The G1 Belmont Stakes, the 3rd and final leg of the 2019 Triple Crown, will be run this Saturday at Belmont Park. This 1-1/2 mile affair will be contested by 10 3yr olds as they try to capture their place in history and the winner’s share of the $1.5 million purse.
Kentucky Derby casualty and Preakness champion, War of Will, highlights the field, and will be joined by the 9/5 morning line favorite Tacitus in the outside posts. Besides these top contenders, only Tax has a graded stakes victory on his resume. The rest of the runners are a virtual rogue’s gallery in what may be the weakest Belmont field in recent memory.
The Belmont distance of 1-1/2 miles is an anomaly in itself. No horse in the group has run this distance before, and I would guess that none will ever run this distance again. There are only 4 other North American 12 furlong stakes races run on the dirt the rest of the year.
The pace of this year’s Belmont should be modest. The only front runner is Joevia, who battled tooth and nail for the lead in the Wood before fading, then wired a stakes field in his next outing. Tax, with Irad Ortiz taking over from Junior Alvarado, has put himself at the front out of the gate before being quickly pulled back in both the Wood and the Withers. And Spinoff has shown some speed in every race with the exception of a sloppy Kentucky Derby but looks to not want to be on the engine.
War of Will does is best running just off the pace and will drop in from his post #9 to save some ground on the sweeping first turn. Tacitus should settle just behind him, along with Intrepid Heart, who looked off form in the Peter Pan.
The rest of the field, Everfast, Master Fencer, Bourbon War, and Sir Winston, will all seek early spots in the back, waiting to make closing moves in the stretch.
With superior Brisnet speed figures and a courageous run in the Derby, Tacitus is the horse to beat. Winning 3 of 5 career starts and having an excuse over the mud in Kentucky, he is worthy of the public’s favoritism, but I will try to beat him and look for better odds. The horse I landed on to give Tacitus a run for his money is Tax.
In both the Remsen and the Wood, Tax lunged out of the gate as if he was going to the lead, but was then quickly pulled back to allow speed to get in front of him. In both races he looked uncomfortable when on the rail, even though he squeezed through on the rail to win the Remsen. In the Wood he almost ran sideways while on the rail trying to get to the outside on the first turn, and then settled 3 paths off of it running up the backstretch. Chasing a fast pace, he was beaten a length by Tacitus, yet covered a little more ground, making it a virtual dead heat. Over the slop in the Kentucky Derby, he was hopelessly locked inside from post #2 and finally gave in at the quarter pole, so I will forgive that effort.
If Tax can break well and relax 2 or 3 paths off the wood, I look for him to take a step forward. Sitting behind a modest pace, Tax should be well within striking distance where he will battle with Tacitus to the wire. With a 15-1 morning line, I will take Tax for the win, and back it up with a Tax/Tacitus exacta.