The third and final leg of the 2017 Triple Crown is upon us. It’s been two years since American Pharoah made his historic run in the Belmont Stakes to end the 37 year drought and for back to back years now, we head to this final leg without even a shot at another Triple Crown. Always Dreaming started out very strong but as they made the turn for the finish, he fell back and would finish the race in 8th place ending his shot at a Triple Crown. Always Dreaming has also decided to sit out the final leg this weekend. The winner of the Preakness Stakes, CLoud Computing, will also not be making the trip to New York marking the first time since 2010 that the Preakness winner will not race in the Belmont Stakes. In fact, there is only one horse will be starting on Saturday that has also made starts in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes this year. That horse is Lookin At Lee (finished 2nd at the Kentucky Derby and 4th at the Preakness Stakes).
This year’s race has as little as a Triple Crown feel as ever with neither the Kentucky Derby winner or Preakness Stakes winner and only one horse making a start in all three races. To many, it’s just another stakes race. Even with the lack of the triple crown drama, this Belmont Stakes is still shaping up to be a another thrilling Grade-I stakes race. Without the drama of a rematch or a horse going for his second jewel of the Triple Crown, the race has been left wide open. There are some familiar faces from the Kentucky Derby (Tapwrit, Gormley, J Boys Echo, Irish War Cry, & Patch) and the Preakness Stakes (Multiplier & Senior Investment) and there are even some new faces (Twisted Tom, Hollywood Handsome, Meantime, & Epicharis). This race is full of talent and come Saturday, a new champion will be crowned at the Big Sandy.
Tapwrit (Post Position 2, 6-1): After skipping the Preakness Stakes, Tapwrit will return for the Belmont Stakes. Tapwrit had some early success in the early stages of the Road to the Triple Crown but only managed to finish 6th at the Derby. He will look to improve upon that finish on Saturday. Tapwrit is also trained by Todd Pletcher who will be seeking his second win in three Triple Crown races this year.
Irish War Cry (Post Position 7, 7-2): Like Tapwrit, Irish War Cry also skipped the Preakness and will be returning for the Belmont Stakes. Irish War Cry was expected to contend for the Kentucky Derby and was in contention until they turned for home at Churchill Downs. He would end up 10th at the Derby and is certainly looking for some redemption. Irish War Cry has opened up as the favorite and will certainly look to come through with a win on Saturday.
Epicharis (Post Position 11, 4-1): The Japanese bred Epicharis will make his first Triple Crown start on Saturday. Epicharis qualified for the Triple Crown after a win in the Hyacinth in Tokyo but chose to skip and wait for the Belmont Stakes. This horse is 4-1 in his young three-year-old career. Epicharis also has the pedigree to win a Triple Crown. His sire, Gold Allure, happens to be the sire of 1989 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champion Sunday Silence. Trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara and jockeyed by Christophe Lemaire, Epicharis will look to become one of the most amazing Japanese bred horses with a win in the Belmont.
Lookin At Lee (Post Position 6, 5-1): The only horse to make a start in all three Triple Crown races this year, Lookin At Lee will try to continue his recent success. With a 4th place finish at Preakness and a 2nd place finish in the Kentucky Derby, this horse has caught the attention of everyone and comes into Belmont with the 3rd best odds. His jockey will be Irad Ortiz, Jr., who teamed up with Steve Asmussen last year to win the Belmont Stakes aboard Creator. The two will go for back to back wins in the Belmont.
Other horses in this race to keep a look out for are Gormley (8-1), who will once again be jockeyed by Victor Espinoza (Triple Crown winner on American Pharoah in 2015), Patch (12-1), the one eyed horse who is also trained by Todd Pletcher, and long shot Hollywood Handsome (30-1), who is trained by Dallas Stewart and will be rode by Florent Geroux.
The Belmont poses a large challenge to all of these contenders; it will be the longest race of their young three-year-old careers at a mile and a half. The race hasn’t been given the nickname of The Test of Champions for just any reason. When the horses leave the gate on Saturday, be sure to keep a close eye on Tapwrit and Irish War Cry. Both of these horses have something to prove and are looking to make up for what could’ve been at the Kentucky Derby. I would also suggest to keep a close eye on Epicharis, who will be looking to bring home the third jewel of Triple Crown for Japanese bred horses, and Lookin At Lee, who will surely have a final say in how the race finishes as he looks to finish within the superfecta for the third straight race.
And they’re off in the Belmont Stakes…
Photo Credit: Mike Stewart/AP