The post time for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes is 6.46pm ET.
Justify could become the 13th Triple Crown victor.
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Hofburg is the most likely to ruin the Triple Crown coronation party on Saturday. That could force the talented colt to expended more energy than desired to get clear of the field and up near the front, a maneuver that has taken its toll on other Belmont entrants.
This is the only horse who matters on Saturday.
Well before unbeaten Triple Crown hopeful Justify (Scat Daddy)'s highly anticipated early afternoon arrival from Kentucky-more on that in a bit-there were plenty of GI Belmont Stakes runners out stretching their legs for routine gallops during early training hours on a attractive Wednesday morning on Long Island. Both those races were on a sloppy track.
Hofburg has won just one in four starts, but his last two numbers have been in the 90s and he was banged around pretty badly in the Derby, so it's reasonable to assume he will run even better in NY. After walking around the barn for a half-hour or so, the rangy chestnut colt was given a sponge bath and bedded down in the same stall as 2015 Triple Crown victor American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert.
Long shot outsider Free Drop Billy (30-1) was in gate two, with the unsafe 8-1 contender Bravazo in three. "Plus, he's run five races in a very short period of time".
The Belmont is a 1.5-mile or (2.4 kilometer) horse race. Bravazo was sixth at the Kentucky Derby. He won his last race with a 90, but has just three wins from 10 starts and no other speed number like his last one. Ortiz won the 2016 aboard Creator.
Interesting that Baffert would even enter another of his horses as potential competition for Justify. More than 100 media types were outside the barn jostling for position and clicking away with their cameras as Justify walked off the van just ahead of his stable mate and possible pace companion Restoring Hope.
In the 1993 Belmont, Smith was aboard Preakness victor Prairie Bayou. Hofburg, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and was sired by Tapit, who fathered the winners of three of the last four Belmonts.
Since Slew, only Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2008) had a chance to win the Triple Crown while ideal. He ran fifth behind Good Magic in the Bluegrass Stakes back in April which might be the best indicator of where he stands among the best of the 3-year old class.
The Belmont will pit Pletcher against Jack Wolf, his Starlight Racing boss who's part of Justify's large ownership group. Velazquez has won it twice, last in 2012 aboard Union Rags. When Kentucky Derby time rolled around, I dropped Justify to second on my list and put Mendelssohn on top because he offered a better payout.
Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy-Noble Maz) - WinStar Farm bred Noble Indy, victor of the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), and races him with Repole Stable. If he repeats his Preakness performance he stands a chance but he faces a tough task as a lightly raced colt with only three weeks rest. Castellano is yet to. Bravazo wins, Justify second and Tenfold third.