2023 Belmont Stakes: Ranking the field 1st to last

2023 Belmont Stakes: Ranking the field 1st to last
Photo: Ben Breland / Eclipse Sportswire

It is always exciting to see a dominant Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner heading to Belmont for a chance at the Triple Crown, butthat is usually not the best scenario for gamblers looking to make money.

See Ed DeRosa's fair odds for Belmont Stakes 2023

The 2023 Belmont Stakes might lack a superstar, but it is a deep field filled with solid prospects and an opportunity to make a profit. Below I sort the contenders from the pretenders by ranking the entire field from first to last.

1. No. 8 Angel of Empire, 7-2. This colt has continued his ascent all year, and there is no reason to think his improving pattern will stop now. He followed his dominant Arkansas Derby (G1) score with a good Kentucky Derby effort after finding himself with too much to do late. I love the addition of blinkers as they should help him sit mid-pack instead of at the back of the field early on. He offers good value as the third choice in this race. He went off the 4-1 favorite in the 18-horse Kentucky Derby and after running a solid race there, he is 7-2 on the morning line in just a nine-horse field. This runner looks primed for a peak effort for top connections.

2. No. 2 Tapit Trice, 3-1. Throughout the Triple Crown trail it has been mentioned that this runner is tailor-made for the Belmont Stakes. His grinding style should suit Belmont perfectly, and Luis Saez is the right jockey to ride him aggressively enough to not fall out of contention early. His Kentucky Derby effort was only average at best, but I believe his gutty win in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) took some starch out of him in the Derby. Verifying ended up 16th in the Derby after that Blue Grass duel, and those concerned that it was a weak prep can find solace in the fact that Blazing Sevens almost won the Preakness after running a distant third in the Blue Grass. This runner should be able to run all day and will be passing plenty of tired horses late.

3. No. 3 Arcangelo, 8-1. Just as Mage was an intriguing Kentucky Derby prospect because of his upside, this runner appears to have more room to grow. As with Mage, Javier Castellano takes the call. His Beyer Speed Figure has improved by 13 points or more in every start since his debut, and he took a nice step forward while winning over this track in the Peter Pan (G3). He showed determination to fight back and defeat a nice Brad Cox runner in Bishops Bay. The improving son of Arrogate should handle the distance and is dangerous at a nice price.

4. No. 6 Forte, 5-2. Todd Pletcher's colt might be the most talented runner in this field, but talent does not guarantee victory when the circumstances are not right. He was certainly at the head of this crop at the beginning of April, but he will have to progress to match the rapid 3-year-old improvement of those surrounding him in this field. Will he be able to take that step forward after a shift in plans? Is he 100 percent after being forced to scratch from the Kentucky Derby? He must answer these questions while trying a distance that he is not bred for, after a 10-week layoff and an interrupted work pattern. Despite his ability, he is not worth the gambling risk as the 5-2 favorite. I am leaning against him on the win end and will use him only underneath in exotics.

5. No. 4 National Treasure, 5-1. He showed good determination when winning the Preakness, but he had everything his way that day while enjoying an easy lead at a shorter distance. Although this early pace is unlikely to be fast, it should be faster than the Preakness. Before the Preakness, he was a step below the elite of this crop, and I do not see him taking another step forward coming off of a grueling effort.

6. No. 7 Hit Show, 10-1. Despite drawing the rail, I thought he worked out a beautiful trip in the Kentucky Derby when running fairly well. That seems to be about his ceiling as the competition he faced in New York on the Triple Crown trail was very weak. He is a nice colt but is a bit slower than the top contenders.

7. No. 1 Tapit Shoes, 20-1. This is a big step up in class for this Tapit colt who has yet to face graded-stakes competition. Brad Cox has indicated he is likely to be sent from the rail. He should help soften up National Treasure and increase the pace for stablemate Angel of Empire, but it is hard to imagine him sticking around late for a piece.

8. No. 9 Red Route One, 15-1. This late runner is often left with too much to do, and he has been unable to make significant noise when facing the best in this crop. Making his 11th start, he offers limited upside and would be a surprise.

9. No. 5 Il Miracolo, 30-1. His name means "the miracle," and it would take one for him to win here after losing by more than 32 lengths in two starts against Forte in Florida. He should press the early pace, but do not expect much more.

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