Citi Field was the site for this evening’s post draw for the 151st running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes. The draw was conducted for the 10 horses heading to the gate at approximately 6:37 p.m. EDT on Saturday evening at Belmont Park for the third and final leg of this year’s Triple Crown series.
The morning line favorite Tacitus (9-5), placed third in the Kentucky Derby after Maximum Security’s disqualification was tabbed as the morning line favorite in the 1 1/2-mile race known as the Test of a Champion. He will start his journey from the far outside post and attempt to become the fourth son of Tapit to win the Belmont in the last six years.
Trainer Bill Mott who saddled the eventual Kentucky Derby winner Country House, last won the Belmont in 2010 with Drosselmeyer. He’ll look to Tacitus to give him his second Belmont victory on Saturday.
“Belmont is sort of home for us now,” said Mott at the draw. “It would be great to come back and do it again. I mean, it was exciting with Drosselmeyer. He was a bit of a price in the race that day, and it was a pretty good feeling to win it that day. I'd like to do it again if we could.”
Preakness winner War of Will (2-1) was named the second choice and also drew outside for trainer Mark Casse drawing post No. 9. He’ll attempt to become the 19th horse to pull off the Preakness-Belmont double and the 12th since 1940.
War of Will is the only horse that will compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown series, a grueling five week journey through three cities and races at three different distances.
"I was thinking as soon as this is over, it's going to be a little peaceful for a little while” said Casse. “We don't get a lot of peace, so you have to defy peace, but five weeks of different cities and lots of questions, lots of interviews. This is why we’re in this game, why we started it, and I know we're all proud to be here.”
Another horse coming off a solid second-place effort in the Preakness at odds of 29-1 is Everfast (12-1), trained by Dale Romans who is seeking his first Belmont win. Romans saw a change in his horse after his fifth-place finish in the Pat Day Mile on Derby day.
“I will say after the race on Derby Day, he started training a little more arrogant and acting a little more like a good horse,” said Romans. “Even though he finished fifth, I thought it was a solid race for him. That's what made us take him to the Preakness. It just seems like his attitude changed, and it's continued coming into the Belmont.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher who has won three Belmont Stakes since 2007 enters two horses, Spinoff (15-1) and Intrepid Heart (10-1). He’ll have Hall of Fame riders Javier Castellano (Spinoff) and John Velazquez (Intrepid Heart) aboard his two hopefuls.
With Spinoff, Pletcher admitted that he just didn’t take to the sloppy track at Churchill during training two days before the Derby and during the race itself. With solid weather in the forecast for this weekend on Long Island, he just wants him to have a fair chance.
“I'm hoping he catches a fast track and gets to prove how good he is or is not,” said Pletcher.
Pletcher will add blinkers to Intrepid Heart after a disappointing effort in the Peter Pan, the local prep race at Belmont Park for the classic.
“He's had two good works with blinkers, and you kind of hate to make an equipment change in a mile-and-a-half race, but it seemed like in his works, he didn't get too aggressive,” said Pletcher. “He was a little more focused, so I think we need to improve off the Peter Pan and that's why we decided to make the equipment change.”
Two returnees from the Kentucky Derby are in the field as Tax (15-1) and Japanese invader Master Fencer (8-1) return to the Triple Crown trail.
The News will be on site in Elmont on Wednesday afternoon with print columns Saturday and Sunday and online handicapping outlooks on the big star-studded Saturday undercard on Friday afternoon.
Here's a look at the field for the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes:
|4||Tax||Gargan||I. Ortiz, Jr.||15-1|
|9||War of Will||Casse||Gaffalione||2-1|
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.