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Ed McNamara's 2019 Belmont Stakes horse-by-horse analysis

Belmont Stakes contender Tacitus trains at Belmont Park

Belmont Stakes contender Tacitus trains at Belmont Park on Tuesday prior to Saturday's 151st Belmont Stakes . Credit: Getty Images/Al Bello


Trainer: Greg Sacco

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Record: 5-2-2-0

Last 3: 1-11-2

Post: 1

Odds: 30-1

If his name sounds familiar, then you must have seen his moving violation in the Wood Memorial. He crossed over from post 11, caused serious traffic problems in the run to the first turn and was disqualified to last. He rebounded next time out by leading throughout on a sloppy track in an ungraded, 1 1/16-mile stakes at Monmouth. He's 0-for-3 on fast tracks and doesn't fit with the best of his generation. He's cheap speed who might lead for a mile or so before retreating. Not a chance.     


Trainer: Dale Romans

Rider: Joel Rosario

Record: 11-1-2-1

Last 3: 2-5-9

Post: 2

Odds: 12-1

I dismissed Everfast in the Preakness as "an automatic throwout" and "a vanity entry." I was humbled when he came flying late to win a photo for second. He was 29-1 after losing his previous three races by a combined 43 3/4 lengths, so I wasn't the only one shocked. All credit to Romans, a terrific trainer who had him ready to move forward big time. Deep closers rarely win the Belmont, but he could pass tired horses and hit the board in a race in which Romans has been third four times.


Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Record: 7-2-2-0

Last 3: 6-2-4

Post: 3

Odds: 8-1

The morning after the Derby, Japanese media were working on Churchill Downs' backstretch. They smiled after an American said, "Your horse ran well." He did. Master Fencer justified the 6,600-mile trip by surging from 19th to seventh (placed sixth), beaten four lengths. The Derby was his Belmont prep, and he did enough to get here. In 2016, Japan-based Lani was ninth in the Derby, fifth in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. Can't recommend a win bet, but this guy belongs in trifectas and superfectas. At big odds, Master Fencer is worth a stab. 

4. TAX

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Record: 6-2-2-1

Last 3: 14-2-1

Post: 4

Odds: 15-1

Son of a mare named Toll has a great name that would fit perfectly in huge type in headlines. Unfortunately, this former maiden claimer hasn't made any. Gargan was on the fence about running before he announced Monday morning that it was a go. Has enough speed to be prominent early, usually a plus in the Belmont, and his pedigree is better for distance than most. The Derby is his only bad race, and you should never hold a dud there against a horse. It was his first time on a wet track, and he was never closer than ninth. Won't be shocked if he outruns his odds, but can't recommend a win bet.          


Trainer: Mark Hennig

Jockey: Mike Smith

Record: 6-2-1-0

Last 3: 8-4-2

Post: 5

Odds: 12-1

The "wise guy" horse in the Preakness was hammered from a 12-1 morning line to 5.60-1 second favorite. Unfortunately, I was duped by the buzz and picked him to win. On paper, Bourbon War was the field's best closer. On dirt, he never picked up his feet and plodded home eighth. Maybe the combination of blinkers on and a seven-week layoff were to blame. The blinkers come off, which can’t hurt. The race looked too bad to be true, the best you can say about it. Won't be picking him this time, but might put $5 to win as psychic insurance on the unlikely chance of a 180-degree form reversal.          


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 5-2-1-1

Last 3: 18-2-1

Post: 6

Odds: 15-1

Close second in the Louisiana Derby sent him to Louisville with some momentum. Had an awful trip from post 17 in the Derby, where the speedy stalker never got close to the lead and was wide throughout in his only off-the-board finish. Never won past a mile and 40 yards and is 0-for-3 in graded stakes, so he has a lot to prove. It's not logical to expect it all to come together suddenly while going a mile and a half. I won't be using him.


Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Record: 9-2-1-1

Last 3: 2-7-5

Post: 7

Odds: 12-1

War of Will's stablemate earned a Belmont run with a surprising second at 14-1 odds in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan at Belmont Park. Deep closer zipped the final furlong in under 12 seconds in a very fast (1:46 3/5) race. That was by far his best effort on dirt, where he's 0-for-5. Was it a fluke after three straight duds, or did the light come on? His pedigree says distance (by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Awesome Again out of a daughter of 2005 Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex). Not saying he can win, but won't be shocked if he runs well again on a track he liked.    


Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 3-2-0-1

Last three: 3-1-1

Post: 8

Odds: 10-1

 On the plus side, he's by Tapit, who sired three of the last five Belmont winners, and out of a mare by 1997 Belmont hero Touch Gold. Blinkers on, which may help. His inexperience is a major concern, however, and he's never been around two turns or won beyond 1 1/16 miles. For the first time in his very brief career, he won't be favored, and you can forgive his distant third at even-money in the Peter Pan, when he stumbled at the start. Pletcher has three Belmont wins and surely will get more, but I doubt if this colt will earn the trophy.


Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Record: 10-4-1-1

Last 3: 1-7-1


Odds: 2-1

War of Will got the perfect trip in the Preakness, tracking a fast pace on a golden rail before blowing it open. If you didn't have him at 6-1 there, should you take less than half of that Saturday? Speed often wins the Belmont, and he has plenty, but will a son of War Front stay 1 1/2 miles? He'll be the only one to run in all three classics, and of the last 13 Belmont winners, only American Pharoah and Justify did that. He's No. 2 in his class behind Maximum Security, but maybe the Belmont is two furlongs too far and one race too many. I'll try to beat him.                  


Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 5-3-0-1

Last 3: 3-1-1

Post: 10

Odds: 9-5 

Was a disappointment in the Kentucky Derby, when he was much farther off the pace than expected and never had a shot at winning. Closed well much too late for fourth (placed third on Maximum Security's disqualification). He's been training well at Belmont, clipping off 12-second furlongs in two solid 5-furlong workouts, which is what you want to see coming into a marathon in which relaxing is crucial. Had the best distance pedigree in the Derby, when he may have disliked the gooey track, and has the best distance pedigree again. The five-week layoff appears to have helped him to mature, and the tactically brilliant Ortiz is a big plus. A major contender.


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