Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Belmont Stakes

Belmont Park: The GI, $1.5 million Belmont at 1 1/2 miles

by Brian Nadeau

#1 Joevia (30-1): Arguably the longest shot in the field is also a potential Lone F(rontrunner), as this looks like a relatively paceless race, especially considering the slow early nature that races are run in the country and these are average 3-year-olds who are highly suspect going this unknown 1 1/2 miles. Still, with that being said, this son of Shanghai Bobby has nothing but a sloppy win in the minor Long Beach at Monmouth Park last month for Sacco, and that’s not going to cut it here; pop and stop seems likely.

#2 Everfast (12-1): Shocking Preakness runner-up closed from the clouds to be a distant second to War of Will, which was a stark reversal of his recent form, as he was well-beaten in a trio of graded stakes starts going in for Romans. Son of Take Charge Indy has a running style that says he may appreciate this trip more than most, but deep, deep closers rarely win this race, and even then, there are more than a few of those that look better than this colt; playing against a repeat of his Baltimore run.

#3 Master Fencer (JPN) (8-1): The first of a quartet that ran in the Kentucky Derby, then passed the Preakness will take some play for Tsunoda, as he outran his odds (58-1) when a closing seventh in the slop with a bit of trouble to boot, in what was his first start outside his native Japan. Of course, it’s not like this Just a Way (JPN) colt passed anyone that did any real running that day, and he’s another that (apparently) doesn’t have any early speed, so he’s up against it in a big way in terms of the race flow. He’s also going to be a fraction of the price he was in Louisville, and he got much hotter splits there than he will here, which means expecting him to better that run seems a bit ambitious; using on the bottom of the exotics only.

#4 Tax (15-1): Tricky read was a game second to ML favorite Tacitus in Aqueduct’s GII Wood Memorial in April, then was an also-ran and disappointing 15th in the Derby after sitting a pocket trip down inside, so how he rebounds after getting drilled so decisively is a real guess today. It’s a good sign that Gargan wheels him back after mentioning that he didn’t like his most recent workout, and this son of Arch has plenty of tactical speed, so expect him to be close early, though you’re allowed to wonder if he’s nothing more than a Big A specialist; not seeing it.

#5 Bourbon War (12-1): Yet another stretch-runner, this Tapit colt was the choice in this space in the Preakness but didn’t fire at all when eighth, even though he got the right set-up, and now Hennig adds blinkers to try and get a bit more early focus. If you’re still tagging along, then that second in Gulfstream Park’s GII Fountain of Youth is what you’re pinning your hopes on, though nothing he’s done since says he’s making any waves here, unless the equipment change wakes him up several lengths; midpack finish seems his ceiling.

#6 Spinoff (12-1): The first of two for Pletcher chased, then finished a tiring 18th in the Derby, after a close second in Fair Grounds’ GII Louisiana Derby in March, which says that there’s a lot of talent and upside here. He also starts for a trainer who has done remarkably well in this race, especially with horses who have gotten beat up while running for roses and then bypassing the Preakness, which is the blueprint this son of Hard Spun fits. The positives also include a fair price, the best long-distance dirt jockey in the world in Castellano, and plenty of tactical speed, so in a race where you’re more than allowed to go against the favorites, the dart is landing here; upset special.

7 Sir Winston (12-1): Stretch-runner was a closing second in last month’s local prep, the GIII Peter Pan, though he looks a lot like Everfast, in that that run came from nowhere after a trio of non-threatening stakes runs. The first of two from Casse will get overlooked a bit, even though he did run very fast last time, though the pace he’ll see today will be a lot slower than the Peter Pan, and he has to negotiate a second turn as well; mixed signals here.

#8 Intrepid Heart (10-1): Pletcher’s second is the least experienced member of the field, having run just three times, so this is a big ask, especially since he was just a well-beaten when third to ‘Winston in the Peter Pan. Tactical sort adds blinkers, so he should be close early, and obviously there’s room for improvement with this son of Tapit, for an ace barn, though this just seems like a bit too much at this stage of his development; remember the name.

#9 War of Will (2-1): Preakness hero built on a much-publicized trip in the Derby when eighth (moved up to seventh) to make amends while returning to the form that saw him as one of the top early season 3yos, after a pair of graded wins this winter at FG for Casse. Stalking son of War Front may not be favored on the ML, and he did finish behind ML favorite Tacitus in the Derby, but this is your horse to beat, as he brings it every time (he had issues when ninth in the La. Derby), and figures to sit a much better trip than his main rival, too. There are worries though, as that 6-1 is long gone here, and, as the only horse to run in every Triple Crown race, he’s eligible to be a bit worse for wear, though this barn is a throwback to old, and they usually keep them good when they get them good, so you’re going to have to get past this dude to get your picture taken; rock solid.

War of Will and Tyler Gaffalione at Pimlico. Photo: Maryland Jockey Club

#10 Tacitus (9-5): The best of the Derby finishers was fourth in Louisville for Mott and figures to be ready for a huge run after bypassing the second leg of the Triple Crown and waiting in the wings while training locally. Beautifully bred son of Tapit has made a name for himself beating up on fringe 3yos, as bettering Tax in the Wood, when the latter arguably ran the better race, won’t scare anyone off in here. He’s also a bit at the mercy of the pace, which means horses like Spinoff, and especially ‘Will, are going to get first run on him, so sure, he’s a huge threat in here, but at false odds with no real edge on paper, let’s make him prove it; underneath only.


#6 Spinoff

#9 War of Will

#10 Tacitus

#3 Master Fencer


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