Justify, Bravazo and Tenfold all come into this race from the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico with Justify looking to become the 13th ever Triple Crown winner.
It’s always good to know the history of the race too to help us to understand what it takes to be a Belmont Stakes winner, for now though here are this year’s main hopes:
Lots of owners and trainers will at this point feel they have a Triple Crown contender in their barn but very few will make it to the starting line-up at Churchill Downs, let alone to New York for the final leg. Here we look at some of the current main hopes in a little more detail:
Blended Citizen is an interesting contender who is certainly on the improve; he was only 4½ lengths behind Good Magic in the Blue Grass Stakes this spring, and did so as an immature horse. Doug O’Neill gave him the chance to ease into this race with a Grade 3 win at Belmont four weeks ago.
He took care of five rivals in good style that day over a mile and deserves this step up; however, Blended Citizen is not necessarily bred to stay a mile-and-a-half which casts doubt on his hopes. Gate 10
Having been beaten over eight lengths in Kentucky, there was definite improvement from Bravazo when he failed to catch Justify by a mere length in the Preakness Stakes. Bravazo has since been through a busy schedule, including two really hard Grade 1 races in quick succession. It is nearly impossible that this horse enters Belmont in peak condition. Gate 3
Prior trainer Jeremy Noseda was gutted to lose this horse when told of the decision by the owners to send Gronkowski to the United States full time. However, his loss is Chad Brown’s gain, who noted that the horse was a really good mover.
Gronkowski’s form doesn’t quite sit at the level you may want to see for a Belmont contender though, and his breeding suggests more speed than stamina; but, at least he’s a fresh horse. Gate 6
Placing 7th in the Kentucky Derby while taking a wider ride is very strong form; however, Hofburg’s sire was better over 9 furlongs and didn’t stay the extra distance. There is fear that Hofburg may be the same.
He did perform well all the way to the line when second in the Florida Derby back in April, behind Audible, and that has given Bill Mott hope that he will stay competitive. However, even for a fresh horse, this mile-and-a-half track is brutal for those not bred to do the job. Gate 4
Justify was brilliant in landing the Kentucky Derby, but in truth he really didn’t need to step forward at all on his form from the Santa Anita Derby. Justify was highly tried in California -- winning two Grade 1’s in two weeks on sloppy track is going takes a lot of energy out of any horse -- so there is no way Justify enters Belmont in peak condition.
Whatever happens at Belmont, Justify will be given a break and perhaps freshened up for the Breeders’ Cup. As much as we all love to see a Triple Crown winner, his time in the winner’s enclosure could be coming to an end. Gate 1
Now this horse is interesting. Not over-raced, a close-up third to Justify last time out in the Preakness, and carrying both a running style and pedigree which suggests Tenfold may excel over this extra distance.
He is definitely improving with racing and can take another step forward here to perhaps turn the tables on Justify. Gate 7
Vino Rosso finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby, but let’s face it… he was drawn out in the car park in gate 18 and really had no chance.
He is by Curlin, the same sire as Tenfold, and like Tenfold, looks as though he will appreciate the longer trip better than most. His form in winning the Wood Memorial by three lengths makes him as strong a contender as any in this year’s line-up and he will be hard to beat. Gate 8
With the main contenders known and your choices made, you can watch the race live at TVG and place your bets with here with us too. Our race experts will be on hand during the build-up to the race to offer up to the minute analysis of the runners.