The last moments of this year’s Preakness made me think that Justified would not win the Belmont and Triple Crown this year. He ran beautifully for the first mile and into the stretch, but a couple of closers gained on him steadily in the last moments, and had that race been another quarter mile, would have passed him easily.
So when I combine that performance, plus the amount of work for any horse to run in both of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, AND add the lousy draw Justify got for the Belmont at the rail position of 1, I gotta think he’s totally beatable.
I could see him getting off to a good start and keeping pace, but how easily will be get boxed in at the rail? And how could he spend the energy to get out and still have the stamina for that killer mile and a half length when there are fresher horses in this race, many of ’em great closers?
So while Justify is currently a big 4-5 favorite, and while I might include him in trifectas and supers at the 3-4 position, I don’t think I’ll be betting him to win.
Hey, it’d be cool if he did – Triple Crowns being as rare as they are – but they’re rare for a reason.
So who do I think has what it takes to knock this one out?
Well, putting aside my bias as a Pats fan, I gotta like #6 Gronkowski (12-1) as a possibility, winner of some mile races overseas against admittedly weaker fields, but the overall time and class ratings on this one, plus some nice works on the Belmont track recently make him a very nice play at those high odds.
My other best bet would be the #10 Blended Citizen (15-1). I always like horses that skip both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness who drop into the Belmont fresh, and this one is that but not TOO fresh, winning the Peter Pan back on May 12. While he runs WAY better on artificial than on dirt, his ability to grind out the distance might be key here, and I think he’ll be in the money at the end, somewhere.
Both #7 Tenfold and #3 Bravazo chased Justify down at the end of the Preakness, and as I said before, in a longer race, Bravazo would have passed him – but if they’re chasing Justify down at 3rd or 4th position, I don’t see it as intense, and yet ANOTHER late closing horse who has the added rest of skipping the Preakness, #4 Hofburg (9-2) would be my pick for passing them.
So what might those exotics look like? Well, I’d have the 4-6-10 for getting in the money, with maybe adding the 1, 3 and 7 into third/fourth in a super. Dunno yet, I’ll sleep on it a couple of nights and see. But if I’m right about the 4-6-10 up front, the exotics should pay nicely, as they often do in this, my favorite of the Triple Crowns to bet.