— With American Pharoah a 3-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday's $1.5-million
Obviously, there is more at stake than a $2 wager.
There hasn't been a
If nothing else, it seems as if it is about time.
But gamblers are always looking for value and 3-5 odds don't offer much. This brings the ever-present need to explore other possibilities.
Here are the spoilers, and why they might be considered so:
Frosted and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin
Frosted was fourth in the
Frosted is second choice in the morning line odds at 5-1. He has finished out of the money only twice in eight races.
McLaughlin, a veteran trainer, has won a Belmont with Jazil in 2006 and is currently on a run of winning at a 35% rate in his barn in the last three months.
Nor does he show any soft spots for the prospect of having a Triple Crown winner.
"We hope people are booing us after the race," he said.
Jockey Gary Stevens
He will ride Tale of Verve, who finished second in the Preakness, albeit a less-than-impressive seven lengths behind.
It was Stevens, on Firing Line, who looked as if he would be the main threat to American Pharoah and Dortmund going into the Derby. But when Firing Line wasn't the least bit interested in firing in the Preakness — "He wanted no part of all the kickback in the mud," Stevens said — the 52-year-old savvy rider happily jumped on Tale of Verve.
His pedigree is substantially better than his horse's. He has won all the Triple Crown races at least once — three Kentucky Derbies — and is seeking his fourth Belmont title.
The closest any horse has come to winning the Triple Crown since Affirmed is Real Quiet in 1998. He was beaten by a nose — more like a nose hair — and the rider aboard the horse that won, Victory Gallop, was Stevens.
Jockey Mike Smith
The savvy rider Stevens has a good friend who is pretty savvy himself. Smith will ride longshot Frammento.
Smith is three years younger than Stevens, but no less proficient. He made an art form out of rallying Zenyatta from 20 lengths back and is considered to be the best big-race rider going. He has won the Belmont twice in the last five years — with Drosselmeyer in 2010 and Palace Malice in 2013.
Trainer Nick Zito
He has the horse Smith will ride, and despite the likely long odds, Zito is a veteran of spoiling Belmont parties.
In 2004, while the world was falling in love with Smarty Jones and his Triple Crown prospects, Zito had a longshot named Birdstone. Smarty Jones had things pretty well in hand, heading down the homestretch, but there came Birdstone and there went the Triple Crown.
Four years later, when
Jockey Kent Desormeaux
Desormeaux was aboard Big Brown when the bottom seemed to fall out on the final turn in that 2008 Belmont. He was also aboard Real Quiet, when Stevens got the jump at the wire with Victory Gallop in 1998.
It's not as if Desormeaux can't handle this stuff. He won the Belmont in 2009 with Summer Bird and has won five other Triple Crown races.
But when it comes to the Triple Crown itself, he may be due. He will ride Keen Ice, son of Curlin, for trainer Dale Romans.
Trainer Todd Pletcher
Notorious for loading up for the Belmont, the veteran Pletcher, always with one of the biggest stables in the country and with seven Eclipse Awards to his name, will start two horses.
One, Materiality, is the third choice at a 6-1 morning line. Materiality had a bad trip in the Kentucky Derby and flew at the end to finish sixth. Then he skipped the Preakness, and will be among the more intriguing choices for gamblers.
Pletcher's other entry, Madefromlucky, had enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby, but was held out, as he was the Preakness. He has 12-1 morning-line odds and veteran New York rider Javier Castellano.
He ran eighth in the Derby in his first-ever U.S. start, has been given 10-1 odds by the morning-line maker, is trained by highly respected international conditioner Mike De Kock and is the only horse in the field, other than American Pharoah, who has earned more than $1 million.
He has $1,461,332, Pharoah $3,730,300.