Belmont Stakes draw: Pletcher has the 2 top choices

Belmont Stakes draw: Pletcher has the 2 top choices
Photo: Susie Raisher / NYRA

Nine 3-year-olds will contest the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, and Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has the two favorites in the field with Forte and Tapit Trice.

Forte, who is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable, was named the 5-2 top choice in the morning line based on a career record that shows six wins from seven starts. Forte was scratched from the Kentucky Derby by the state veterinarian, and that forced him to also miss the Preakness. Forte drew post position 6.

“We have gone from being the Derby favorite to now being the favorite here,” said co-owner Mike Repole. “I still think he (Forte) is the best 3-year-old by far. It was tough enough scratching him. But then watching the horse that he beat the last two times (Mage) win the Derby wasn’t the best feeling in the world and then watching National Treasure, who he beat in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, win the Preakness just verifies that this is the best horse out there. I think on Saturday that we will see something very special.”

Tapit Trice
, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby after a victory in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1), was assigned morning-line odds of 3-1. Pletcher won the Belmont four times from 2007 to 2022 and has seven second-place finishes. Tapit Trice was sired by Tapit, who produced four previous winners of the 1 1/2-mile test of the champion. Tapit Trice was drawn to the inside in post position 2.

“We need him to get out of the gate and get into a rhythm and hopefully work our way clear down the backstretch,” said Pletcher. "He’s got a big, long stride on him. He’s going to love the mile and a half. He’s been training that way and now he just has to run professionally and put it all together.”

Brad Cox has three horses entered in the Belmont, a race that he won in 2021 with Essential Quality. Angel of Empire leads the way for Cox as the 7-2 third choice who will break from the No. 8 post.

Angel of Empire was third in the run for the roses as the favorite after closing from 13 lengths back in 16th to finish only 1 1/2 lengths behind the winner. The son of Classic Empire won the Arkansas Derby (G1).

“I think he’ll like the mile and a half,” Cox said. “We’d always thought he would be better as the distances got further. Obviously, in February, the race (the Risen Star) was a mile and an eighth and he was able to duplicate that performance in the Arkansas Derby. He ran really well going a mile and a quarter in the Derby and came up just a little short."

Angel of Empire will run with blinkers for the first time in the Belmont.

“Flavien (Prat) came back after the Derby and immediately said to put blinkers on the horse (Angel of Empire),” added Cox. “I don’t know that it would have made a big difference in winning the Derby, but I do know that he does train well in them. It’s something to experiment with and see what happens. I’m very happy with where he’s at.”

The Belmont Stakes is the final stakes race in the three-day Belmont Stakes racing restival which runs from Thursday to Saturday and is carded as race 12 of 13 at 7:02 p.m. EDT.

2023 Belmont Stakes G1

Top Stories

Cody’s Wish overcame a bad start to win the Grade...
Five weeks out from the $6 million Breeders’ Cup C...
Ace Impact never had raced 1 1/2 miles before, but...
An intriguing mix of handicap-division stalwarts a...
One of the entries in the Grade 2, $400,000 Woodwa...