The 2018 Belmont Stakes takes place this Saturday on June 9. Justify, because he won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, has a chance to become the second Triple Crown winner since 2015. American Pharoah took home the first Triple Crown in 37 years.
Now, Justify will try to take home the second Triple Crown in 37 years. Can he do it? Although Justify appears set to bring home the Crown, there’s a reason that only 13 horses have won the Triple Crown in close to 150 years. The Triple Crown might be the most difficult accomplishment in sports. It requires a young 3-year-old horse to win the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles, the Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles, and the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles. All 3 wins must occur within a 5 week span.
Check out a preview of each likely entrant. Also, see why Justify will win the Triple Crown as well as why he won’t.
Belmont Stakes: Will Justify Win the Triple Crown?
The Bob Baffert trainee looked great winning the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby. He didn’t look that spectacular winning the Preakness Stakes. Will Justify’s form hold enough for a Belmont Stakes win?
The Tapit sired Bill Mott trained colt didn’t look comfortable when finishing 7th in the Kentucky Derby. He’s bred to relish the 1 1/2 mile distance of the Belmont Stakes. Tapit has sired the last 2 Belmont Stakes winners: Creator in 2016 and Tapwrit last year. Could Hofburg make it 3 years in a row where one of Tapit’s progeny has taken home the Test of Champions?
Trained by the great D. Wayne Lukas, Bravazo showed immense courage when rallying for a fast closing second to Justify in the Preakness Stakes. His 6th place finish in the Kentucky Derby wasn’t all that bad. Plus, he’s shown that he can stick close to the lead, or come off the pace. That’s something that could help him big time in the Belmont on Saturday.
Vino Rosso 8/1
One of 2 trained by Todd Pletcher, Vino Rosso never appeared comfortable in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. But, his run in the Derby wasn’t all bad. After going wide around both turns, it’s amazing that he ended up finishing in the top half of the field, 9th. Vino Rosso has had a nice 4 week break since his Derby run. Pletcher can get them ready to win the Belmont.
His form is going in the right direction. After his 5th place finish in the Arkansas Derby, he failed to garner enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby field. No worries. Trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the Belmont Stakes with Creator a couple of years ago, entered Tenfold in the Preakness. It took a massive rally from Bravazo to keep Tenfold from second place honors in the Preakness Stakes. He did finish third. Not bad for a horse in his fourth lifetime race. If he improves at all on Saturday, he could be the horse that derails Justify’s Triple Crown bid.
Blended Citizen 14/1
Trained by Doug O’Neill, Blended Citizen has a slight advantage over the others in the 2018 Belmont Stakes field. While most of these horses either took the last few weeks off after disappointing runs int he Kentucky Derby, or tried to beat Justify in the Preakness, Blended Citizen won the Belmont Stakes prep, the Peter Pan Stakes on May 12.
Don’t look past Blended Citizen’s performance in that race. He won the Peter Pan after going 6 wide around the far turn. In fact, it sure appeared as if Blended Citizen wanted to throw in the towel. He didn’t. Instead, he kept fighting on until he finally got up for the win. That says something about this horse’s character.
An injury prevented him from running in the Kentucky Derby. He’s got 4 wins from 6 starts. That means he likes to win races. Also, trainer Jeremy Noseda is one of the very best in the world. Noseda feels that Gronkowski deserves a shot in a Triple Crown race even though he’s never won on dirt. The horse is up against it. But, at 25/1 odds he might be worth a look. The reason is because he’s definitely got the breeding to get the 1 1/2 mile distance. He could also be one of those freak horses that just loves to run.
Noble Indy 33/1
No love figures to go to Pletcher’s other Belmont Stakes entrant, Noble Indy. The Louisiana Derby winner lost all shot to get into the money in the Kentucky Derby as soon as the gates opened. He’s a front runner/presser type that never got on track. Biggest issue? Noble Indy broke from post-position 20. The horse wanted to go. Unfortunately, he was on a tight hold. Jockey Florent Geroux never got him to settle.
He should show some pace in the Belmont Stakes. That could lead to Noble Indy providing pace pressure on Justify.
Free Drop Billy 50/1
He’s been working lights out for trainer Dale Romans. Not only that, but his breeding suggests that he’ll love the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes distance. It’s difficult to see Free Drop Billy winning. Then again, this is the time of year when 3-year-olds can improve big time. The works say that he’s sitting on a huge race.
Why Justify Will Win the Triple Crown
Before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bob Baffert, who also trained American Pharoah, said that Justify was the 3-year-old with the best shot of winning the Triple Crown that he’s trained since American Pharoah. Justify certainly appears to have the breeding, sired by Scat Daddy and from a Ghostzapper mare, talent and connections to win the Belmont Stakes.
He might also have a huge advantage over his rivals in the sense that he can smoothly track a pace setter like Noble Indy before putting in a run. Justify won the Kentucky Derby by kicking it into gear at exactly the right moment. He won the Preakness Stakes by dueling Good Magic, his chief rival in that race, into the ground.
The Belmont could set up much better for Justify than the Preakness Stakes did. If that happens, he could draw away and easily win the Test of Champions.
Why Justify Won’t Win the Triple Crown
Justify sure looks unbeatable. But, no horse is unbeatable in any race. Too many things can happen in the lowest level horse races. The Belmont Stakes is a Grade 1 race that’s at 1 1/2 miles at the most unique racetrack in the United States. Belmont Park’s dirt track is the only 1 1/2 mile circumference race track in the U.S.
Justify, just like every Belmont Stakes entrant, must negotiate 1 1/2 miles for the first time, and likely only time, in his life. The truth is that you never know for sure if a horse can run 1 1/2 miles or not until they do it. But, getting the distance isn’t the only reason to be suspect of Justify’s chances at winning the Test of Champions.
Unlike many of his rivals this Saturday, Justify didn’t competitively race until Feb. 18. Including his maiden victory on Feb. 18, Justify has already run 5 times from Feb. 18 to May 19. The Belmont Stakes will be his sixth race since Feb. 18. That’s a lot of racing for any horse. The fact that Justify must run at 1 1/2 miles only 5 weeks after running in a 1 1/4 mile race means that Justify has a lot going against him to win the Belmont.
Justify appears to be the most talented race horse in the Belmont Stakes. He still might lose the Belmont. Make sure your positive if you’re thinking of laying money on Justify to become the 14th Triple Crown winner.