Jeremy Plonk: Belmont Stakes Draw Rapid Reaction

Preakness winner National Treasure, Florida Derby victor Forte and Kentucky Derby favorite and third-place finisher Angel of Empire headline a field of 9 drawn this morning for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. The 50th anniversary of Secretariat’s memorable 31-length Triple Crown-sealing triumph in 1973 figures to be a much more competitive clash than a half-century ago.

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Forte (post 6), scratched from the Kentucky Derby as the logical favorite due to a foot bruise, has been cleared for takeoff over his home track at Belmont. Trainer Todd Pletcher won this race last year with Mo Donegal (his fourth career Belmont trophy) and also will bolster his chances with Blue Grass winner and Kentucky Derby seventh-place finisher Tapit Trice (post 2). The Pletcher pair are the 5-2 and 3-1 top choices on the morning line from NYRA oddsmaker David Aragona.

National Treasure (post 4) was loose on an easy lead in the Preakness and was able to set a slow pace that catapulted him to victory. The same scenario looks plausible on paper in the Belmont, with early pressure lacking in volume. Longshot Il Miracolo (post 5) could provide some early speed, but is inconsistent with that delivery; Tapit Shoes (post 1) also could be used in the pace as the least-credentialed of three entrants for trainer Brad Cox. The trainer mentioned this morning that they’ll try to send early after drawing the rail. That the possible speed horses are both inside and outside of National Treasure means he could have a tougher task than at Pimlico.

Cox also has late-running Angel of Empire (post 8), the Arkansas Derby winner, as well as Hit Show (post 7), runner-up in the Wood Memorial and fifth in Louisville. The Steve Asmussen-trained Red Route One (post 9), fourth in the Preakness, makes his 9th straight stakes start and 11th bid of his career as the most seasoned Belmont starter in the field. All three of these runners are late-rallying sorts who will need the pace to come back to them, or alter styles to stay in closer contact – a more reliable historical formula in the Belmont Stakes. Angel of Empire adds blinkers in hopes of doing just that, keeping closer to the pace.

Kentucky Derby winner Mage, third in the Preakness three weeks ago, will bypass the Belmont Stakes in preparation for an anticipated summer campaign. His jockey, Javier Castellano, retains the mount on Peter Pan Stakes winner Arcangelo (post 3).

First post on Saturday’s 13-race card will be 11:20 am ET and feature six Grade 1 stakes races.

155th Belmont Stakes // Saturday // Belmont Park // Race 12 // 7:02 pm ET

#1-Tapit Shoes (Jose Ortiz//Brad Cox) 20-1
#2-Tapit Trice (Luis Saez//Todd Pletcher) 3-1
#3-Arcangelo (Javier Castellano//Jena Antonucci) 8-1
#4-National Treasure (John Velazquez//Bob Baffert) 5-1
#5-Il Miracolo (Marcos Meneses//Antonio Sano) 30-1
#6-Forte (Irad Ortiz Jr.//Todd Pletcher) 5-2
#7-Hit Show (Manny Franco//Brad Cox) 10-1
#8-Angel of Empire (Flavien Prat//Brad Cox) 7-2
#9-Red Route One (Joel Rosario//Steve Asmussen) 15-1

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