Garrity Handicaps the Belmont Stakes' 9-horse field, how the race will run, and picks the superfecta

The Belmont Stakes goes off at 7:02 pm EDT.
We won't see this again. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Secretariat's incomparable Belmont Stake victory to win the Triple Crown.
We won't see this again. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Secretariat's incomparable Belmont Stake victory to win the Triple Crown.@TheNYRA on Twitter

Here is a look at all nine entrants in the 155th Belmont Stakes, and how we expect the race to be run.

Belmont Park, Race 12, 7:02 pm ET
Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, 1 ½ miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Olds

1-Tapit Shoes, 20-1. This Brad Cox runner has won just once, when he broke his maiden in December at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. But he has improved as the distances have grown longer, with his best result a close runner-up finish in a minor stakes race at Oaklawn Park at a nine furlongs. An additional step here forward might allow him to contend, but we have doubts about his ability to handle a mile-and-a-half. One could do worse than to bet Tapit Shoes at a big number, but we think his chances to win are slight.

2-Tapit Trice, 3-1. The winner of the Blue Grass Stakes comes from Todd Pletcher’s barn, and fans of Pletcher will be encouraged by the fact that he has won the Belmont four times, a stark contrast to his record in the Kentucky Derby, which is abysmally, historically bad. Trip handicappers will also like him because of his bumper-cars adventure in the Kentucky Derby, when he had significant traffic trouble. But we don’t like him here, partly because we don’t think he can stay a mile-and-a-half, and partly because we think that in spite of the rough trip, he should have run better than he did in Louisville.

3-Arcangelo, 8-1. This son of Arrogate has come a long way in a short period of time: on March 17, he had yet to win a race, but since then, he’s won both a maiden race and the Peter Pan Stakes. The latter was an especially good effort, as the final time came back fast, and it is a very positive sign that he likes the Belmont Park racing surface. The pedigree sharpies don’t think he will like the distance; we think he has a chance, albeit a slim one. 

4-National Treasure, 5-1. Trainer Bob Baffert returned to the Triple Crown after an extended absence three weeks ago in Baltimore, and he did so in a very big way, when National Treasure won a thrilling stretch duel to take the Preakness Stakes. He’s back here, and a victory in this spot would almost certainly earn him the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old. We like him: He’s almost certainly going to the front right out of the gate, a style that has been very effective in this race over the years. He is a good colt who is sound and fit, and who will have a tactical advantage in the running of the race: Add it up, and he is the pick to win the Belmont Stakes in gate-to-wire fashion.

5-Il Miracolo, 30-1. Il Miracolo is sound and durable, with ten lifetime starts, and five this year. And his morning workouts of late have been sharp. But the positives end there: He is simply too slow to contend, let alone win. We think he’s a cinch to finish last.

6-Forte, 5/2. Last year’s champion juvenile had a great winter in Florida, winning both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby, victories that made him the favorite for the Kentucky Derby. But foot issues caused him to be scratched just before the big race in Louisville, and it is unclear whether he has fully recovered from them. He’s the morning line favorite, a horse who has won six of his seven starts, and as such he is certainly a major contender, but we find the prospect of taking a short price on him unappealing. We do think he is likely to hit the board, but favor others on top.

7-Hit Show, 10-1. This runner is by Candy Ride, a horse we’ve liked quite a lot since we watched from the rail when he won the American Handicap at Hollywood Park in 2003. He’s turned into a major stallion, especially at longer distances. Hit Show has never won a race of this magnitude, but we think his fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby was deceptively good, as he had a bit of traffic trouble, and ran pretty close to a wickedly fast early pace. Overcoming both is a sign that he is very talented. Contender.

8-Angel of Empire, 7/2. The winner of the Arkansas Derby finished third in the Kentucky Derby, a result that has many wise guys liking him here. We are not so enamored: He benefited significantly from the race shape, sitting far, far behind swift early fractions, and making up ground when the early leaders slowed down. That kind of style is going to be far less effective today, and as a result, we are eliminating him from win consideration.

9-Red Route One, 15-1. This guy has been butting heads with elite 3-year-olds all year, so the rest of this field will not scare him. That’s good. What’s less good is that he’s not managed to win much, with his only victory in 2023 coming against far lesser company. His lack of speed is going to hinder him today, and consequently, we think a minor placing is the best he can hope for. For us, he’s a complete toss.

Here is how we see the race developing: National Treasure is going to go to the front right out of the gate, and will set the pace. Behind him will be Tapit Shoes, and Hit Show, and perhaps Il Miracolo, with another group including Forte and Angel Empire, just behind them. They will stay in this order for the first half of the race, and the early fractions will be somewhere between moderate and slow: concerns about the abilities of the horses to stay the mile-and-a-half distance will keep any rider from pressing the issue during the race’s early stages.

The field will stay in formation down the long Belmont backstretch, but things will start to heat up as they turn into the far turn, with a couple of horses closer to the lead calling it quits, and the horses in the rear being urged to make up ground. But the closers will find that they face a difficult task, as the relatively easy pace will leave the horses in front with plenty of gas left in the tank. 

When they turn into the home stretch, National Treasure will still be in front, with Tapit Shoes on his flank; the latter will start to fade, but National Treasure will keep on running. The come-from-behinders will find themselves too far back, and spinning their wheels. The stalkers, Forte and Hit Show, will make moves to try to catch up, but National Treasure will turn them both away, sprinting home to win the race by a length. We’ll call the final order National Treasure first, Hit Show second, Forte Third, and Tapit Shoes fourth.

We will bet National Treasure to win, and will play these horses in the trifecta and the superfecta.

Enjoy the race.

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