The 155th running of the Belmont Stakes will be upon us this Saturday, June 10. The post time is set for 7 p.m. ET and the race will be carried by FOX.
The Stakes is run at 12 furlongs, or 1 ½ miles, and is the longest race any of these colts have and will ever run. The Belmont means distance and no 3-year old has been on the proving ground of a 12f race. That’s what makes it very much unpredictable and why the Stakes is sometimes referred to as the “Graveyards of Champions.”
Even with legal US sportsbooks live in Massachusetts, horse betting in Massachusetts is still extremely popular, and the Belmont is expected to draw a lot of action.
Here are my picks for the 2023 Belmont Stakes, and a look at other races scheduled for this weekend.
Handicapping the 2023 Belmont Stakes
Below, I list the post number with the horse, trainer, results of their last race and 2023 Belmont Stakes betting odds. In the parenthesis next to the horse, I list a Best Beyer number. This is a rating of their fastest race. A 99 Best Beyer is very good, a 77 is not.
Remember, the odds are estimated and may change come Saturday when the heavy betting comes in.
1. Tapit Shoes (91)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Last Race: Oaklawn (2nd)
Not a bad horse but lightly raced and has just one victory, his maiden, in five tries. Shoes chased a hot pace in his last at Oaklawn in April, and then hung on for a credible second.
He’s a Tapit horse so one can never say never, especially at 2-turns, but I must pass. Maybe Cox brought him to ensure some early pace, but this isn’t the Preakness. The first 6 matters little, it’s the last 6 furlongs that count. Will use only in my fun Cox-box trifecta with #7 and #8.
2. Tapit Trice (99)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Last Race: Kentucky Derby (7th)
Another Tapit off-spring, but this one has done more with two Stakes wins under his belt including the G1 BlueGrass. So what happened in Louisville? His supporters say he was blocked and got behind too many horses. Then with that fast early pace he had to go wide. Maybe.
One thing for sure is that the wise-guys are creating some buzz around him and he will be getting a lot of support Saturday for his pedigree. Fine. Anyone can have a bad day. But not buying it. Won’t get on a horse who thinks 7th at the Kentucky Derby is OK.
3. Arcangelo (97)
Trainer: Jena Antonucci
Last Race: Peter Pan (1st)
We have a woman trainer for this pony, Jena Antonucci. I know little about her, but she must be good. She trained up her horse to win the Peter Pan with a solid 97 Beyer. Even better, Arcangelo’s last 3 furlongs were a sharp 36.18. That means he may like distance.
Only 4 starts so far, but has gotten better each time. Has the Preakness winner Castellano in the saddle, available off the idle Mage. A lot to like here. Will be one of my value picks on my FanDuel Racing Massachusetts app.
I saw what Arcangelo did in the Peter Pan stretch. He battled, lost the lead and came back to win by a nose. Only hope the secret does not get around.
4. National Treasure (98)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Last Race: Preakness (1st)
National Treasure got off easy in Baltimore. A weak field let him set a slow pace and nobody really challenged him. That won’t happen at Belmont.
He has a good jock in Johnny V, but Johnny won’t be enough. He Finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby prior to Pimlico. Figure that’s about right for Saturday.
5. Il Miracolo (77)
Last Race: Allowance (1st)
Odds should be more like 100-1. Miracolo has already raced 10 times in his career and won twice. Took four tries to break his maiden, but the connections kept putting him in there.
One has to ask, why? Are they looking for a “Miracolo?” But the Lady of Guadalupe Basilica is far away. Well, at least he showed some early speed in his last at GP. So Miracolo, make yourself useful and set a pace! What have you to lose? The TV trucks will be breaking down their equipment by the time you finish.
6. Forte (100)
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Last Race: Florida Derby (1st)
Top ranked 3-year old and deserving favorite. Has won 5 races in a row but was vet-scratched the morning of the Derby for a sore hoof. That means Forte has not raced since early April after winning Florida. At first we thought Forte struggled a bit beating longshot Mage, but just narrowly. But then Mage wins the Derby and maybe his Florida Derby was a pretty good win after all.
Pletcher has Big-stick Ortiz as his jockey. Top trainer Todd knows Ortiz hates to lose, but he comes with baggage and has been often suspended. Ortiz Jr can be a nasty fellow and pilots horses sometimes as if he is in a Roman chariot race in the coliseum. My mentor and true horse guru, Joe Paris, likes Forte and I hate to pick against him. But the big question for everyone and to every horse Saturday is, can they do 12? At 5-2, going elsewhere.
7. Hit Show (98)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Last Race: Kentucky Derby (5th)
This guy surprised a little with his decent 5th place at Churchill. Maybe Hit Show got too close to that early suicide pace and then settled down and got into the mix in the stretch. But would flatten and probably run out of gas.
He won the Withers earlier this year and lost the Wood by a nose so he has something inside him. Knows how to rate, we think, despite the early Derby fractions but the cavalry charge at Louisville can make everything seem a blur. More time to concentrate Saturday. Lineage says he is supposed to have distance, will see. Using.
8. Angel of Empire (104)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Last Race: Kentucky Derby (3rd)
This is my boy. I’ve ridden him all year and earned a nice profit with his Risen Star and Arkansas Derby stakes wins. Finished a meritorious third at Churchill and considering he had an outside post and a long way back to start and still earned a 104 Beyer. Let’s put it this way, there are three top-shelf ponies in this race, Forte, Tapit Trice, and Angel.
On paper, maybe the former two look a little better. But I am a Cox guy. I think he will give Angel the edge to win.
9. Red Route One (92)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Last Race: Preakness (4th)
Red Route One did give me my only thrill in the Preakness, albeit, a very short-lived one. My main pick, Perform, had evidently decided that Preakness Day he didn‘t feel like running hard which sometimes bratty 3-year-olds can do. So that left me with only a $1 dollar four-horse (no Mage) trifecta box which costs $24 bucks. At mid-stretch, I was starting to look good as Red Route was making a move on third place Mage and thoughts of a winning and lucrative tri were dancing in my head. Briefly. Red One flattened, Mage picked it up. Curses!
Red Route One may show value on Saturday, but I am done with him, as he is just not fast enough.
Bets I am placing
The coverage starts early Saturday afternoon on FOX, so tune in between watering flowers.
My bets are simple:
$50 to win on #8 Angel of Empire
$20 to win/place on #7 Hit Show
$20 to win/place on #3 Arcangelo
$5 to win #1 Tapit Shoes (Because I have to)
I will also have a modest exacta box on #7 and #8. In addition, a ‘fun” Cox-box trifecta on his three, 1-7-8.
The Belmont track record is 2:24 set in 1973 by Secretariat. A 12-second ⅛ of a mile fraction is outstanding for a top racehorse. Sprinter specialists can do faster, but they don’t last long.
In 1973, the Great One did 12 12’s. That meant he averaged 12-second fractions 12 times over the length of the 12 furlong race. They say DiMaggio’s 56 will never be broken, I say it will be broken well before any pony ever breaks 2:24 at Belmont.
Other Belmont notes
Now, Belmont Park will soon be undergoing some big changes. The UBS Arena, the home of the New York Islanders, has been built on land formerly used for Belmont parking. This reduced capacity this year and Saturday’s race attendance has been capped at 50,000.
In the fall, the track will undertake major capital improvement projects including reconstruction of the club house and grandstands. Also included will be two underground tunnels permitting access for spectators to the infield. Belmont Park has been the only Triple Crown race without infield attendance. That will change.
It will also make track founder, August Belmont Jr, stir in his grave. He built the track in 1905 and named it after his father, or so he maintained. He thought infield attendance would encourage riff-raff and offend his patrician sensibilities and friends.
The New York banker, however, has strong Massachusetts connections. He attended Harvard for one. But he was also the man most responsible for the ‘big ditch.” No, not the big-dig, the big-ditch. You know that little man-made waterway that has cut off Cape Cod from the rest of the civilized world.
A nice idea, that canal, which permitted short-cuts for mariners and the avoidance of those nasty outer Nantucket shoals. But the Belmont team underestimated the force of tidal water connecting the two bays. Therefore, the original ditch was dug too narrow and too shallow. Mariners would soon avoid it, not just because of the tricky currents and hazards, but because Belmont also made it a toll-road and the fare was not cheap. In 1928, his company folded their cards and sold the Cape Cod Canal to the government and the rest is history. A much wider canal along with those two accursed weekend bridges.
My Belmont Stakes connection
My extended family and I have maintained a tradition of attending numerous Belmont Stakes, beginning in the 70’s and into the new century. We have seen some great and extraordinary races including the “duel in the sun” between the great Curlin and filly champion, Rags to Riches in 2007. For the first time in over a century, a filly won.
I was also there in 2002 when I experienced my first Belmont 100k. Meaning the attendance exceeded 100,000 and the Park was bursting at its seams. The atmosphere was electric with the hopes to see War Emblem become the first Triple Crown champion since 1978. It was not to be, the Belmont 12 furlongs, unfortunately, is a brick wall for rabbits like War Emblem.
I was also privileged to be there in 2014 along with 103,000 of my closest friends. We attended to see if California Chrome could accomplish that same rare feat of winning the Triple Crown. But what I remember that year most was that poor, oppressed and stressed Belmont Park suffered a glitch.
This time, it was not just the overcooked and overflowing restrooms which one had come to expect, but the computer system for processing credit and debit cards at the concession stands. You would have thought the world had come to an end. Now patrons had to pay cash to buy a beer and hotdog. So no big deal one might first think, all bets must be cash and punters certainly bring plenty of cash to a track. Evidently not everybody.
For many people that day, those of a certain generation that pride themselves for not using old-fashion germy currency and choose modern plastic instead, for them came a sudden shiver of panic and the beer and food lines quickly diminished. Those lines were quickly replaced by long waits at the ATM’s instead.
Of course, the cash dispensers soon tapped out and then darkness and the gnashing of teeth settled over the land. A disturbing afternoon for some but if you wanted a coke and slice with no wait, it was great. (California Chrome lost to boot.)
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