The 2016 Triple Crown racing season comes to a close this Saturday with the running of the 148th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. The Triple Crown title is not up for grabs this time around.
The $1.5 million Belmont Stakes is the longest and most grueling test in this three-race series. Contested on dirt over an extended length of 1 ½ miles anything can happen making this one of the toughest races to handicap as well. After breaking down the 13-horse field entered in Saturday's main event, the following are my top three sport picks to Win, Place and Show.
Favorite to Win
Breaking from the No. 2 post as a 6/1 third-favorite on the morning line, I am going with Destin as my top pick to win this Saturday's Belmont. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, this three-year old Kentucky-bred caught my eye with back-to-back victories at Tampa Bay Downs in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes and the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby earlier this year. A longer than normal layoff may have contributed to a sixth-place finish in May's Kentucky Derby, but I liked the fact that he was held out of the Preakness to train for the added distance of this race.
Destin is a pedigree of Giant's Causeway going back to a progeny to Storm Bird and he comes into this race with a Horse Racing Nation rank of 46th and a rating of 7.97.
Favorite to Place
Exaggerator finished second to Nyquist in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita in mid-February before he placed second to his rival in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The three-year old Kentucky-bred colt was finally able to steal the limelight with a huge victory in last month's Preakness Stakes. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by Ken Desormeaux, he comes into this race as the 9/5 favorite on the morning line breaking from the No. 11 post.
There is no doubt that Exaggerator is the class of this field with a HRN ranking of 16th and the highest rating in the field at 8.54, but my main concern with the added distance of the Belmont is the wear and tear of running all three Triple Crown events.
Favorite to Show
Another three-year old Kentucky-bred colt that skipped the Preakness to train for the added distance of the Belmont was Suddenbreakingnews. He went off at 20/1 odds in the Kentucky Derby and almost finished in the money at fifth. This followed a strong second-place finish behind Creator in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in mid-April over a distance of 1 1/8 miles. In five events as a juvenile, he finished first or second in every race.
Trainer Donnie Von Hemmel has decided to go with jockey Mike Smith for Saturday's race in place of Luis Quinonez and his horse comes into this race with a HRN rank of 59 and a rating of 7.82. Suddenbreakingnews will break from the No. 4 post and his morning line odds stand at 10/1.
Morning Line Odds for Other Notable Contenders
Todd Pletcher's other entry in this race is Stradivari and he will break from the No. 5 post at 5/1 odds coming off a strong fourth-place finish in the Preakness. Another horse to watch is Cherry Win at 8/1 odds breaking from the No. 3 post at Belmont Park. He was the runner-up to Exaggerator is last month's Preakness as a mild 20/1 longshot. Joining Suddenbreakingnews at 10/1 is Creator from the No. 13 post followed by a newcomer to the Triple Crown series Governor Malibu at 12/1 sport odds breaking from the first post.