After a wacky first two legs of the Triple Crown, anything can and likely will happen in the Belmont Stakes. This 2019 Belmont Stakes preview will provide you with our predictions of what we think might occur on Saturday evening at Belmont Park. First, we’ll talk about the horses who are running, then we’ll give your picks.
To say that it has been an eventful Triple Crown season would be the understatement of the millennium. Normally, casual fans tune in to the Belmont Stakes if there is a chance that there could be a Triple Crown champion in the race. But the 2019 Belmont Stakes is getting a ton of attention even without all of the Triple Crown buildup.
Why is that the case? Well, in case you haven’t been following the sports section of your newspaper too closely, you might have missed out on the biggest controversy in Kentucky Derby history. Maximum Security appeared to be the convincing winner, only to be disqualified when it was deemed that he caused interference during the race.
The horse that crossed the line second, 65 to 1 long shot Country House, was named the winner. Yet neither Maximum Security nor Country House appeared at the Preakness Stakes two weeks later. Instead, War of Will, the horse who dealt the most with Maximum Security’s interference, took charge in the Preakness for a decisive victory.
The Belmont Stakes had the potential to be the great decider among these three horses. But in this wacky racing season, it’s perhaps no surprise that it didn’t quite work that way. Maximum Security is sitting it out, his owners still smarting from the Derby decision, while Country House appears to be waiting till later in the summer to return to the races.
That leaves War of Will, and one might assume that he would be the prohibitive favorite coming into Saturday. But in a twist that’s typical of one of the most intriguing stretches in Thoroughbred history, he wasn’t even named the favorite. That honor when to Tacitus, an also-ran in the Derby who didn’t even run in the Preakness.
All totaled, 10 horses will line up for the 2019 Belmont Stakes on Saturday evening. And the good news, for bettors anyway, is that you can make a legitimate case for the majority of the field as potential winners. Picking through this field of talented but flawed three-year-olds can be tricky, especially with how unpredictable the last month has been.
Luckily, we’re here to help you out with our 2019 Belmont Stakes preview. We’ll not only talk about what makes betting on the Belmont Stakes such a unique affair, but we’ll also talk about all 10 horses in the field in terms of their past performances, their human connections, and the other factors that could decide how they perform on Saturday. Finally, we’ll give our selections for how we believe the race will turn out so that you can have a head start on your handicapping.
Betting the Belmont Stakes
The Belmont Stakes is the final leg of the American Thoroughbred Triple Crown, following the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Over more than a century, very few horses have ever won all three races in the same season, and it won’t happen this season. There are reasons that so few have ever completed this trio of wins, and the peculiarities of the Belmont Stakes is a big part of it.
Here are two main factors that you should take into consideration when you decide on your picks for the 2019 Belmont Stakes, factors that you should check on before you look at the horses in the field.
They call the Belmont Stakes “The Test” because of the length that the horses have to travel. It is contested at a distance of 1 ½ miles, which will take the horses around two turns of the Belmont Park surface. And that is a seriously long haul.
None of the horses in the field on Saturday have ever traveled more than 1 ¼ miles, which is the distance of the Kentucky Derby. The Preakness Stakes was even shorter at 1 3/16 miles. This is a drastic change for many of these horses, something for which they can’t really prepare during training.
That is why you have to be aware of the way that the horses are set up to make or not make, as the case may be the distance. Look for horses who were closing well in their previous races as indicators that they might be well-suited for the long distance of the Belmont. And keep an eye on the horses’ pedigrees, as they could be ready for a longer race if someone in their bloodlines handled similar jaunts during their horse racing careers.
The Belmont Stakes marks the third Triple Crown race in five weeks. That is a much more hectic schedule than most of these horses are accustomed to handling. Even non-stakes type horses tend to race only once a month.
Among the 10 competitors, the only horse that will race in all three legs of the Triple Crown this year is War of Will. He alone will bear the burden of three races in five weeks. Still, even the horses who have run in one leg of the Triple Crown might be a bit weary coming into the Belmont, especially those who are coming back from the Preakness three weeks ago.
It has not been unusual in the past for a horse who wasn’t in either the Derby or the Preakness to come into the Belmont Stakes as an unknown quantity and pull off the upset. There are three such horses in this year’s field (Joevia, Sir Winston, and Intrepid Heart). You might want to give them a second look when you study your program page.
2019 Belmont Stakes Details
When: Saturday, June 8, 2019, Post Time approximately 6:48 PM ET
Where: Belmont Park in Elmont, New York
How Long: 1 ½ miles
Purse: $1.5 million
#1 Joevia (Jose Lezcano, Greg Sacco) 30-1
The interesting story behind this horse is that he had a choice between running in the Belmont or staying on his home grounds at Monmouth Park and running in the Pegasus Stakes. He decided on the Belmont because of the distinct chance that Maximum Security will make his return in the Pegasus. In other words, he’d like to take on an elite field than face one imposing horse.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t look too promising in any case for Joevia. For one thing, he is trying to go 1 ½ miles after never racing beyond 1 1/16 miles in his previous starts. And he’s a speed horse trying to sustain for an awful long distance.
Not to mention the fact that he gets a somewhat unforgiving post position on the rail in the field of ten. Lezcano is a talented jockey, and maybe in some alternate universe, he could steal this one on the front end. But Joevia just doesn’t appear to have the class to figure here, not even for a minor award.
#2 Everfast (Luis Saez, Dale Romans) 12-1
This colt had a rather unorthodox journey into the role of Belmont sleeper pick. He is winless in 10 races since a victory in his debut last summer. He also looked nothing like a Triple Crown contender when he finished way up the track in three straight graded stakes, one of them was a Grade 3 at Churchill on the same day as the Derby.
Then came the Preakness, and that left him in second at long odds not too far back of War of Will. The way he closed in that race might make you think that he is well-suited for the longer distance of the Belmont Stakes. After all, he passed nine horses during his rally.
There are problems with this theory, not the least of which that it seemed like a bolt from the blue ride. Notice that the jockey was Joel Rosario for that race alone, as Rosario has chosen off to go with Sir Winston. Everfast just doesn’t seem to have it in him to repeat that once in a lifetime effort.
I was a little surprised to see the odds as low as they are for this Japanese import. He was definitely a pleasant surprise in the Derby, where no one gave him even half a chance as a 58 to 1 shot. Yet, there he was passing horses like they were standing still, rallying from 19th early to a respectable 7th at the end.
Considering that it was his first start in the States, you could look at it like he got a big start under his belt. He also should be rested after sitting out the Preakness, which wouldn’t have suited his style at all. And the extra distance at the Belmont should conceivably fit him pretty well.
Still, his speed figures from the Derby didn’t exactly scream Triple Crown winner. And getting to seventh when you’re just running for fun is a lot different than actually battling it out with others when you’re in contention. I don’t see any value in the morning line odds, and I don’t see Master Fencer doing anything except maybe sneaking into the superfecta picture.
#4 Tax (Irad Ortiz Jr., Danny Gargan) 15-1
I thought he was a great value play in the Derby, but he really didn’t show up at all. His trainer claims that he hated the sloppy conditions, and that’s a fair point. If you’re willing to throw out that clunker, Tax once again becomes an intriguing play.
First of all, he’s back in New York, where he raced very well in a couple of Derby preps. If you throw out the Derby, he has speed figures that are the envy of everybody in this field, War of Will and Tacitus included. Then, there’s the jockey switch to Irad Ortiz Jr. who won this race in 2016 with Creator in a surprise.
The one flaw that I see is that he wasn’t closing out the races on the gain, even in his good races. That makes me worry about his ability to get the extra distance. But I think Tax should be a part of every one of your exotic tickets and should be on a win ticket or two as well.
#5 Bourbon War (Mike Smith, Mark Hennig) 12-1
If you believe that a jockey can cure all ills, then Bourbon War is the pick for you. Mike Smith will take the reins on this horse on Saturday, and he is generally considered the top big-race jockey of them all. He has won this race three times before, so there isn’t much about the Belmont that is going to surprise him.
The only problem is that Bourbon War doesn’t seem like all that much of a threat to the top horses in the Belmont Stakes. Of all his grades stakes appearances, the best he’s ever done is second in the Holy Bull, which wasn’t exactly filled with killers. He was a non-factor in the Preakness, finishing eighth and never getting within a football field of the leaders.
Smith is a standout, but he can’t just will this horse into the mix. I think Bourbon War might actually get bet down a bit by people trying to work him into the picture based on the jockey change. But I don’t see it happening.
Here is another horse who might get a lot of betting mileage out of how people feel about his connections. While Javier Castellano hasn’t yet won the Belmont, he has a long list of major wins in his rear view. Meanwhile, Pletcher has been there and done that in the Belmont, winning three times (none of which came with a favorite).
Spinoff snuck into the Derby after a second-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, a race where he grabbed the lead and then coughed it up. But he was nowhere to be found in the Derby, racing near the back of the pack and finishing a forgettable 18th out of 19. That certainly wasn’t the springboard that Pletcher was seeking.
In addition to that, nobody bet him in the Derby, as he went off at 52-1. That leads me to believe that no one will bet him here, even with Pletcher garnering a lot of sentiment. And they’d be right to avoid him, because Spinoff shouldn’t be in the mix.
#7 Sir Winston (Joel Rosario, Mark Casse) 12-1
Most of the attention will be focused on the other Casse horse, War of Will, and maybe rightfully so. But Sir Winston is one of those horses who comes into the Belmont Stakes fresh and could do some serious damage. You should be able to get him for a nice price as well since he doesn’t have the name recognition of those who have been in the Triple Crown.
Sir Winston’s closing style should put him in good stead in the Belmont. And he certainly enjoyed Belmont Park in his last start, putting up his best speed figure ever in finishing second in that race. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll see that there were only five horses in that race, which mitigates some of its impact on the handicapping.
Joel Rosario won this race in 2014 with Tonalist, and he seemed to click with Sir Winston in the Peter Pan. My concern is that the jump in class might be a little too daunting. I’m on the fence about this one, but he should be one you consider if you want to take a stab at an upset winner.
Here is another one coming in without any Triple Crown experience. In fact, Intrepid Heart has raced only three times to date, all this year. He won his first two races, neither of which was a stakes race. He then finished third in the Peter Pan, the same race where Sir Winston finished second.
Notice that he stumbled at the start of that race. A clean trip on Saturday could make a big difference. He has excellent closing kick and, unlike some of the others here, his pedigree suggests that the long distance could be in his wheelhouse.
He has a jockey in John Velazquez who has won this race twice before which, along with Pletcher’s track record as trainer, also recommends him. It is an awful big ask of him to make the leap here. But the way that he has been rising with each successive start and all of the other factors above make him my favorite of the long shot plays.
#9 War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione, Mark Casse) 2-1
Much was made about the fact that War of Will didn’t get a fair shot in the Kentucky Derby because of Maximum Security’s alleged interference. But the same kind of attention has not been paid to the fact that this horse had an absolute garden trip in the Preakness. The fact that his speed figure for the race stayed shy of 100 should tell you that it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
There is the possibility that this horse is improving. That means that the Preakness was actually just a stepping stone and that his best race could be ahead of him on Saturday. Another positive is that all his wins have seem him finishing strong, which means that War of Will might be up for the challenge of the extra distance.
Still, I don’t see a horse that is so good that he can overcome the fact that he is the only one in the field that will have raced in all three races of the Triple Crown. I can see the vigorous campaigning catching up to him in a big way on Saturday. And there’s just no value to be had in putting him in your wagers.
#10 Tacitus (Jose Ortiz, William Mott) 9-5
Although people made him somewhat of a popular selection for the Derby, the Belmont was always going to be the race that suited him the best. He actually did a nice job in the Derby to get to fourth (placed third) after a somewhat shaky start. In this race, he should be coming on when others are starting to falter.
The outside post isn’t doing him any favors. But he has connections who know the score in this race. Jose Ortiz won the Belmont two years ago with Tapwrit, while Billy Mott, who also picked up the controversial Derby win with Country House this year, captured the Belmont in 2010 when Drosselmeyer pulled it off.
It feels like a bounce-back effort for Tacitus is in order in this one. Unless the post mitigates him, he should be the one to beat in here. He doesn’t make for the best bet because his betting odds will be low, but he has the best chance of winning at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
In this topsy-turvy season, it is hard to imagine that something as mundane as the favorite winning the 2019 Belmont Stakes could happen. But it feels like that will be the case here, as Tacitus could certainly handle the field with a big late move. Still, the value-seeker in me would be more inclined to play him in exotics with Tax and Intrepid Heart or simply grab win tickets with those latter two horses.
Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog.
For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...
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