No Shows, Injuries Create Wide Open Field for Belmont Stakes

Posted on: June 9, 2017, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: June 9, 2017, 04:06h.

Instead of a “Who’s Who” of horses entered in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, many handicappers instead are asking “Who’s This?” Several of the marquee horses have either chosen not to enter the race or can’t run because of injury.

Belmont Stakes preview
Classic Empire is one of three favorites that have pulled out of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming and Preakness winner, Cloud Computing were the other two. (Image: AP)

The first blow to the third leg of the Triple Crown was when Kentucky Derby winner, Always Dreaming finished eighth at the Preakness, May 20. That meant no horse was going to win all three races that make up the sport’s Holy Grail and immediately the Belmont was no longer must watch television.

Winning the Triple Crown is one of the most difficult titles to achieve in sports. Since 1875 only 12 horses have accomplished the feat. Since 1949, only Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978) and American Pharoah (2015) have done it.

In that same time period 16 horses have won the first two Triple Crown events only to come up short in the Belmont. The most recent was California Chrome in 2014, who finished fourth in the third contest.

Race Faces Setbacks

So with the intrigue removed from this year’s competition, it still looked like a good race. That was until the top picks started dropping out. The first was Always Dreaming. The winner of the Kentucky Derby was pulled out by trainer, Todd Pletcher shortly after the Preakness.

According to the Daily Racing Form Pletcher said the 3-year-old colt’s next race would be either the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30.

Chad Brown, the trainer of Preakness winner, Cloud Computing, said a week later, that his horse would also not run in the Belmont. There was no reason given.

Ironically both Pletcher and Brown have horses competing Saturday on the 1-1/2 mile track. Pletcher has Tapwrit, a 6-1 morning line offering, who finished sixth at the Kentucky Derby, despite breaking badly from the gate.

He also has Patch, the one-eyed horse is 12-1. Brown enters Twisted Tom, 6-1, on the rail, right next to Tapwrit. He has won three consecutive races, but none against this level of equine.

Another Favorite Out

With Always Dreaming and Cloud Computing out of the Belmont, Classic Empire was tabbed as the new favorite. The horse was a prerace favorite at the Derby, though finished fourth. It did finish second at the Preakness.

Then bad news came to the horse’s team and Wednesday trainer Mark Casse said Classic Empire had an abscess in his right front hoof. Rather than take a chance on further aggravating the injury, they decided to withdraw.

“He’ll be better as soon as it busts open,” Casse said. “He’ll have instant relief, but he can’t run. He’s been too good to us.”

That made Irish War Cry the new favorite at 7-2. That horse only ran in the derby so it should be fresh on Saturday. Another horse in the race is Looking at Lee, at 5-1, and the only one to run in all three races.