Belmont Stakes 2019 preview: A horse-by-horse look at the field

Exercise rider Joe Ramos rides Tacitus during work outs at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Friday, Jun
Exercise rider Joe Ramos rides Tacitus during a workout at Belmont Park on Friday.
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

There is no Triple Crown on the line, but the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes will be an interesting race.

Only one horse, War of Will, will have run in all three races. And there is 9-5 morning-line favorite Tacitus, the stablemate to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Country House, after Maximum Security was disqualified.

Some are giving a shot to Master Fencer, the Japanese import who finished seventh (elevated to sixth) at the Kentucky Derby.

So it’s time to give you some relevant facts and you can make your own judgments.


No. 1 Joevia

Trainer: Gregg Sacco

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Owners: Michael and Jeff Fazio


Purchase price: $32,000

Morning Line: 30-1

Last race: Won the Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth by 2 3/4 lengths.

Why he’ll win: He’s coming off his best performance, so he should be sharp. He’s got some speed, which, if moderated, can be helpful in this long race. Will certainly pay off if he can hit the board.

Why he’ll lose: With only five races, he still needs seasoning. He was beaten by Alwaysmining in the Private Terms at Laurel, and Alwaysmining proved to be overmatched in the Preakness Stakes and third best in the Easy Goer Stakes at Belmont. His two wins have come in the slop at Monmouth and the Belmont surface will be fast.

No. 2 Everfast

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez


Owner: Calumet Farm

Purchase price: $47,000

Morning Line: 12-1

Last race: Second in the Preakness at 29-1.

Why he’ll win: His second-place finish in the Preakness showed he can run with the big boys. And the fact he has late speed could benefit him if the leaders decide they want to go faster than they should early. He gets little respect at the betting windows, which can always make for a great price should you be looking.

Why he’ll lose: He hasn’t won since he broke his maiden in his first race at Ellis Park. Preakness jockey Joel Rosario got off him to ride Sir Winston for Mark Casse, never a good sign. His long prices come for a reason, even though he has hit the board four times in 11 races. Would be a stretch to see him win at this level.

No. 3 Master Fencer

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda


Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Owner: Katsumi Yoshizawa

Purchase price: Homebred

Morning Line: 8-1

Last race: Seventh in the Kentucky Derby (elevated to sixth after disqualification of Maximum Security).

Why he’ll win: He ran pretty well in the Kentucky Derby, going from last to finish seventh. If he wins, there will be a $1-million bonus attached to it. He’s raced three times at 1 1/4 miles, so he’s got some distance experience. Don’t know if this is a plus or minus, but he’s the only horse not running on Lasix.

Why he’ll lose: He’s still looking for his first stakes win. He was the fourth choice to get the automatic entry into the race from Japan. No horse from Japan has ever won the Belmont Stakes.

No. 4 Tax

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Owner: R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable

Purchase price: Homebred; Claimed for $50,000 by ownership group

Morning Line: 15-1

Last race: Fifteenth in Kentucky Derby (elevated to 14th with disqualification of Maximum Security).

Why he’ll win: A third in the Remsen, a win in the Withers and a second in he Wood Memorial shows he can perform at a high level. He seems to be able to rate, which could be an advantage with an honest pace. While he was passed in the stretch of the Remsen, he should be around at the end of this long test.

Why he’ll lose: He didn’t really seem to be able to compete with Tacitus in the Wood and his poor performance in the Kentucky Derby should be of some concern. He is bred for a wet track but couldn’t handle the Churchill Downs slop on Derby day.

No. 5 Bourbon War

Trainer: Mark Hennig

Jockey: Mike Smith

Owner: Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable

Purchase price: $410,000

Morning Line: 12-1

Last race: Finished eighth in the Preakness.

Why he’ll win: He was sired by Tapit, who has three of the last five Belmont Stakes winners, so you know he’s got the distance. His best stakes race was a second in the Fountain of Youth, losing to Code of Honor. If he can run back to that form, and given his pedigree, he could be on the board. Picks up Hall of Fame and Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith, who is the only vestige of Southern California in the final Triple Crown race.

Why he’ll lose: He hasn’t won a stakes race and was outclassed in the Florida Derby by Maximum Security, Bodexpress and Code of Honor. There is some question he can handle the distance. He will need a perfect trip and pace to make the exacta.

No. 6 Spinoff

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Owner: Wertheimer and Frere

Purchase price: Homebred

Morning Line: 15-1

Last race: Eighteenth in Kentucky Derby.

Why he’ll win: He’s got a good trainer and jockey, but they will have to weave some magic in order to get him to the winner’s circle. If you throw out the Kentucky Derby, he’s been on the board in all four of his starts.

Why he’ll lose: Like many competing Saturday, he has yet to win a stakes race. He is lightly raced and was overtaken by By My Standards in the Louisiana Derby. He came up empty at the end of the Kentucky Derby, and the added distance will not benefit that kind of performance.

No. 7 Sir Winston

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Owner: Tracy Farmer

Purchase price: Homebred

Morning Line: 12-1

Last race: Second in the Peter Pan at Belmont.

Why he’ll win: The fact that Rosario got off Everfast to ride this colt should mean something. He and Intrepid Heart have the most recent Belmont experience with his second in the Peter Pan on May 11. He’s raced nine times, so he should have all the bugs worked out, if you ever can with a 3-year-old.

Why he’ll lose: He has an ungraded stakes win, in the Display Stakes at Woodbine, but has faltered when moving up to the higher levels. However, his second in the Peter Pan was a good race. Still, he’s never run against this kind of company.

No. 8 Intrepid Heart

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Owners: Robert and Lawana Low

Purchase price: $750,000

Morning Line: 10-1

Last race: Third in the Peter Pan at Belmont Park.

Why he’ll win: His owners paid some serious cash for this colt, so expectations are high. He’s lightly raced with only three starts, meaning we don’t know how good he might be. He won his first two races but a compromised start may have hurt him in the Peter Pan. Gets the Pletcher-Velazquez combo, which is always a plus.

Why he’ll lose: This being only his fourth start could make things tough for him. Despite stumbling at the start of the Peter Pan, he still never showed the kind of stretch acceleration of a top-notch horse. At this stage of his career, might be over his head.

No. 9 War of Will

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Owner: Gary Barber

Purchase price: $298,550

Morning Line: 2-1

Last race: Won the Preakness Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths.

Why he’ll win: He’s at peak form with his Preakness win, and Casse is skilled enough to get it to last for three more weeks. Casse didn’t work him between the Preakness and Belmont believing his form didn’t need sharpening. Who knows how well he would have finished in the Kentucky Derby. He’s one of two horses in the race that no one would be shocked if he won it.

Why he’ll lose: He’s also the only horse to have run three races in five weeks. And good races. The fact that he was tired might be the only impediment to him winning his second Triple Crown race.

No. 10 Tacitus

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Purchase price: Homebred

Morning Line: 9-5 (favorite)

Last race: Fourth in the Kentucky Derby (elevated to third with the disqualification of Maximum Security).

Why he’ll win: He’s rested since the Derby and threw a bullet workout on June 2. His wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial shows he’s got the stuff to get there at the end. Along with War of Will, one of two horses that would not shock if they won.

Why he’ll lose: War of Will is just too good. On the surface, Tacitus should have no excuses unless he’s compromised by the far outside post and getting to the front by the first turn takes too much out of him.

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