Well, the ecstasy or pain of the 2019 season of the Triple Crown will be over Saturday around 7:00 pm. It was somewhat an eventful set of races. The Kentucky Derby had its first disqualification for an on-track incident when Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first, was disqualified and placed 17th.
The more I watched replays from different angles and sources, the more I shifted my opinion toward leaving Maximum Security up. War of Will, a potential favorite in the Belmont, was moving well past the eighth pole when he literally ran up the backside of Maximum Security. After taking a physical beating from War of Will, he did what any horse would do instinctively – he jumped out of the way. The demolition derby resulting from that swerve resulted in the overly harsh demotion.
I’m not going to argue with anyone about the true winner. The race is official and there is nothing anyone can do to change that. As well as War of Will was running, if he had an open lane he might just have finished on top. If Maximum Security, War of Will and Country House return for the big races at Saratoga, Monmouth, or Parx, it may settle some of the arguments.
The Preakness was won with no drama by War of Will. It was a new top for him, and I’m sure the connections believe they gave us reason to wonder if he was the best horse in the Derby.
Let’s go through the Belmont field.
- Joevia. If you’re looking for a longshot with a very small chance of winning this is your horse.
- Everfast. This horse is a true plodder. In the Preakness he came from well off the pace to run second. Perhaps his jockey Joel Rosario made a mistake being that far off. He has a couple of downsides. He’s run in 11 races and is still eligible for NW2L. He also passed a lot of horses that you won’t hear much about in the future. But, I like the jockey change and the useful workout five days before the race. He’s run a lot of graded races and he showed steady improvement in his last four races. Bourbon War has his number, but I wouldn’t be afraid of using him somewhere in the verticals.
- Master Fencer didn’t break particularly well and did what he always does – gobble ground in the stretch. It’s entirely possible he will improve in his second race in the states. Leparoux keeps the mount. Frankly he’s not my favorite rider, but if he can find a lane he might also be used in the backholes.
- Tax. Why is the oddsmaker down on Tax? He’s bred well enough and perhaps his Derby on a sloppy track can be excused. The blinkers off doesn’t bother me. He showed they were no help at all in the Derby. Plus his two wins were without blinkers. I would also take Irad Ortiz over Alvarado. If you throw out his Derby, he’s right there. He’s a bit of a wildcard, but it looks like he’s a better bet than his morning line might indicate. Enough positives to be dangerous.
- Bourbon War. He just seems to have lost his mojo. Unless you believe Mike Smith is going to be able to straighten out the horse it’s hard to get excited about him.
- Spinoff. He was 50-1 in the Derby and ran like it. He’s a horse that did well in the Louisiana Derby, one of the better preps, but his wins came in his maiden and an optional claimer. He may push the pace, and that can only help the closers. I really can’t recommend using him.
- Sir Winston. He is another one of the horses that seem to be inclined to close. While he showed an ability to press last year, he hasn’t been better than 7th at the first call in his 2019 races. I don’t know how he was put at 12-1 on the morning line. He’s not as good as some of the other off-the-pace horses.
- Intrepid Heart. The mighty combination of Todd Pletcher and Johnny V may be on a downhill slide. The 2018-19 stat for the combination at Belmont is 19%, not bad but not up to where they were a few years ago. His two wins came in a maiden and an OC$75K. While he’s shown some speed, I don’t think it will help him much in the Belmont. His Peter Pan was nothing to get excited about. Another horse underlayed on the ML.
- War of Will. I talked about his Derby, and if you were heads up for the Preakness, it wasn’t hard to put him in the mix. What bothers me is that Mark Casse didn’t give him a public work since the Preakness. He can run to the front, and he may steal one, but I’m hoping he founders in the last eighth. He’ll volley with Tacitus for favoritism, but I can’t use both of them. Gotta pitch this guy. It’s more a parimutuel no-bet than deft investing.
- Tacitus. I watched the Derby15 or 20 times looking for disadvantages to horses. Here’s what I saw forTacitus. As he broke out of the gate he was having some trouble grabbing hold of the track. In less than an eighth of a mile he ducked inside and outside and Jose Ortiz showed great strength in getting the horse straightened out and running. he stayed off the rail and made a powerful move before downshifting mid-turn to avoid horses in front of him. He came into the stretch no better than 8th and he still had trouble with the traffic. Once he found a lane and steadied he found a new gear, finishing well. He had a bullet work six days before the race. As long as he gets out of the gate and doesn’t pull back too far, he’s got a good chance to win.
My value trifecta/superfecta is 10 /2,4/2,3,4/2,3,4,6,8,9. Good luck if you are betting the race.