2016 Belmont Stakes Contenders

The last of the three Triple Crown races is set for Saturday, June 11 and Exaggerator will try to reprise his impressive victory in the Preakness Stakes. Entries were made official earlier today so this is the field barring injury or other withdrawal. The post positions have also been assigned and the morning line odds set. Here’s the field for the 2016 Belmont Stakes in order of post position.

GOVERNOR MALIBU (Post Position #1—Morning Line Odds 12-1): Trained by the underrate Christophe Clement, Governor Malibu has never finished out of the money in his career races with two wins, three seconds and a third. Finished second in his stakes debut, the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont in May. The familiarity with the track helps but going from 1 1/8 miles in his last race to 1 ½ miles here is a brutal jump. Will come at a high price and not a bad horse. Might be worth using underneath in exotics.

DESTIN (Post Position #2—Morning Line Odds 6-1): Was a question mark before the Kentucky Derby and his sixth place finish provided no answers. Destin won the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby and before that the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Ran a 100 Beyer in the Derby and for that reason his connections have kept him out of any more prep races. Ran the Kentucky Derby on an 8 week layoff which didn’t help. A more reasonable five week layoff here. Quality connections to be sure—trained by Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano.   Not sure how he wins the Belmont though he does provide some much needed early speed that could help the closers in the field.

CHERRYWINE (Post Position #3—Morning Line Odds 8-1): One of two likely Belmont runners for trainer Dale Romans, Cherrywine is a hard horse to get excited about. His proponents point to the second place finish in the Preakness over a muddy track. His detractors suggest that his Preakness finish was due to his being the beneficiary of the off track and a strange race form and pace. Two decent but not great finishes in Kentucky Derby prep races (3rd in the Blue Grass Stakes, 4th in the Rebel Stakes) is his only other stakes experience. Didn’t qualify for the Derby, giving even less context for his Preakness finish. His biggest critics see a lot of similarities between Cherrywine and 2015 Preakness runner up Tale of Verve (also on a muddy track). Tale of Verve got a lot of love heading into the Belmont but finished seventh. Hasn’t been in the top five of a race since.

SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS (Post Position #4—Morning Line Odds 10-1): Finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Before that, he won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Fifth in the Rebel Stakes, rebounded to finish second in the Arkansas Derby. Has a ‘cult following’ but serious horse players very concerned about his tendency to find traffic and not get out of it. His proponents point to his ‘bred for distance’ pedigree and his consistency. With the exception of the Rebel Stakes and Kentucky Derby has finished first or second in seven of his nine career races. If the perception that he’s ‘bred for distance’ is legit the 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes course will be the place to show it.

STRADIVARI (Post Position #5—Morning Line Odds 5-1): Still very inexperienced against top level competition but a ton of potential and great connections including trainer Todd Pletcher. Finished fourth in his debut, won a MSW at Gulfstream Park followed by an allowance race at Keeneland. Didn’t qualify for the Kentucky Derby, finished a respectable fourth in the Preakness Stakes right behind the fading Nyquist. That’s a body of work that would earn Stradivari an ‘incomplete’ in a college course but he’s got plenty of supporters and is currently the #3 choice in UK bookmakers’ future odds.

GETTYSBURG (Post Position #6—Morning Line Odds 30-1): A bit of intrigue behind the entry of Gettysburg. He’s been trained by Todd Pletcher for WinStar Farms for his entire career. Pletcher has two other horses in the race so to avoid conflict of interest Steve Asmussen will train Gettysburg for the Preakness. Asmussen is already training the WinStar owned Creator. And here’s the fun part—Gettysburg is the front running, pace setting speed horse that the field was missing. And guess who having a speed horse in the field will benefit the most? That would be Asmussen’s Creator and Pletcher’s Stradivari and Destin. Not sure that a horse can be a ‘sacrificial lamb’ but if it’s possible that’s what Gettysburg is.

SEEKING THE SOUL (Post Position #7—Morning Line Odds 30-1): Cool name and a decent trainer in Dallas Stewart. That might be all he has going for him here. Two career starts, a second at Fairgrounds in February and a 5th at Churchill Downs in May. Both were MSW’s and at 6 and 6 ½ furlongs respectively. Some horses thrive at longer distances but don’t see much reason to back such an inexperienced horse making a huge jump in distance against a solid field of contenders.

FOREVER D’ORO (Post Position #8—Morning Line Odds 30-1): ‘D’Oro’ means ‘gold’ in Italian. That’s more to go on than this horse’s racing career which consists of his maiden race, a 1 1/16 mile win here at Belmont in late May. Dallas Stewart can’t seriously be entering two horses with a combined three races and no stakes experience? Might be a better choice than stablemate Seeking The Soul since he’s won at this track and went more than a mile in his only career start.

TROJAN NATION (Post Position #9—Morning Line Odds 30-1): Finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes as an 81-1 longshot thanks to a weak field and perfect pace. Before that had never finished higher than third in five MSW’s trying to break his maiden. Finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and for some reason he’s being entered here. Don’t expect him to get his first career win in the Belmont Stakes.

LANI (Post Position #10—Morning Line Odds 20-1): For some reason, I have a soft spot for Lani—the Japan based winner of the UAE Derby that essentially gave him a ‘free pass’ into the Kentucky Derby. Finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness. In theory, nothing suggests that he’ll be a factor in the Belmont but the reality is that once you get past Exaggerator there’s plenty of marginal talent and big question marks in the field. Might be a good horse to use underneath in exotics since I expect his odds to go up once live betting begins. He might not be a great horse but he’s likely a better horse than his Belmont postime odds could suggest.

EXAGGERATOR (Post Position #11—Morning Line Odds 9-5): Exaggerator is clearly a first rate equine competitor but you have to think his connections often think back to his second place in the Kentucky Derby and wonder what might have been had he been a little faster and able to run down Nyquist. Had that transpired, we’d be talking about the prospect of back-to-back Triple Crown winners. Even so, he’s got a chance to win two of the three Triple Crown races and finish second in the other. That’s no joke.

Prior to his second place finish in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes win he was still something of a question mark despite winning the Santa Anita Derby. Earned a handful of Kentucky Derby qualification points in last year’s Delta Downs Derby Jackpot as a two year old. Punched his ticket to Churchill Downs with a win in a sloppy and muddy Santa Anita Derby. A strong presence in the other two Kentucky Derby prep races at Santa Anita, finishing second in the San Vincente to Nyquist. Took third in the San Vincente behind two other potential Derby runners, Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy.   Trainer Keith Desormeaux, his brother Kent Desormeaux the jockey. Make sure to follow Kent Desormeaux’s status—he checked in to alcohol rehab in Utah on May 31 but plans to ride in the Belmont. Exaggerator has proven to be a very capable and versatile colt with the only question now the same as every other horse in the field is facing—can he deal with the Belmont distance?

BRODY’S CAUSE (Post Position #12—Morning Line Odds 20-1): The other Dale Romans horse in the Belmont field and another huge question mark. Finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby. Before that, won the Blue Grass Stakes as Todd Pletcher’s Zulu laid an egg. 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby, 3rd in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Won the Breeders’ Futurity. Some horse racing experts generally like Brody’s Cause and think he could blossom later in the year. If he could handle the distance might back into an ‘in the money’ finish with the right pace and form.

CREATOR (Post Position #13—Morning Line Odds 10-1): Took six races to break his maiden but performed well in the two Kentucky Derby prep stakes events he entered. Took third in the Rebel Stakes, won the Arkansas Derby with a very strong closing effort and a nice ride from jockey Ricardo Santana. Was the big winner in the Arkansas Derby and the beneficiary of the bad showing by Bob Baffert’s Cupid. Before the Kentucky Derby the line on Creator was that ‘racing experts still trying to figure him out’. The 13th he turned in in the Kentucky Derby didn’t answer any questions. A strong closer who has more of a chance with the speed of Gettysburg in the race. The problem is that he’s in a field full of strong closers.