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Belmont Stakes analysis

Exaggerator ridden by Kent Desormeaux leads the field

Exaggerator ridden by Kent Desormeaux leads the field to win the 141st running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 21, 2016 in Baltimore. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Rob Carr

Horses listed by post position


Trainer: Christophe Clement

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Record: 7-2-4-1

Last 3: 2-2-1

New York-bred with impressive late-pace figures threw a scare into undefeated Unified late in the Peter Pan. Improving colt might outrun his odds for Clement, who derailed California Chrome’s 2014 Triple Crown bid with Tonalist. Likely to improve in third start off a layoff but needs a big leap forward to even contend.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 6-3-0-1

Last 3: 6-1-1

Ran a creditable sixth in the Derby with the odds stacked against him: an eight-week layoff and a rough trip in his first try past 1 1/16 miles. Has the tracking style that often wins the Belmont, and his closing figures are solid. Pletcher has two Belmont wins and excels off five-week layoffs. If Exaggerator has an off day, this colt could be the one to capitalize.


Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Corey Lanerie

Record: 9-2-2-2

Last 3: 2-3-4

Deep closer caught a weary Nyquist in the final jump to inflate the Preakness exacta. No chance he’ll get the hot pace that set up his late move at Pimlico, and he’ll probably be overbet because he’s only the second horse ever to finish in front of Nyquist. Belongs in exotics but not on top.


Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel

Jockey: Mike Smith

Record: 9-3-4-0

Last 3: 5-2-5

Surged far too late for fifth in the Derby after a horrible trip (blocked early, steadied), and made up 7¼ lengths in stretch. With better luck he should have been fourth, maybe even third. Can’t see him winning but he belongs underneath in any exotic.


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 4-2-0-0

Last 3: 4-1-1

Looked like the front-runner by default until Gettysburg became Pletcher’s third entry. Ran a respectable fourth in the Preakness despite a troubled trip from the outside post. His sire, Medaglia d’Oro, ran second in the 2002 Belmont, so he might have the stamina to lead to upper stretch. After that, take your best guess. Upset possibility.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Paco Lopez

Record: 7-1-1-2

Last 3: 3-5-2

Nature abhors a vacuum, and apparently so does a classic without a confirmed front-runner. WinStar Farm entered Gettysburg as a rabbit to aid its deep closer, Creator. Then again, WinStar has a stud deal with Exaggerator, who closed to win the Preakness, so maybe Gettysburg is there to help him, too. On his own merits, he doesn’t belong, going 0-for-3 in stakes. In front for as far as he goes, probably a mile or so.


Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Record: 3-1-1-0

Last 3: 3-1-1-0

Like fellow no-hoper Forever d’Oro, he just won for the first time, is trained by Stewart and owned by Charles E. Fipke, who made his fortune in diamonds and other precious stones. Entering this inexperienced duo in the Belmont will not lead to a shining moment that will last forever. Never been around two turns or beyond a mile. Root for both colts to stay in the barn.


Trainer: Dallas Stewart

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 3-1-0-0

Last 3: 3-1-0

Closer broke his maiden by a nose at 1 1/16 miles on May 29 at Belmont, so it’s on to the Belmont Stakes. Why ask why? Other than facing multiple-stakes winners on short rest while going almost a half-mile farther than he’s ever run, it seems like a good idea. Belongs in a first-level allowance. No chance, just like his stablemate, Seeking the Soul.


Trainer: Paddy Gallagher

Jockey: Aaron Gryder

Record: 7-0-1-3

Last 3: 16-2-3

Visually impressive but slow final fraction (13 4/5 seconds) for second in Wood Memorial sent this maiden to the Derby, where predictably he was up the track. Once again, he’s an automatic throwout.


Trainer: Mikio Matsunaga

Jockey: Yutaka Take

Record: 8-3-1-0

Last 3: 5-9-1

Temperamental Japan-based colt endured another tough trip but still ran fifth in the sloppy Preakness. His grinding style should help in the Belmont, and he has the best distance pedigree in the field. Connections always thought the Belmont would be his best chance in the Triple Crown. Victory would be a shock, but an across-the-board bet wouldn’t be the worst stab.


Trainer: Keith Desormeaux

Jockey: Kent Desormeaux

Record: 11-5-3-1

Last 3: 1-2-1

Conqueror of undefeated Nyquist never runs a bad one, doesn’t need a wet track and is clearly the horse to beat. Wouldn’t take less than 8-5, but you won’t get that, and favorites do lose two-thirds of the time. The most likely winner is versatile enough to stay close to the pace, maybe even lay second or third, then surge to the finish. Beat him to cash, which won’t be easy.


Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Record: 7-3-0-1

Last 3: 7-1-7

Hasn’t run since the Derby, in which this inconsistent deep closer never got involved, passing tired horses to be seventh, 9½ lengths behind. Poor speed figures, and his final fractions aren’t much. Romans finished third in four Belmonts and could do it again, but his other entry, Cherry Wine, looks tougher.


Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Record: 9-2-4-1

Last 3: 13-1-3

Checked, bumped hard when 13th in Derby, where hot fractions should have helped this gray, one of seven closers in this back-loaded Belmont. Even if you toss out his Derby as too bad to be true, I can’t recommend a win bet. If everything goes his way, maybe third or fourth.

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