Favorite Justify Faces Fresh Rivals at 2018 Belmont Stakes

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Running from the rail post and facing horses who are better rested could derail Justify’s bid for horse racing’s Triple Crown.

As one would expect with the chestnut colt who has won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Justify is the -110 favorite on the 2018 Belmont Stakes odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The 1½-mile race, the final jewel in the Triple Crown, takes place at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., on Saturday.

Thirty-five horses have gone into the Belmont with a chance to win the Triple Crown but only 12 have completed the feat, with American Pharoah being the most recent in 2015. Many owners and trainers hold back their horses from the Preakness.

Justify and jockey Mike Smith have drawn gate 1, meaning that it will be an absolute must for the colt to have the same speed he has shown in previous starts, especially during the first quarter-mile.

Hofburg (+450) is a deserving second favorite on the Belmont Stakes betting lines but is running from gate 4 and that could limit his chance to break from the outside. Bravazo (+750), who is in gate 3, has flashed potential this spring and had a great effort in the Preakness but might be too much of a wild card.

The value play could be Tenfold (+1000), who ran third in the Preakness and will have the more favorable No. 7 position. Bettors who read into pedigree have likely already noted Tenfold is a son of Tapit, who has sired three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners.

Blended Citizen (+1800), who has the outside No. 10 position, could be in the running to at least show after having success on the same track on May 12 when he won the Peter Pan Stakes, which is only nine furlongs to the Belmont’s 12. In 2014, a Peter Pan winner, Tonalist, squelched California Chrome’s Triple Crown bid.

The two Todd Pletcher-trained racers, Vino Rosso (+900) and Noble Indy (+2800), will break side-by-side from gates 8 and 9 respectively. At those odds, Noble Indy might be worth taking a flyer on, given that Pletcher has trained three Belmont Stakes winners.

The rest of the 10-horse field consists of Gronkowski (+2500, gate 6), Free Drop Billy (+3000, gate 2) and Restoring Hope (+3300, gate 5).

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

 

 

Second horse in 4 days dies at Santa Anita

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Santa Anita had its second horse death in four days when a gelding pulled up during a race Sunday and was euthanized a day later.

Twenty-five horses have now died in racing or training at the Southern California track since Dec. 26.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Spectacular Music was running in a six-furlong maiden claiming race when the jockey pulled the horse up on the backstretch shortly after leaving the gate.

The horse was taken off the course with a pelvis injury and the decision to euthanize him was made Monday morning.

On Friday, a 3-year-old horse broke down with a shoulder injury while galloping and was euthanized at the track.

Santa Anita is scheduled to host the Breeders’ Cup Nov. 1-2. It’s considered the biggest two-day event in U.S. horse racing.

Preakness winner War of Will likely to run in Belmont

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BALTIMORE (AP) Owner Gary Barber called trainer Mark Casse for the fourth time in 11 hours since War of Will won the Preakness.

Only this time, Casse was in the middle of holding court with reporters the morning after his first Triple Crown victory.

“All’s good and we’re going to the Belmont?” Casse said to Barber with a Cheshire cat grin. “I was kidding. I was making that up.”

Well, not totally.

Assuming all goes well in the coming weeks, Casse said “there’s an extremely good shot” War of Will goes to the Belmont Stakes on June 8 in New York. If he wins, he’d be the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 to fall short in the Kentucky Derby before capturing the Preakness and Belmont and would be the front-runner for 3-year-old horse of the year.

“It’s the third leg of the Triple Crown, who doesn’t want to win it?” Casse said Sunday. “There are only three Triple Crown races, and they’re pretty important. I think if you can do it you should do it. …

“That’s what we do. We run.”

Those watching the Preakness saw a horse run the entire race and then some after throwing off his jockey out of the starting gate, a scene that – once it was clear rider John Velazquez was OK – served as a reminder of how much thoroughbreds love to run. Bodexpress provided a memorable spectacle as War of Will fulfilled his potential at Pimlico.

The Belmont is another substantial test for the tough and talented War of Will because it’s a third race in six weeks and is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1+ miles.

There won’t be a Kentucky Derby rematch with Maximum Security, who was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, or Country House, who was placed first and since been sidelined by illness. And two-time Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert said he probably won’t take Improbable to the Belmont after finishing out of the money in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the favorite.

But War of Will could have to contend with Derby returners Tacitus, Master Fencer and perhaps Baffert’s Game Winner, along with Preakness surprise second-place finisher Everfast, third-place runner Owendale and ninth-place Signalman. Trainer Bill Mott ruled out Country House but is planning to take Tacitus to the Belmont and figures the gray colt will have no problem in a significantly longer race.

“He should handle it fine,” Mott said by phone Saturday. “My guess was that he’d handle the Derby distance fine, which he did. I was pleased. I think it goes the same for the Belmont. I think it’s within his grasp.”

If the Preakness had more than an extra quarter-mile, closers Everfast and Owendale might’ve put a scare into War of Will on Saturday. Everfast was a late entry by trainer Dale Romans three days before the race and opened at 50-1 but showed he might be a good long-distance runner.

“We almost had it,” Everfast jockey Joel Rosario said. “He ran great. We have a great shot at the Belmont.”

Tacitus, Everfast and Owendale will be strong challengers, but this should be War of Will’s Belmont to lose. Had he not endured such a rough trip in and been interfered with at Churchill Downs on May 4, there could be another wave of Triple Crown talk going on right now about a third winner in five years.

But Casse isn’t thinking about that, still grateful War of Will avoided going down in the Derby and was able to rebound and run well in the Preakness. He’ll monitor the horse back at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington, Kentucky, to make sure a sore foot and his energy level are good enough to run in the Belmont on a three-week turnaround.

Casse can’t predict how War of Will responds this time, but he knows what it would mean if the horse comes out on top once again.

“He’s just an athlete,” Casse said. “It would just show that he’s tough and able to overcome things.”