Racing! Jon White’s final Belmont Stakes rankings

Hello, my name is John Cherwa and welcome to our horse racing newsletter as we head into Belmont weekend.

A little news before we get to the good stuff.

--Santa Anita suffers its 27th death since the meeting started on Dec. 26. Just click here.

--The topic at Belmont is all about horse safety and welfare. Just click here.

Jon White’s Belmont rankings

The Belmont Stakes is here and we’ve got Jon White ready to share his insights. Jon makes the morning line at Santa Anita, he’s a licensed steward, and he’s the pre-eminent historian on racing. We’re lucky to have him. So, here it is, the final rankings of the final leg of the Triple Crown, courtesy of Jon, the floor is yours.

“1. War of Will (2-1 morning line). Only Curlin (1:53.46) in 2007 has registered a faster final time in the Preakness than War of Will (1:54.34) this year since Louis Quatorze (1:53.40) in 1996. Sure, the track for this year's Preakness was faster than usual. But even when taking that into consideration, I don't think War of Will is getting the credit he probably deserves for his Preakness performance. His final time was faster than such other Preakness winners in the last 20 years as California Chrome (1:54.84), Big Brown (1:54.86), Afleet Alex (1:55.04), Rachel Alexandra (1:55.08), Point Given (1:55.40), Lookin At Lucky (1:55.47) and Smarty Jones (1:55.59).

“Daily Racing Form's Matt Bernier wrote: ‘Most handicappers would immediately downgrade War of Will's effort because of the excellent trip he earned in Baltimore, but I think his effort may be better than it appears at face value.’ Bernier pointed out that in the Preakness, War of Will was relatively close to a hot pace, yet still ended up with the fourth-fastest come home time in the race.

“Meanwhile, do you realize that when War of Will had a wide trip and finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs last Nov. 2, he managed to beat none other than the future winner of the historic Epsom Derby? That's right. At last year's Breeders’ Cup, 15-1 War of Will outran 3-1 favorite Anthony Van Dyke, who finished ninth. That very same Anthony Van Dyke won the 240th running of the original Derby of them all at Epsom Downs last Saturday.

“War of Will has the distinction of being the only one of the 10 entrants in Saturday's 151st running of the Belmont to start in all three Triple Crown events this year. Of course, running in those three races at three different distances at three different tracks within the period of five weeks is a grind. Sweeping all three is difficult and rare. There have been just 13 Triple Crown winners, the most recent being Justify last year.

“Because War of Will is being asked to endure the entire Triple Crown grind, his task to win the 1 1/2-mile Belmont is made more difficult by having to face rivals--most notably Tacitus--who are fresher for not having run in the Preakness. This definitely is a concern when it comes to War of Will.

“But keep in mind the Preakness really was only War of Will’s second meaningful race since he won the Risen Star Stakes on Feb. 16. He certainly did not get much out of the March 23 Louisiana Derby. War of Will took an awkward start shortly after the start of the Louisiana Derby and finished ninth. He emerged from that race with a strained patellar ligament, according to trainer Mark Casse. Inasmuch as the May 4 Kentucky Derby (in which he was impeded approaching the five-sixteenths marker) and May 18 Preakness have been War of Will's only real meaningful races since Feb. 16, he might have more gas in his tank for the Belmont than a lot of people think.

“2. Tacitus (9-5 morning-line favorite). I wrote last week that in terms of Belmont Stakes betting, I expect Tacitus to be the favorite, but not by a lot over War of Will. Belmont Park oddsmaker David Aragona obviously sees it the same way as he has pegged Tacitus as the 9-5 morning-line favorite, with War of Will a close second choice at 2-1.

“It's not difficult to understand why so many people are picking Tacitus to win the Belmont. He has a lot going for him.

“By not running in the Preakness, Tacitus has the advantage of being fresher for the Belmont than War of Will.

“Tacitus' trainer, jockey, owner and breeding also add to the colt's appeal. His trainer is Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who sent out Drosselmeyer to win the 2010 Belmont. Tacitus' jockey is Jose Ortiz, who won the 2017 Belmont aboard Tapwrit. Juddmonte Farms owns Tacitus. Juddmonte Farms won the 2003 Belmont with Empire Maker. Tacitus is a son of Tapit and 2014 Eclipse Award champion older female Close Hatches. Tapit has sired three of the last five Belmont Stakes winners (Tonalist in 2014, Creator in 2016 and Tapwrit in 2017).

“After winning the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial when he overcame a troubled trip, Tacitus exhibited good late energy in the Kentucky Derby. As far back as 16th early in the Run for the Roses, Tacitus finished fourth on the sloppy track and was elevated to third through the disqualification of Maximum Security. Maximum Security finished first but was DQ'd to 17th for causing interference to War of Will, Bodexpress and Long Range Toddy approaching the five-sixteenth pole.

“All in all, Tacitus has an excellent chance to be posing for pictures after Saturday's Belmont.

“3. Sir Winston (12-1). Casse trains Sir Winston in addition to War of Will. Sir Winston rallied to finish second in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes on May 11 at odds of 14-1, an effort that could set him up nicely for the longer Belmont Stakes.

“Not one of the 10 entrants in this year's Belmont Stakes has won on the Belmont Park main track. Sir Winston is the only one of the 10 to have finished at least second. His pedigree suggests he might relish long-distance races. His sire is Awesome Again, who won the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic in 1998. Sir Winston's maternal grandsire is 2005 Belmont winner Afleet Alex.

“Sir Winston's jockey is Joel Rosario, who won the 2014 Belmont on Tonalist.

“4. Spinoff (15-1). He seemed to detest running on the sloppy surface in the Kentucky Derby and wound up 18th. Spinoff finished second in the Louisiana Derby on March 23, a particularly good effort considering it was only his second race since last Aug. 12. In his 2019 debut, Spinoff raised eyebrows when he won by nearly 12 lengths at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 22.

“Spinoff's trainer is Todd Pletcher, who has won the Belmont three times (Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013 and Tapwrit in 2017). Spinoff's jockey is Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who has finished second in the Belmont three times (Stay Thirsty in 2011, Commissioner in 2014 and Destin in 2016).

“5. Intrepid Heart (10-1). He's trained by Pletcher. As mentioned, Pletcher has three Belmont Stakes victories to his credit. The Belmont Stakes has been a longtime goal for Intrepid Heart.

“Unraced as a 2-year-old, Intrepid Heart crushed maidens when unveiled at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18. He then won a race at Keeneland by a half-length on April 5. Sent off as the favorite at a little under 6-5 in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, Intrepid Heart stumbled at the start and finished third, 4 3/4 lengths behind runner-up Sir Winston. Global Campaign won the Peter Pan by 1 1/4 lengths.

“It's certainly understandable why the Belmont Stakes seems a good fit for Intrepid Heart because he's by Tapit (sire of three Belmont winners) and a half-brother to Commissioner, who at odds of 28-1 finished second, a head behind Tonalist, in the 2014 Belmont.

“Intrepid Heart's jockey is Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who has won the Belmont twice (Rags to Riches in 2007 and Union Rags in 2012).

“My main concern regarding Intrepid Heart is he's running in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont with just three races under his belt. But at least all three races have been at a mile or longer.

“6. Everfast (12-1). When he finished second in the Preakness at odds of 29-1, he spoiled a great many exacta, trifecta and superfecta wagers. That wasn't the first time he's finished second at big odds. He ran second in Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull Stakes last Feb. 2 when dismissed at 128-1. Between the Holy Bull and Preakness, Everfast lost three races by 18 1/2, 15 and 10 1/4 lengths.

“Everfast races for Brad Kelley's Calumet Farm. For Kelley, Oxbow finished second in the 2013 Belmont. Calumet Farm (long before Kelley assumed overship) won the Belmont twice, both times with a Triple Crown winner (Whirlaway in 1941 and Citation in 1948).

“7. Tax (15-1). Runner-up in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 6, Tax was no factor in the Kentucky Derby when he finished 15th and was moved up to 14th through the disqualification of Maximum Security. Other than the Kentucky Derby, he has never finished worse than third.

Irad Ortiz Jr. will pilot Tax in the Belmont. Ortiz won the 2016 Belmont with Creator.

“8. Bourbon War (12-1). He certainly had his share of supporters in the Preakness. Indeed, Bourbon War's 5-1 odds in that race were shorter than War of Will's 6-1. Bourbon War lacked early speed in the Preakness, never menaced and finished eighth.

“Bourbon War is another this year who could possibly give Tapit a fourth Belmont victory as a sire.

“In the Preakness, Bourbon War raced with blinkers for the first time. Trainer Mark Hennig is removing Bourbon War's blinkers for the Belmont.

"Mike Smith is Bourbon War's jockey. Hall of Famer Smith and Justify collaborated to take the 2018 Belmont when that colt became this country's 13th Triple Crown winner. Smith also won the Belmont in 2010 aboard Drosselmeyer and in 2013 on Palace Malice.

9. Master Fencer (8-1). After winning two of six starts in his native Japan, Master Fencer exceeded the expectations of many in the Kentucky Derby. Virtually ignored by bettors, he lost by only four lengths at odds of 58-1 after being as far back as 23 lengths early. He finished seventh and was elevated to sixth via the DQ of Maximum Security. In light of Master Fencer's Kentucky Derby rally, perhaps he will have a big say in the longer Belmont. But at morning line odds of 8-1, I just can't get enthused.

“10. Joevia (30-1). He is expected to show early speed, as he did when he splashed his way to a 2 3/4-length triumph on a sloppy track May 12 in the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park. When Tacitus and Tax finished first and second, respectively, in the April 6 Wood Memorial at the Big A, Joevia ended up seventh and was disqualified to 11th for causing interference early.

“In a nutshell, it will be a gigantic upset if Joevia wins the 2019 Belmont Stakes.”

Santa Anita preview

Friday’s card at Santa Anita is pretty uninspiring, but the track is likely saving things up for Belmont Stakes day. There are eight races, starting at 1 p.m. with five races for Cal-breds and four on the turf.

Combine those two factors and you come up with a feature, the fifth, a Cal-bred allowance/optional claimer for horses going five furlongs on the turf. The favorite, at 5-2, is Psycho Dar, who is coming off a second in a allowance. He’s been running a lot of nongraded (but yet black type) races. He’s two-for-12 lifetime and trained by Steve Miyadi and jockey Edwin Maldonado.

The second favorite, at 3-1, is Prodigal Son for Doug O’Neill and Martin Garcia. Now, this is a Paul Reddam horse and Mario Gutierrez isn’t riding him. Trouble in paradise? Nope, Mario is just back in Belmont riding some of Reddam’s better horses. Prodigal Son is one-for-four lifetime and third last out in an allowance. Post is aroud 3:10 p.m.

Here are the field sies, in order: 10, 5, 6, 5, 9 (2 also eligible), 6, 9 (4 ae), 8 (1 ae).

Ciaran Thornton’s SA pick of the day

RACE SEVEN: No. 9 Incredibly Lucky (8-1)

Incredibly Lucky tries turf for the first time, shortens up and drops for trainer Bill Spawr who is winning 25% at the meet, is 22% off the bench and 33% maiden to maiden claiming like today. Main jockey Tiago Pereira is 33% for this stable. We are getting 8-1 or more in this wide open race. This horse was bet to odds on in both starts so expectations were high. We also get a sharp work and the horse races protected today. Excellent value play for us.

Sunday’s result: It was another closing second-place finish for us, the second in a row. Heather’s Grey sat off the pace for the entire race positioned perfectly before gaining at the wire to run second. There was no catching the gate to wire winner but a nice performance by Heather’s Grey. Suprema ran dead last but our other selections ran 1-2-3 for a nice trifecta win.

Ciaran Thornton is the handicapper for, which offers daily full card picks, longshots of the day, best bets of the day.

Golden Gate weekend preview

We’re back with our weekly look at the best racing at Golden Gate Fields. As with the last couple meetings, we’re delighted to have race caller and all-around good guy Matt Dinerman as our host for previews and other musings. But this is his last one of the meeting as Golden Gate takes a break on Sunday. But, Matt will be back, so, take it away for the last preview of this meeting.

“With three more live racing days on the calendar, Golden Gate Fields has a number of competitive, quality races lined up. Nine races are posted on the Friday overnight, with first post set at 12:45 p.m. The fifth race has a field of 12 on the turf and goes as Leg C of the Stronach 5 wager, with a guaranteed pool of $100,000. My top pick is the 2-1 morning-line favorite Thorn Hill Cat, who last lost to Sith Lord, who came back to run a terrific second in a starter allowance. Thorn Hill Cat competes in a $20,000 claimer on Friday.

“There’s 11 races Saturday, with the feature going as the Albany Stakes. An appealing Golden Pick Six sequence includes a pair of competitive maiden special weights, an allowance for 3-year-old fillies and the $50,000 Albany Stakes.

“The Albany, which goes as the ninth race, is for 3-year-olds and up going five furlongs on the turf. Southern California shipper Brandothebartender draws the rail for his second lifetime start on the Golden Gate turf and may go off favored. The son of Tribal Rule comes off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita. My top pick in the race is Mike’s Tiznow, who looks like the lone speed and adores the five-furlong turf distance and surface. He’s 8-1 on the morning line and draws ghe seven for trainer Andy Mathis and jockey Ricky Gonzalez.

“Closing day Sunday has a 12-race program, with first post time at 1:15 p.m. The $0.20 Golden Pick Six, the Rolling Super High Five and the early and late Pick 5 wagers have mandatory payouts on Sunday, which means larger than normal pool sizes. Heading into Friday’s card, the Golden Pick Six has a carryover of just over $36,000. Also, we have a guaranteed late Pick 4 pool of $100,000 on Sunday.

“In other news, Golden Gate Fields welcomes back jockey Kyle Frey. The journeyman rider took an extended period of time off after sustaining a serious leg injury over the summer at Del Mar. Frey has two listed mounts on Saturday afternoon and five more on Sunday. “I’m really excited to get back to riding,” Frey said. “I’ve been working horses and feel really healthy. I’ll be ready to go this weekend.”

“Going into Friday, Jockey Abel Cedillo has 126 wins and sits atop the jockey standings. Juan Hernandez has the second most wins amongst riders with 103. Jonathan Wong has wrapped up a fourth consecutive training title at Golden Gate Fields with a whopping 85 wins at the winter/spring meet. Jerry Hollendorfer holds second place with 41 wins while John Martin completes the top three placing’s, equating 34 victories at the current meeting.

“Thank you to all of the horseplayers, fans and horsemen for a fantastic winter/spring meet. Live racing resumes on Thursday, Aug. 15, the first day of our summer meeting, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 29. Have a great summer.”

Los Alamitos weekend preview

It’s time to turn things over to marketing and meda guru Orlando Gutierrez, who will tell us about the upcoming weekend at Los Alamitos. Orlando, the floor is yours.

“Los Alamitos will open at 8 a.m. for simulcasting of the Belmont Stakes card from New York. The clubhouse and Vessels Club will open at 9 a.m. to bring all the great East Coast racing action. On Saturday night, Los Alamitos will host an eight-race program featuring thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing starting at 6:35 p.m.

“The racing week kicks off on Friday night starting at 7 p.m. There will four stakes, including Steve McIntyre and Marin Jones’ Grade 2 PCQHRA Breeders Futurity winner Cole Man 47, who will be headline the seventh race at 300 yards. Named after McIntyre’s grandson, Cole Man 47 won the John Deere California Juvenile Challenge in addition to his Breeders’ Futurity triumph. He's been a factor in several other stakes races, qualifying to the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Derby earlier this year and last year's Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity. Paul Jones will saddle the Utah-bred gelding by Stel Corona, who'll start from the four.

“Tac Me Up, the winner of the Autumn Handicap last year, and Genuine Version, winner of the 2017 Adequan California Derby Challenge, are also in this event.

“Multiple stakes winner Run Raging Rhino Run, who has scored black type wins at 550 and 870 yards this year, will head the evening's third race -- an allowance event around the turn.

“There are 11 races Sunday night and all of them trials at 350 yards to the Grade 1 Ed Burke Million Futurity. Ten of the 11 trials will have eight-horse fields with seven horses slated for the fourth race. The Ed Burke hopefuls include Mental Error and Dreams Divine, the second- and third-place finishers in the Grade 2 Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity last month. The horses with the 10 fastest times will advance to the Ed Burke Million final on Sunday, June 23.”

Ed Burgart’s LA pick of the day

FIFTH RACE: No. 5 Fayvorite Chick (7-2)

Filly looked solid in last 12.4 gate drill in preparation for debut and is out of productive dam Chicks Tell, who dropped 2019 debut winner Tell Cartel last month. In her last work, she broke well and was under restraint during final 1/16 while having plenty of run on mind. Her trainer Matt Fales, has won with 16 of 64 starters this meet.

Final thought

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Now, the star of the show, Friday’s entries.

Santa Anita Entries for Friday, June 7.

Santa Anita, Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, California. 26th day of a 41-day meet.


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $65,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Y Not SizzleAaron Gryder120Jeff Mullins4-1
2Super BunnyGeovanni Franco120Peter Miller8-1
3Morgan's HumorTiago Pereira120Antonio Garcia30-1
4Laker JetAgapito Delgadillo120Doug F. O'Neill6-1
5Our RomanceJorge Velez113Philip D'Amato7-2
6Buy Wave BuyBrice Blanc120Alexis Barba15-1
7GoodtingscominpinkRuben Fuentes120Vladimir Cerin5-2
8Lucky Ms JonesMartin Garcia125Philip D'Amato10-1
9Miss OmnipotentHeriberto Figueroa120George Papaprodromou50-1
10Full CourtNorberto Arroyo, Jr.125Jorge Gutierrez6-1


1 Mile. Purse: $30,000. 'POST TIME: 1:00 PM'. Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $16,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Friday's At ShadyRuben Fuentes120Jeff Bonde8-116,000
2Sunset SevenJ.C. Diaz, Jr.118David E. Hofmans7-216,000
3AlfareedKent Desormeaux125Jeff Bonde9-516,000
4TopgallantMartin Pedroza125Dan L. Hendricks2-116,000
5Liberty ParkEvin Roman125Clifford W. Sise, Jr.3-116,000


1 Mile Turf. Purse: $43,000. Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $35,000.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Heart of the NileDiego Sanchez125Hector O. Palma8-135,000
2Take a LeapAaron Gryder125Manuel Ortiz, Sr.5-235,000
3Twirling ApplesGeovanni Franco125Vladimir Cerin8-535,000
4WhirlingTiago Pereira125George Papaprodromou4-135,000
5Wind Tartare Rafael Bejarano125Vann Belvoir8-135,000
6Be Lifted UpKent Desormeaux120Jeff Mullins4-135,000


1 Mile. Purse: $35,000. Starter Allowance. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Baby IceAssael Espinoza123Steve Knapp3-1
2Majestic DivaTiago Pereira123David Bernstein2-1
3DurangaJorge Velez116Peter Miller9-5
4Blooming HannahFrancisco Orduna-Rojas123Robert A. Bean12-1
5Road TestJ.C. Diaz, Jr.116Dallas E. Keen3-1


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $67,000. Allowance Optional Claiming. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $20,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Joe JacksonNorberto Arroyo, Jr.123Jack Carava8-1
2Psycho DarEdwin Maldonado123Steven Miyadi5-2
3Fashionably FastTiago Pereira125Dean Pederson7-2
4ScoutedJoseph Talamo120Craig Dollase15-1
5First in ShowDrayden Van Dyke120Mark Glatt12-1
6Wound TightKent Desormeaux125Robert B. Hess, Jr.8-1
7Grinning TigerGeovanni Franco125Anthony K. Saavedra20-1
8Three Ay EmRafael Bejarano118Doug F. O'Neill6-1
9Prodigal SonMartin Garcia120Doug F. O'Neill3-1
Also Eligible
10PortandoRuben Fuentes125Michael W. McCarthy4-120,000
11Quick FinishJoseph Talamo125Dan Blacker5-120,000


6 Furlongs. Purse: $42,000. Maiden Claiming. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. Claiming Price $50,000. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1California CometJorge Velez113Anna Meah5-250,000
2My Gal TootsEswan Flores120Jorge Periban9-250,000
3Harper's GallopRuben Fuentes120Jack Carava3-150,000
4ChirpJ.C. Diaz, Jr.113Leonard Powell4-150,000
5Lady BeyonceTiago Pereira120Lloyd C. Wicker20-150,000
6VellaAlonso Quinonez120Lloyd C. Wicker2-150,000


5 Furlongs Turf. Purse: $65,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies and Mares. 3 year olds and up. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1AnconaVictor Espinoza120Carla Gaines6-1
2Put Her On HoldEswan Flores120Bobby Wayne Grayson15-1
3Evening SonnetDiego Sanchez120Jay Nehf20-1
4Miss IndefatigableDrayden Van Dyke120Peter Miller4-1
5Miss RicochetMartin Pedroza125Mark Glatt5-1
6Into RissaJoseph Talamo125Gary Sherlock5-1
7Flying to the LineGeovanni Franco120Peter Miller3-1
8Stylin OceanAssael Espinoza120James M. Cassidy5-1
9Incredibly LuckyTiago Pereira125William Spawr8-1
Also Eligible
10Successful RulerRafael Bejarano125Librado Barocio5-2
11Spanish ChannelEdgar Payeras120Jesus Mendoza5-1
12Lucky LatelyDrayden Van Dyke120Carla Gaines4-1
13Second AvenueEdwin Maldonado120Paul G. Aguirre15-1


5 Furlongs. Purse: $65,000. Maiden Special Weight. Fillies. 2 year olds. State bred.

PPHorseJockeyWtTrainerM-LClaim $
1Takes a VillageEdwin Maldonado122Luis Mendez5-2
2Kissable UMartin Garcia122Doug F. O'Neill6-1
3NocherylikemycheryEdgar Payeras122Mike Harrington8-1
4Fran's EmpireRafael Bejarano122Vann Belvoir7-2
5None of Your BizAaron Gryder122Brian J. Koriner3-1
6Phoenix TearsTiago Pereira122Daniel Dunham30-1
7SassyserbJorge Velez115Anna Meah5-1
8Way too CuteAlonso Quinonez122Jeff Bonde10-1
Also Eligible
9Bandon ColleenJorge Velez115Michael Lenzini10-1