2018 Belmont Stakes Favorites And Dark Horses
Is Justify a Sure Thing in The Belmont Stakes?
Probably the best recent example of a sure thing who failed to win the Belmont and take the Triple Crown goes back to 2014, when California Chrome went off as the heavy favorite, took a bit of a stumble out of the gate and finished in a dead heat for fourth. Besides the popular 'Chrome, 12 other colts over the years have gone to Belmont Park after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes but have not been able to close the deal, including Justify trainer Bob Baffert's Real Quiet, who was tracked down in the stretch and beaten by a nostril by Victory Gallop in 1998.
That being said, Justify (4-5 in Bovada's odds) is the deserving favorite and it's his race to lose. He didn't race as a two-year-old in 2017, but since coming to the track this year he's unbeaten in five lifetime races, the last three of those in Grade 1 races at three different distances on three different tracks. Two of them in mud.
It's likely Baffert wasn't thrilled with drawing the #1 post, where there is some concern about getting boxed in the first turn and not getting right up on the lead where he wants to be. But it's not a major concern given the distance and the fact Justify has shown in previous races very good speed to get out of the gate and into a forward position early.
Once there, he has an exceptionally fluid running style and a high cruising speed. Once they turn for home and the real running starts, jockey Mike Smith seems to be able to ask him for any gear he wants, claiming after the Preakness that he backed off once they had put away rival Good Magic in the stretch and then he asked him to pick it up again in the shadow if the wire when he felt the pressure of the hard-charging Bravazo and Tenfold.
Outside of Justify, there is no real favorite in the race, but Hofburg is getting some interest as second choice at odds of 9-2. Similar to Justify, he doesn't have a lot of racing experience under his saddle, and his debut at Saratoga last year was so underwhelming that trainer Bill Mott waited six months to put him in his next race. He won that maiden event and then gained a bit of a buzz when he ran second in the (G1) Florida Derby three lengths back of Audible who would go on to run third in the Kentucky Derby while Hofburg ran seventh.
It's hard to say if the Derby represented a step forward for him or not and whether the five weeks' break between the Derby and the Belmont is what he needed to challenge for the win here. What can be said is that he's bred to get the distance and his sire Tapit has produced three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners.
Blended Citizen Can Win on the Track
Looking at trying to find a real upset in the field, it makes some sense to consider one of the brand-new faces to the Triple Crown scene in the form of Blended Citizen (18-1). While he doesn't have the greatest of distance pedigree, his sire did get in the money in both the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and ran fifth in the Belmont despite suffering an injury in the race. The one thing he does have in his favor among the entire field is a win on the Belmont Park dirt track, having captured the (G3) Peter Pan Stakes at 1 1/8 miles one month ago.
That's the same route that Tonalist took when he upset California Chrome to win the Belmont back in 2014.
While getting up and grabbing the Place money late in the Preakness has given some encouragement to fans of Bravazo (15-2), he was only a head better than Tenfold (11-1) , who is showing all kinds of signs he's a colt on the improve. After starting his career with two wins, he failed to make the Kentucky Derby field when he could do no better than fifth in the (G1) Arkansas Derby, his first try at graded-stakes racing. But he looked a much better horse in the Preakness, and unlike some of the other longshots here who will have to be coming from back in the pack - a tough ask if Justify is controlling the pace - he has shown good speed in previous races and can grab a forward position early.
He also has Tapit in his bloodlines, and sire Curlin was second by just a head in the 2007 Belmont after winning the Preakness and later captured the Breeders' Cup Classic. Trainer Steve Asmussen won the Belmont Stakes two years ago with Creator.
How to Bet the Belmont Stakes
The race goes Saturday, June 9 from Belmont Park in New York, with an expected post time of 6:45 PM Eastern. You can make a future bet today and get great odds on your pick with an account at Bovada's online racebook.
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