Oddsmakers Consider Tacitus, War of Will Prime Contenders for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes

Posted on: June 5, 2019, 04:23h. 

Last updated on: June 5, 2019, 04:23h.

Tacitus earned morning line favorite status for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes after the Bill Mott-trained colt drew the outside starting gate for the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

Tacitus, seen here earning his first win last November at Aqueduct, is the 9-5 favorite for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. (Image: Coglianese /NYRA)

Oddsmakers gave Tacitus 9-5 odds for the 1-1/2-mile Grade I stakes race, which drew 10 entries. The second choice, Preakness Stakes winner War of Will, will run just inside of Tacitus in the ninth gate. The Mark Casse-trained colt starts at 2-1.

With Triple Crown on the line this year, War of Will still can make history. He can become the 12th horse, excluding the 13 Triple Crown winners, to claim the Preakness-Belmont double. The last non-Triple Crown winner to accomplish the feat was Afleet Alex 14 years ago.

Over the years, one of the things that’s made Belmont so tough is when the Derby and Preakness winners are here and get beat, it’s usually by a Belmont-based horse,” Casse said after Tuesday’s post position draw. “There’s an advantage to it. But, I’ve had this since the beginning, that great horses can win when things aren’t perfect. Is it ideal? No. Can he win? Absolutely.”

Both trainers come to New York searching for their second Triple Crown win this year. Mott, of course, won the Kentucky Derby with 65-1 shot Country House, who was placed first after stewards disqualified apparent winner Maximum Security for interfering with horses, including War of Will, in the final turn.

Mott kept Country House out of the Preakness after discovering a respiratory issue. Maximum Security’s connections also kept him out of the Preakness, and while they considered the Belmont, the Jason Servis-trained colt is likely headed toward next month’s Haskell Invitational in New Jersey.

Rest Key for Tacitus

While War of Will has won four of his last six races, Tacitus won three straight before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. What may give Tacitus a slight edge is that he hasn’t raced since then, giving him five weeks of rest compared to just three for War of Will, who will be ridden by Tyle Gaffalione.

“Had Tacitus won the Kentucky Derby, I suppose we would have taken a chance at the Preakness, but we didn’t feel like we wanted to run him back in two weeks,” Mott said.

Tacitus, ridden by Jose Oritz, will also likely draw a lot of interest from the New York crowd at the Long Island track. He finished fourth in his first race at Belmont last October, before winning his first race in a maiden special weight a month later at Aqueduct.

After winning the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby in Florida in March, he returned to Aqueduct a month later and claimed the Grade II Wood Memorial. He overcame a rough start to win that by 1-1/4 lengths. In the Kentucky Derby, he rallied from 16th place at the half-mile mark to finish fourth and then get placed into third.

Japanese Colt Third Choice

There appear to be several value selections as only one other horse, Master Fencer at 8-1, drew single-digit odds for the race. Bettors lightly considered the Japanese colt in the Kentucky Derby, but he wound up sixth. He raced last in the 19-horse field throughout the first mile before finding his stride late, moving from 12th at the top of the stretch to finish seventh before the stewards’ ruling.

Under jockey Julien Leparoux, Master Fencer will start from the third gate.

The other horses in the field include (in order of post position): 30-1 Joveia; 12-1 Everfast, who finished second in the Preakness; 15-1 Tax; 12-1 Bourbon War, who will now have Mike Smith on the saddle; 15-1 Spinoff; 12-1 Sir Winston, another Casse-trained colt; and 10-1 Intrepid Heart, a Belmont stabled horse.

William Hill’s sportsbooks in Nevada posted identical odds for the entries on its futures board Wednesday. As did offshore book USRacing.com.