2017 Belmont Stakes: How to Watch

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The Triple Crown concludes this weekend on NBC Sports with the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN with a 6:37 p.m. post time from Belmont Park.

Watch: 2017 Belmont Stakes (Saturday at 3 p.m. ET)

For the second straight year, a different horse will win each leg of the Triple Crown, after Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness winner Cloud Computing were held out of this weekend’s festivities in Elmont, NY. A host of contenders will look to seize glory in their absence, including the Japanese import Epicharis, who opened at 4-1 odds in his first race on American soil.

The air of mystery surrounding the three-year old colt has only increased this week after trainers kept Epicharis in his barn on Thursday and Friday morning with a right hoof issue. His connections insist that Epicharis is still ready to take on the Belmont, but he’s been bumped down to 12-1 odds ahead of the Triple Crown’s longest and most demanding race.

Another horse to watch will be Lookin at Lee, who is holding steady at 5-1 odds after notching top-five finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. The only horse in the field to run the first two legs of the Triple Crown (after Classic Empire was scratched earlier this week), Lookin at Lee just missed a historic win at Churchill Downs, nearly overcoming 20-1 odds and finishing second behind Always Dreaming.

The Friday evening favorite is Irish War Cry at 4-1 odds and the one-eyed Patch will once again be the among the underdog at 12-1 odds.

When: 3 p.m. ET (Post Time – 6:37 p.m. ET)

Where: NBCSN, NBC, NBC Sports app

Live Stream: NBC Sports Live and the NBC Sports app

 

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.