This will be the third time in the last four years that a horse comes into this Saturday’s Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park with a chance to lay claim to one of the most elusive titles in all of sports; the Triple Crown of three-year old horse racing.
Bovada has set the early betting odds for this year’s Belmont Stakes with an expected field of 10 horses, but with American Pharoah listed as a heavy favorite, there are probably only three other three-year olds that have a legitimate shot at ending his impressive run at a Triple Crown.
Here is a look at the top favorites for this year’s Belmont Stakes based on betting odds as provided by Bovada.
American Pharoah 5/6
This three-year old was a 5/2 favorite to win this year’s Kentucky Derby and starting from the 18th post he used a late burst of speed to best the field of 18 contenders. In a much smaller field of eight horses in the Preakness Stakes, he went off as a 4/5 favorite and smoked the other seven horses with a seven-length victory in the mud with jockey Victor Espinoza along for the ride.
Even though we have not had a Triple Crown winner in close to 40 years, American Pharoah remains a heavy favorite to actually defy these lofty 5/4 betting odds with a win. Since 1978, these have been 14 other three-year olds with the first two jewels of this crown under their belts, but none of the horses this group was able to complete the run with a win in the grueling 1 ½ mile Belmont Stakes.
The 11/2 second-favorite in the Belmont Stakes already had a chance to beat American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby when the two horses ran neck and neck down the stretch, but he faded to fourth place to finish just out of the money. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin decided to hold him out of the Preakness to better prepare for the extra distance of the Belmont and all reports so far have him looking pretty strong on the track at Belmont Park. Jockey Joel Rosario will once again get the ride for the Belmont.
Many experts keep touting this horse based on his Derby run and a victory in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4, but he did post a very poor showing in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 21 with a fourth-place finish. He also ended-up second in the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes earlier in the prep race season.
The third-favorite for this year’s Belmont Stakes is one of three entries in this race trained by Todd Pletcher. Materiality ended-up sixth in the Kentucky Derby after starting from the sixth post at 12/1 odds and he is another contender that skipped the Preakness to train for the Belmont. The early feedback from Belmont Park is not all that encouraging as he reportedly looks uncomfortable in his stride on this track.
Along with the run in this year’s Kentucky Derby, Materiality posted his biggest victory as a three-year old with a first-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park with John Velazquez along for the ride. His Beyer Speed Figure in this race was an impressive 110, but look for Javier Castellano to be the jockey in the Belmont after getting the call in the Kentucky Derby.
Carpe Diem 12/1
This is also one of Pletcher’s three-year old contenders and possibly his best shot at ending American Pharoah’s Triple Crown chances. Carpe Diem was heavily hyped coming into the Kentucky Derby as an 8/1 third-favorite out of the second post, but he faded all the way to 10th place in the 18-horse field with Velazquez as his jockey. He was also held out of the Preakness concentrate on this race and so far he has looked like the second-best horse in the field for Saturday’s race according to his workouts at Belmont.
The main reason why Carpe Diem was a third-favorite sports pick in the Kentucky Derby was his impressive victories in both the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 7 and the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4. If there is a horse to watch in this 10-horse Belmont field it would have to be Carpe Diem.