Forte is early favorite in very competitive Belmont Stakes

Forte works out at Churchill Downs with an exercise rider.
Forte, working out at Churchill Downs with an exercise rider, makes his return to racing Saturday in the Belmont Stakes after he was scratched from the Kentucky Derby on race day.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

If you go by the morning-line odds, the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday should be very competitive.

The odds were revealed during the Tuesday post-position draw. It certainly showed that post position in a field of nine going 1½ miles really doesn’t mean a lot.

Forte, who scratched on race day for the Kentucky Derby, was made the 5-2 favorite breaking from the six. Tapit Trice was the second favorite at 3-1 odds and will go from the second post while Angel of Empire was installed at 7-2 odds and will break from the eighth position. It couldn’t be much closer.

“You have to expect [Forte] to be a fit horse,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “It’s 10 weeks between races but he had a great foundation leading into that and he hasn’t missed much training.”


Pletcher also has the second choice in Tapit Trice, who finished a disappointing seventh in the Kentucky Derby, his only loss of the year.

“If we can get him into a good position and into a good rhythm, I think he’s going to like the mile and a half,” Pletcher said. “He’s been training that way.”

The return of Kentucky Derby favorite Forte and Preakness winner National Treasure adds intrigue to the race as the sport deals with a spike in horse deaths.

June 5, 2023

Trainer Brad Cox has three horses in the race, including Angel of Empire, who finished third in the Derby, 1½ lengths behind winner Mage.

“[Jockey] Flavien [Prat] came back after the Derby and immediately said to put blinkers on the horse,” Cox said of the equipment that helps keep a horse from being distracted. “I don’t know that it would have made a big difference in winning the Derby but I do know he trains well in them.”

Cox also has Hit Show (post 7, 10-1) and Tapit Shoes (post 1, 20-1) in the race.


The only Southern California horse in the Belmont is the Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure, who won the Preakness three weeks ago. He drew post four and is listed at 5-1 on the morning line.

“We wanted an inside-type post, so post four should be perfect for him,” assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said. “At a mile and a half, it’s not that big of a concern.

“Most of the Belmonts we’ve won, our horse has been up close, so I’d say that’s where he’ll probably be.”

Baffert won’t be arriving until later in the week. He hasn’t been at Belmont Park since 2018, when Justify completed the Triple Crown by winning the Belmont Stakes.

Belmont Stake post positions

Post, Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Odds

1, Tapit Shoes, Brad Cox, Jose Ortiz, 20-1

2, Tapit Trice, Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 3-1

3, Arcangelo, Jena Antonucci, Javier Castellano, 8-1

4, National Treasure, Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 5-1

5, Il Miracolo, Antonio Sano, Marcos Meneses, 30-1

6, Forte, Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz, Jr., 5-2

7, Hit Show, Brad Cox, Manny Franco, 10-1

8, Angel of Empire, Brad Cox, Flavien Prat, 7-2

9, Red Route One, Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 15-1