby.

My best guess, the only horse in this field that can beat Justify in this field is Vino Rosso. If you are trying to beat Justify, he’s your horse. Well rested, he will have 35 days layoff between races. Trained by Todd Pletcher who is one of the best at training colts for the Mile and a Half. Justify’s worst Beyer Speed Figure is 97. Vino Rosso is the only colt in this potential field who had eclipsed that figure.

2018 Belmont Stakes Potential Entries

1) Justify (4/5) – The 2018 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner. He will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown champion.

Career: 5 Starts 5-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 3
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st–>1st
Sire: Scat Daddy
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2001 & 2015 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Mike Smith (2010 & 2013 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 107 – 2018 Santa Anita Derby

2) Bravazo (4/1) – The Risen Star Stakes winner had the best run of his career in the Preakness Stakes, finishing 2nd behind Justify by a half length. Trained by four time Belmont Stakes winner D. Wayne Lukas. Bravazo will be the 2nd favorite with bettors on Belmont Stakes day. He was coming like a runaway freight train in that last furlong in the Preakness Stakes and made the race interesting.

Career: 10 Starts 3-2-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 8th–>6th–>2nd
Sire: Awesome Again
Trainer: D.Wayne Lukas (1994, 1995, 1996 & 2000 Belmont Stakes.Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 96 – 2018 Preakness Stakes

3) Hofburg (6/1) – After a 2nd place finish in the Florida Derby (shown below), Hofburg followed up this effort with a 7th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He has a former Belmont Stakes winning trainer and jockey in his corner.

Career: 4 Starts 1-1-0-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 1st–>2nd–>7th
Sire: Tapit 
Trainer: William Mott (2010 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr (2016 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 94 – 2018 Florida Derby

4) Vino Rosso (8/1) The Wood Memorial winner. He finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby. He has a proven Belmont Stakes winning trainer and jockey behind him.

Career: 6 Starts 3-0-1-1   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts: 4th–>1st–>9th
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007, 2013 & 2017 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: John Velasquez (2007 and 2012 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 98 – 2018 Wood Memorial

5) Tenfold (10/1) – The Steve Asmussen-trained colt finished 5th in the Arkansas Derby and had a surprising 3rd place finish in the Preakness Stakes.

Career: 4 Starts 2-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>5th–>3rd
Sire: Curlin (Finished 2nd in the 2007 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen (2016 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Preakness Stakes

6) Noble Indy (15/1) – The surprise winner of the 2018 Louisiana Derby winner.  He bombed in the sloppy Kentucky Derby with a 17th place finish. Trained by Todd Pletcher who is one of the best at preparing 3-year-old colts for the mile and a half.

Career: 5 Starts 3-0-1-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  3rd–>1st–>17th
Sire: Take Charge Indy 
Trainer: Todd Pletcher (2007, 2013 & 2017 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 95 – 2018 Louisiana Derby

7) Blended Citizen (20/1) – The Peter Pan Stakes winner, so you know he likes Belmont Park’s track surface. He finished 5th in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Career: 10 Starts 3-0-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>5th–>1st
Sire: Proud Citizen (Finished 5th in the 2002 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Jockey: Kyle Frey
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Peter Pan Stakes

8) Restoring Hope (30/1) – Finished 3rd in the Wood Memorial (shown below). He had a disappointing effort in the sloppy Pat Day Mile, finishing 12th.

Career: 5 Starts 1-1-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>3rd–>12th
Sire: Giant’s Causeway
Trainer: Bob Baffert (2001 & 2015 Belmont Stakes Winning Trainer)
Jockey: To Be Announced
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 -2018 Wood Memorial

9) Gronkowski (30/1) – A European runner who is named after New England Patriots Tight End Rob Gronkowski. He is now being trained by Chad Brown. Gronkowski has primarily raced on synthetic or turf surfaces and has never raced longer than a mile. So he appears to be a better fit for the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes day.

Career: 6 Starts 4-1-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 3 starts:  1st–>1st-->1st
Sire: Lonhro
Trainer: Chad Brown 
Jockey: Jose Ortiz (2017 Belmont Stakes Winner)
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A

10) Free Drop Billy (30/1) – The Dale Romans-trained Breeders’s Futurity winner. He had a disappointing 16th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. He is a confirmed entry in the Belmont Stakes today (May 29th).

Career: 9 Starts 2-3-2-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 1
Last 3 starts: 3rd–>3rd–>16th
Sire: Union Rags (Finished 1st in the 2012 Belmont Stakes)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: 90 – 2018 Holy Bull Stakes

11) Bandua (30/1) – A rumored entry and another European turf runner who is a grandson of 1977 Belmont Stakes winner Seattle Slew on his dam’s side. He is undefeated in two starts and has raced at 1 1/4th mile distance. He is also being pegged for the Group 1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Stakes race on June 30th at Curragh Racecourse. My guess is that won’t be entered in the Belmont Stakes and will instead focus on the Irish Stakes.

Career: 2 Starts 2-0-0-0   Grade 1 Stakes Wins: 0
Last 2 starts: 1st->1st
Sire: The Factor
Trainer: Dermont Weld
Jockey: To Be Announced
Career Best Beyer Speed Figure: N/A


On the docket…

I am working on an article for US Racing on why Justify will become the 13th Triple Crown champion.

–Michael

Updated 2018 Belmont Stakes Contenders – Audible will not be entered

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May 25th 2018

As many expected, it was announced today that the Florida Derby winner Audible will not run in the Belmont Stakes. Audible has the same ownership group (WinStar Farm/China Horse Club) as Justify.

So far, it appears that Justify’s competition for the Belmont Stakes will be:

Bravazo (Luis Saez/D. Wayne Lukas) –  Preakness Stakes Runner-Up
Vino Rosso (John Velazquez/Todd Pletcher) – 9th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby
Noble Indy (Florent Geroux/Todd Pletcher) – 17th place finisher in Kentucky Derby
Tenfold (Ricardo Santana Jr/Steve Asmussen) – 3rd place finisher in Preakness Stakes
Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey/Doug O’Neill) – Peter Pan Stakes Winner
Hofburg (Irad Ortiz Jr/Bill Mott) – 7th place finisher in the Kentucky Derby
Gronkowski (?/Chad Brown) – Burradon Stakes Winner
Free Drop Billy
(Robbie Albarado/Dale Romans) – 16th place finisher in Kentucky Derby
Restoring Hope
(Flavien Prat?/Bob Baffert) – 12th place finisher in Peter Pan Stakes
Bandua
(?/Dermont Weld) – UK turf horse

Current Odds (Wynn Las Vegas)

Justify – 1/1
Bravazo – 8/1
Hofburg – 10/1
Vino Rosso – 11/1
Noble Indy – 12/1
Tenfold – 12/1
Restoring Hope – 20/1
Blended Citizen – 28/1
Gronkowski – 40/1
Free Drop Billy – 40/1
Bandua – No odds

–Michael