The posts have been drawn, the odds have been released and it’s just a matter of days before the 2018 Belmont Stakes descends on our senses. Justify has been inserted as the expected 4/5 favorite, but will also start out of the first gate alongside the rail. Will that be enough to stop him?
Bob Baffert doesn’t seem to think so. “I never do like to draw the rail but my horses seem to live in it,” Baffert explained. “I just feel most importantly the horse is doing well. The last time I went through this, American Pharoah, he stepped back right when they opened and I got lucky that he got away from there. So you can have a great post but if you don’t leave there, you’re still going to be in trouble.”
The legendary trainer is going for his 15th American Classic victory, his third Belmont Stakes win and his second Triple Crown and seems comfortable given that the elements of Justify’s success which he can control have been smoothed out. “We have it, we can’t change it,” Baffert continued regarding the poor starting point. “So we’re just going to deal with it. The horse is doing well, everything has been really smooth since the Preakness.”
There is plenty of time along the 1 1/2 mile track of the Belmont for Justify to make up ground, and though he was a front runner in the Preakness Stakes, that’s not a strategy that he optimally employs according to Baffert. However, as we’ve seen in the Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita Derby as well, Justify does like to get out in front early and push the pace. He’s fortunately shackled up next to a trio of horses that don’t start well either, and that gives him a good chance of beginning the 2018 Belmont Stakes in a favorable position.
Hofburg has been selected as the second choice for the race with 9/2 odds, and there aren’t many horses within his range. Preakness Stakes runner-up, and consisten defier of odds, Bravazo comes in at 8/1 along with Vino Rosso. Of those three, Bravazo certainly seems like the horse to back considering what he’s done lately with a 6th place finish in the derby and a 2nd place at Pimlico. He will be the only other horse to contend in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Just outside of those three are Gronkowski and Tenfold who share 12/1 odds. Tenfold burst down the homestretch at the Preakness to close out 3rd overall, but has seemingly fallen out of favor with the oddsmakers. Perhaps they just don’t trust him at this distance. Gronkowski, meanwhile, will be making his debut on American soil after winning the European Road to the Kentucky Derby. His odds reflect more of his status as a fan favorite with name value compared to his actual worth on the track. At least for now.
Blended Citizen has been getting strong reviews after taking the long route to the Belmont Stakes. He won the 2018 Peter Pan in between the weekends of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, and has been tagged as a late developer. To know if he’s ready for a challenge as signficant as the 2018 Belmont Stakes – especially against Justify – feels like a bit of a stretch.
Rounding out the field are Free Drop Billy, Noble Indy and Restoring Hope. If any of them has the natural talent to out perform their odds, it’s probably Noble Indy.
NBC will broadcast the race at 4pm on their main station in your area, with additional coverage earlier in the day and on Friday courtesy of NBCSN. TwinSpires TV won’t miss a beat of the action either and will allow you to watch, wager and win concurrently through a single app on your mobile device or through their desktop site.
Justify is the lead bet and should be at the top of your selection process for betting this race. He will set out to set the tone early, and is likely very prepared to go the distance given that Baffert simply knows how to extract the best from the best. By the half-mile mark, Justify is anticipated to be out front and the only thing he’ll be chasing is history itself.
I can’t wait.
2018 Belmont Stakes – Saturday, June 9th at Belmont Park
1 1/2 Miles – 3 Year Olds – $1,500,000
|1||Justify (KY)||Mike E. Smith||126||Bob Baffert||4/5|
|2||Free Drop Billy (KY)||Robby Albarado||126||Dale L. Romans||30/1|
|3||Bravazo (KY)||Luis Saez||126||D. Wayne Lukas||8/1|
|4||Hofburg (KY)||Irad Ortiz, Jr.||126||William I. Mott||9/2|
|5||Restoring Hope (KY)||Florent Geroux||126||Bob Baffert||30/1|
|6||Gronkowski (KY)||Jose L. Ortiz||126||Chad C. Brown||12/1|
|7||Tenfold (KY)||Ricardo Santana, Jr.||126||Steven M. Asmussen||12/1|
|8||Vino Rosso (KY)||John R. Velazquez||126||Todd A. Pletcher||8/1|
|9||Noble Indy (KY)||Javier Castellano||126||Todd A. Pletcher||30/1|
|10||Blended Citizen (KY)||Kyle Frey||126||Doug F. O’Neill||15/1|