All eyes will be on Justify as the Bob Baffert-trained colt looks to become the 13th Triple Crown winner and the second in the last three years. After claiming a 2 1/2-length victory at the Kentucky Derby and winning the Preakness by a neck, Justify has come off as the betting favorite at 4/5 odds. The field for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes appears to be more stacked than at the Preakness and Justify will have to contend with Bravazo and Tenfold, two horses he held off at the wire at Pimlico.
The Belmont isn’t known as the “Test of the Champion” for nothing. The 1 1/2-mile course takes a toll on horses and this is the only time any of them will run a race that long. For the first time we saw Justify stagger at the end when he barely held on to the lead at Pimlico. That raised some eyebrows in the racing community and fueled hope for the horses that maybe one of them could prevent the favorite from another victory and deny Justify his chance at history.
The 150th running of the Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday, June 9, 2018 with post time set for 6:40 p.m. ET at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. Catch the Belmont Stakes live on NBC.
2018 Belmont Stakes Lineup
PP Horse Jockey Trainer Odds
1 Justify Mike Smith Bob Baffert 4/5
2 Free Drop Billy Robby Albarado Dale Romans 30/1
3 Bravazo Luis Saez D. Wayne Lukas 8/1
4 Hofburg Irad Ortiz, Jr. Bill Mott 9/2
5 Restoring Hope Florent Geroux Bob Baffert 30/1
6 Gronkowski Jose Ortiz Chad Brown 12/1
7 Tenfold Victor Espinoza Steve Asmussen 12/1
8 Vino Rosso John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 8/1
9 Noble Indy Javier Castellano Todd Pletcher 30/1
10 Blended Citizen Kyle Frey Doug O’Neill 15/1
There’s no doubt that Justify is the best horse in the race and the odds prove that. He opened at negative money with only three other horses having single-digit odds. We saw Justify give up ground in the stretch at Pimlico three weeks ago, but Baffert wasn’t overly concerned about the finish.
After four significant wins in his first four starts, Baffert said the closer than expected victory at the Preakness was just what his horse needed to get ready for the mile-and-a-half Belmont. Even when he doesn’t run his best race, Justify is the class of the field, like he proved at Pimlico.
The only downfall to Justify’s run to immortality could be the distance. He gave ground down the stretch at the Preakness and may have been overtaken if the race was a bit longer. And we’ve seen some big upsets at Belmont over the years. But Baffert has been here before, just three years ago with American Pharaoh, who was the first in 37 years to win the Triple Crown.
Bravazo and Tenfold made a run at Justify at the Preakness and nearly spoiled the Triple Crown hopes. After coming up a half-length short at Pimlico, legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas is ready to give it another shot with Bravazo, who opened with the third-best odds at 8/1. He’s the only horse other than Justify to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown and he outperformed the favorite down the stretch at the Preakness.
Bravazo finished sixth at the Kentucky Derby, but his strong close at Pimlico, where he closed with 15/1 odds, set up a rematch at Belmont. He showed he could run with Justify by coming closer than any horse has to beating him. And with another chance on a longer track, he could pull off the upset.
One horse getting a lot of attention is Hofburg, who placed seventh at the Kentucky Derby and opened with the second-best odds for the Belmont at 9/2. He skipped the Preakness and should be well rested for the longer distance, which is something trainer Bill Mott has groomed him for. Four of the last six Belmont Stakes winners didn’t run at Pimlico and Hofburg had his two best starts in his last two races.
Son of Curlin, who finished second at Belmont in 2007, Vino Rosso has the pedigree and temperament to run a solid race on a dry track. He finished ninth at Churchill Downs, but a strong close avoided a worse placement. He’s rested after not running in the Preakness and the distance is to the liking of trainer Todd Pletcher. “We always felt the mile-and-a-half was going to suit him well,” he said.
Belmont Stakes Picks
Justify is clearly the top horse, but the best doesn’t always win. He was pressured at Pimlico and had the closest finish in his five career starts, leaving the door open for the competition. And the grueling 1 ½ mile distance at Belmont can create problems. But Justify is a specimen and the distance won’t detract from the goal of winning the Triple Crown.
Picks: 1. Justify 2. Vino Rosso 3. Bravazo