A field of 14 are set to tackle Saturday's 1 1/2 mile $1 million Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY. The field boasts the Kentucky Derby winner Orb, the Preakness winner Oxbow, and a filly, Unlimited Budget who will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, the country's top female rider (fifth overall) in earnings.
Although Kentucky Derby winner Orb was not able to get the second jewel in the Triple Crown, he's back to try to take the third. A dawdling pace up front in the Preakness set by eventual winner Oxbow, did not suit the late running style of Orb and gave this son of Malibu Moon nothing to close upon. Paired with his poor post position on the rail, Orb did well to get up for fourth. The Belmont Stakes will be different.
This time, Kenny McPeek’s Frac Daddy drew the rail. Frac Daddy prefers to sit just off the pace, but coming out of the one hole, he’ll have to be quick to get out of the gate and out of trouble or be pushed back in the crowded field and try to maneuver through traffic to get back up to a comfortable position. With the front-running Peter Pan (G2) winner Freedom Child on Frac Daddy’s outside in Post 2, Frac Daddy will likely be forced to go with him. This will likely be a speed duel Frac Daddy will lose.
Freedom Child, also a son of Malibu Moon, earned a Brisnet speed figure of 105 in the Peter Pan over a sloppy Belmont track, but received ratings in the 80s in most of his previous starts. With the speed of other front-runners like Oxbow, Midnight Taboo, and Giant Finish, that’s not going to be enough to best this field nor have a shot at wiring it.
Of the front-runners, D. Wayne Lukas’s Oxbow has the best speed ratings, but with all those others challenging him for the lead or pressing the pace, he’s not going to be able to take the field from gate to wire as easily as he did in the Preakness.
With all this early speed and Frac Daddy stuck on the rail, the race sets up nicely for a closer like Orb, Golden Soul, or Will Take Charge.
Orb and trainer Claude "Shug" McGaughey III have returned home to New York where the Derby winner has been able to settle into his regular barn. From accounts of those on the grounds at Belmont, Orb is looking and doing well. He gets a better post position, breaking from gate 5, and has the breeding to go the longer distance. Many thought after his Kentucky Derby win that fans were finally going to see the next Triple Crown winner, but the poor post position and traffic issues encountered in the Preakness dashed those dreams. It’s very possible that Orb becomes the 12th horse to win both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont.
Dallas Stewart’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Golden Soul sat out the Preakness to take a fresh attempt at the Belmont. Although he has only a maiden win in his career, he’s held his own against this year’s top three-year-olds and continues to improve. He drew the far outside post of 14, but with his stalking running style, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Will Take Charge, the other Lukas runner, may be the best value play in the field. At a morning line of 20-1, this half-brother to Take Charge Indy is a definite play. He’s faced trouble in his last three starts and was moving with Orb at the stretch of the Kentucky Derby. While Orb had a clear path, Will Take Charge found traffic and finished seventh. After the post-position draw in which Will Take Charge drew 10, Lukas said, “With a clean trip he could surprise, I wouldn’t leave him out of my superfecta, at least.”
And lastly, there’s the filly factor. Todd Pletcher’s third-place Kentucky Oaks runner Unlimited Budget and jockey Rosie Napravnik will take on the boys and try to become the first female duo to win the classic race. Twenty-two fillies have attempted the race in 144 runnings, with only three victorious. Only one female jockey, Julie Krone, has won the race (Colonial Affair, 1993).
Unlimited Budget was undefeated going into the Kentucky Oaks and was beaten 2 ½ lengths by winner Princess of Sylmar. With two three-digit Brisnet speed ratings, she’s as fast as many of the boys in this field and as a daughter of Street Sense, she has the breeding to tackle the distance. Although it will be tough to win outright, Unlimited Budget does have a shot at hitting the board.
The field from the rail out, with odds, is: Frac Daddy, 30-1, Freedom Child 8-1, Overanalyze 12-1, Giant Finish 30-1, Orb 3-1, Incognito 20-1, Oxbow 7-1, Midnight Taboo 30-1, Revolutionary 9-2, Will Take Charge 20-1, Vyjack 20-1, Palace Malice 15-1, Unlimited Budget 8-1, and Golden Soul 10-1.
The race is the 11th on the Belmont card with a scheduled post-time of 6:36 EDT. It can be seen live on NBC. Belmont is offering a Brooklyn-Belmont double wager that combines Friday’s Brooklyn Handicap with Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Click here for free PPs of both races courtesy of Brisnet.