The 2017 Triple Crown racing season comes to a close this Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York with the running of the 149th Belmont Stakes. The Belmont is the longest and most grueling test for this year’s top three-year old thoroughbreds at 1 ½ miles in length and it has been the site on a number of failed bids to win an elusive Triple Crown title over the years.
While a Triple Crown title will not be on the line in this Saturday’s race, there is still plenty of drama waiting to unfold on the dirt track at Belmont Park in the main event of that day’s racing card. The only thing that horse bettors know for sure is that there will be three different winners in the three races that make up the Triple Crown since both Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing are not even in the 12-horse field.
One of the top three-year olds in the field for this year’s Belmont Stakes is trainer H. Graham Motion’s Irish War Cry. The son of Curlin will break from the No. 7 post as a 7/2 favorite on the morning line with jockey Rajiv Maragh getting the ride. I have been touting this New Jersey-bred colt all year long ever since he ran past both Gunnevera and Classic Empire in early February to win the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in one of the early prep races for the Kentucky Derby. He went on to win the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in early April before heading onto Churchill Downs. Breaking from the No. 17 post in the Kentucky Derby as one of two 9/2 favorites along with Always Dreaming, he faded down the stretch to finish 10th.
Lookin At Lee is the only colt in this field to also run in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes after Classic Empire’s recent scratch with a foot infection. His closing odds in the ‘Run for the Roses’ were 33/1 coming out of the dreaded No. 1 post and he was able to battle his way to an impressive second-place finish. Trained by Steve Asmussen with jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. at the helm, this Kentucky-bred three-year old went on to finish fourth in the Preakness. Sired by Lookin At Lucky, he will break from the No. 6 post in the Belmont at 5/1 odds on the morning line.
A newcomer to the Triple Crown series that has yet to run a race on American soil is trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara’s Epicharis. This Japanese-trained colt may be a relative unknown to bettors following this year’s Triple Crown trail, but he comes into this race as a 4/1 second-favorite to win. His main claim to fame was a second-place finish in the Grade 2 UAE Derby back on March 25. Look for jockey Christophe Lemaire to get the ride on Saturday breaking out of the No. 11 post.
Another colt that has caught my attention for this race is Tapwrit at 6/1 odds coming out of the No. 2 post. Todd Pletcher was the architect behind Always Dreaming’s victory at Churchill. You have to wonder if this famed trainer has any tricks up his sleeve to get this Kentucky-bred three-year old ready for a winning run this Saturday with veteran jockey Jose Ortiz leading the way. A pedigree of Tapit, he first caught horse bettor’s eyes with a victory in this year’s Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 11.
A few colts to watch at longer odds at top online sportsbooks for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes include Senior Investment at 12/1 and Meantime at 15/1. Senior Investment is coming off an impressive third-place finish in last month’s Preakness after opening as a 30/1 longshot and I fully expect trainer Ken McPeek to have him ready to go for this race with jockey Channing Hill aboard for the ride. This will be Meantime’s Triple Crown racing debut, but he may have an inside track advantage after taking second in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 13. Breaking out of the No. 9 post at Belmont Park, this son of Shackleford is trained by Brian Lynch with veteran jockey Mike Smith getting the ride.
2017 Belmont Stakes Trifecta Pick
Win: Irish War Cry
Place: Lookin At Lee