The field for the Belmont Stakes will start to take shape after the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes. A number of the horses who run in these races will continue on to race in the Belmont. Other connections may play a ‘waiting game’ to see how the field shapes up before declaring their horses for the race. This is done for competitive reasons—some horses simply ‘match up’ better against other horses—as well as practical reasons. The field is limited to 16 entries and if more horses declare the field is determined by a formula using previous race earnings. If it’s obvious that a horse won’t make the field there’s no reason for its connections to point it toward the race.
With the Kentucky Derby prep campaign barely underway it’s difficult to even come up with a hypothetical list of standout three year olds. To put this in perspective, the Wynn Las Vegas currently has over 300 horses listed in their Kentucky Derby futures market. We’ll update the Belmont contenders regularly as new information becomes available.
Below are last year’s contenders if you want historical data to do your analysis.
–Medal Count: (Post Position 1—Morning Line Odds 20/1) Finished 8th in the Kentucky Derby. 2nd place finish in the Bluegrass Stakes was likely his best performance of the year. Trainer Dale Romans blames his disappointing Derby finish on a ‘bad trip’. Robby Albarado will return as Medal Count’s jockey.
–California Chrome: (Post Position 2—Morning Line Odds 3/5 California Chrome is now the most famous race horse in the world thanks to his ‘rags to riches’ backstory and resounding wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The difficulty in winning all three Triple Crown races is obvious but there’s a growing perception that California Chrome is ‘something special’. 77 year old trainer Art Sherman has become a celebrity in his own right and jockey Victor Espinoza will be back for the Belmont.
–Matterhorn: (Post Position 3—Morning Line Odds 30/1) Todd Pletcher trained he was brought in to the Belmont picture when Intense Holiday was withdrawn. Most significant performance as a three year old was a fourth place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes. Pletcher says a final decision about running Matterhorn in the Belmont will be based on how he does in training but so far so good.
–Commanding Curve: (Post Position 4—Morning Line Odds 15/1) Heading in to the Kentucky Derby there were doubts that this Louisiana Derby also ran could step up in class. A second place finish in the Derby suggests that he can. A bigger question concerns his ability to compete at the mile and a half distance but that question applies to every other horse in the field. Commanding Curve is trained by Dallas Stewart and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will get the Belmont mount.
–Ride On Curlin: (Post Position 5—Morning Line Odds 12/1) Trainer Billy Gowan has insisted all year long that Ride On Curlin has yet to ‘peak’ and just needs the right jockey to give him the right ride. Calvin Borel got the call in the Kentucky Derby finishing 7th. He gave way to Joel Rosario in the Preakness and finished 2nd. No word yet on a jockey for the Belmont.
–Matuszak: (Post Position 6—Morning Line Odds 30/1) Will probably be the biggest post time longshot. Trained by Bill Mott his only win was in a maiden special weight race.
–Samraat: (Post Position 7—Morning Line Odds 20/1) Undefeated in his first five career starts before a second place finish in the Wood Memorial and a 5th place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Samraat is trained by Richard Violette, Jr and Jose Ortiz will return as jockey. Hard to see him doing well at the Belmont distance—he’s a front running speed horse that many observers have suggested would be better at shorter distances.
--Commissioner: (Post Position 8—Morning Line Odds 20/1) Commissioner could do no better than third in three Kentucky Derby prep races (Grade 3 Sunland Derby) though he improved to second behind Tonalist in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he’ll have jockey Javier Castellano aboard for the Belmont Stakes. His pedigree suggests that he should be able to handle the distance but aside from that and the fact he’s run at Belmont Park there’s not much to distinguish Commissioner.
–Wicked Strong: (Post Position 9—Morning Line Odds 6/1) Wicked Strong became a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender following his upset win in the Wood Memorial. He won the race by 3 ½ lengths over a couple of higher profile three year olds, Samraat and race favorite Social Inclusion. Finished 4th in the Kentucky Derby. Trained by Jimmy Jerkins, jockey Rajiv Maragh will get the Belmont Stakes mount.
– General A Rod: (Post Position 10—Morning Line Odds 20/1) This Michael J. Maker trained colt is a very divisive topic among horse racing fans and his performance in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness answered few questions. He finished 11th in the Derby but improved to a respectable 4th in the Preakness. Some think that he’s a solid contender that has performed well in the mix with a number of top three year olds at Gulfstream Park in his three year old campaign. Won the Gulfstream Park Derby, finished second in the Fountain of Youth and third in the Florida Derby. His detractors suggest that the racing talent at Gulfstream Park is a cut below other tracks making General A Rod an average horse at best. Some have even called him ‘dead weight’. What this enigmatic horse does in the Belmont is anyone’s guess.
–Tonalist: (Post Position 11—Morning Line Odds 8/1) A lot of horse racing experts and handicappers are big on Tonalist based on his impressive win in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 10th. Tonalist has been brought along slowly in his three year old campaign—he was scratched from the Wood Memorial due to a lung infection which kept him out of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Tonalist’s running style is also conducive to a good performance at the Belmont Stakes—he’s a strong closer which is a great asset at the distance and with the likely pace. Trained by Christophe Clement his jockey for the Belmont is still pending.