Belmont Stakes 150 is this Saturday, June 9. Post positions have just been drawn; here they are:
- Free Drop Billy
- Restoring Hope
- Vino Rosso
- Noble Indy
- Blended Citizen
So here we are. Are we about to see another Triple Crown winner in three years after a 37-year drought? It’s impossible to say for sure, but here’s what I do know: Justify is a superior horse, the best in the field. He appears to have come out of the Preakness well, is training enthusiastically, and by all accounts is ready to rock and roll Saturday. Because of his post position, he might well be sent to the lead right away and it’s a fool’s errand to try and engage him early on. You might soften him up for a late challenge by another horse, but you will for sure be going down in flames first; ask Good Magic. Regardless of the outcome of the Belmont, you have already witnessed an exceptional horse displaying exceptional abilities. Should he win, you’re witnessing a legend as he’s made.
As the mud and slop settled from the Preakness, more information came to light from a race where it appeared Justify struggled to win at the end. It turns out that the horse jumped tractor tire tracks on the track at least once (captured in a brilliant head-on photograph by Barbara D. Livingston), possibly as many as three times. This can be a significant momentum-breaking move that’s caused the defeat of many a good horse; it didn’t stop Justify. Mike Smith eased off “the gas” as they approached the wire (anticipating the chance he might jump again), thinking he was more clear than it turned out he was in those closing strides, AND, of course trying to conserve for the run in the Belmont. Justify also survived a mini match race in the opening two-thirds of the Preakness with Good Magic. In short, Justify’s Preakness was more of an accomplishment than it appeared in the closing strides of the race.
But here’s the obvious–the Belmont is a horse race and unpredictable things can happen. There are fresh horses entering the race. Will Justify handle the unique racing surface of “Big Sandy”? And Heaven only knows WHAT the weather will be come Saturday; as of today, there is a chance of rain, but it doesn’t appear that if it does rain that it will be at the monsoon levels seen in the Derby and Preakness. Plus, we should be able to see the Belmont sans fog!! Justify appears to be well rested and as fresh as a horse advancing through this series (and without the benefit of racing at two) can be, so hopefully he breaks from the gate sharply again, Mike Smith gives him a smart ride, and nothing else crazy occurs. It should be quite the interesting race.
Post time is 6:37 EDT, coverage is on NBC. Enjoy and safe trips for all.