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Belmont Stakes Field Taking Shape; It Won’t Be Half Bad For Cox, Pletcher

At least 10 horses could enter the starting gate for the Belmont Stakes on June 10, with potentially half the field trained by Todd Pletcher and Brad Cox. The wild card is Forte, who is a likely starter provided he comes off the vet’s list for Pletcher. Belmont Stakes predictions will come easier once the status of the 2-year-old champion is determined.

Black Cloud Hangs over Forte after Scratch, Failed Drug Test

Forte was destined to be the post-time favorite in the Kentucky Derby on May 6, but was scratched on the morning of the race because of a foot injury. Days later, the news broke that Forte failed a drug test after winning the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in September. Pletcher has appealed his 10-day suspension, but what does this all mean for the Belmont?

Belmont Stakes Field Taking Shape; It Won’t Be Half Bad For Cox, Pletcher
Angel of Empire runs on the track - Andy Lyons/Getty Images/afp

Forte was placed on the veterinarian’s list after his Derby scratch. He worked five furlongs on May 27 under the watchful eye of a New York veterinarian, who also took a blood sample. If those tests come back clean, Forte will be allowed to run in the Belmont.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher told the media. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

If Forte runs, he is a must use in any of your Belmont Stakes picks. He is listed as the early 2-1 favorite, which would be a square price.

Tapit Trice, Angel of Empire, Hit Show Ready To Go

Two other Pletcher horses in Tapit Trice and Prove Worthy are potential runners. Tapit Trice was a disappointing seventh as the 9-2 second choice in the Kentucky Derby. Prove Worthy broke his maiden at Churchill Downs on May 2, going 1¼ miles in his third career start.

Cox is expected to be represented by Angel of Empire, Hit Show and Tapit Shoes. Angel of Empire was third as the 4-1 favorite in the Derby. Hit Show was saddled with the dreaded No. 1 post in the Derby, but finished an overachieving fifth at 24-1. Tapit Shoes has hit the board in 3 of 5 starts after finishing second in a listed stake at Oaklawn on April 22.

The biggest threat to Pletcher and Cox will come from Bob Baffert, who sends out National Treasure. The Preakness winner is capable of stealing the race on the front end. Mage, the Derby winner, will not be entered and has been pointed toward a summer campaign.

Keep an eye out for more Belmont Stakes news leading up to the third leg of the Triple Crown.

— Matthew (@failedtomenace) June 1, 2023

Undercard Expected To Be Strong – as Always

An annual highlight is the Belmont Stakes undercard, and 2023 should be no exception. Opportunities will be plentiful when betting online, including what is always an exciting all-stakes Pick 5. The main event is the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile, and a showdown between hard hitters Cody’s Wish and Taiba, and Hall of Fame trainers Bill Mott and Bob Baffert.

Cody’s Wish, trained by Mott, won the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The 5-year-old made it five straight with an emphatic, come-from-behind victory in the Churchill Downs Stakes last month in his season debut. Taiba, conditioned by Baffert, is a three-time Grade 1 winner. The 4-year-old comes off an eighth-place finish in the Group 1 Saudi Cup. It is hard to separate the two as far as who will be the favorite in the Belmont Stakes Vegas odds.

The Grade 1 Ogden Phipps, at 1 1/16 miles for fillies and mares, is expected to feature Secret Oath and Clairiere. The mares each beat the other at Oaklawn earlier this season. Pletcher told Bloodhorse that Nest is “probably running out of time for the Phipps” after breezing on May 26.

Baffert said that Arabian Lion, an impressive winner in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard, could start in the Grade 1 Woody Stephens at seven furlongs. Arabian Lion worked three furlongs in 37.8 seconds on May 29, and will be a potentially heavy favorite at the racebook. … Other stakes leading up the Belmont include the Grade 1 Manhattan at 1¼ miles on the turf, the Grade 1 Jaipur at six furlongs on the turf, the Grade 2 True North at 6½ furlongs and the Grade 3 Poker at 1 mile on the turf.

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