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Forte should be favorite in Belmont Stakes

by Wally Hall | June 8, 2023 at 2:33 a.m.

It is hard to call it a short field but there are three fewer entries for Saturday's Belmont Stakes than there are Republican Presidential candidates.

All of the horses but one will get a paycheck ranging from $900,000 for the winner to $15,000 for eighth place.

The Belmont is a classic old fundamental racetrack with tough crowds where jockeys without the heart get punted to smaller tracks.

Belmont's biggest weekend starts today with two stakes races, continues Friday with five stakes races that have more than $2 million in total purses and Saturday is party hearty day with nine stakes races centered around the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes.

At 1 1/2 miles it is where champions are made and Triple Crown's are lost.

In all the years 34 horses have come into this race after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and only 13 have managed to get to the winner's circle.

There is no shot this year as the Derby was won by Mage and the Preakness by National Treasure who probably won't be the favorite Saturday.

That honor will most likely go to Forte, who was scratched by officials the morning of the Derby because of a bruised hoof and subsequently skipped the Preakness.

He will not have raced in 70 days or since winning the Florida Derby, his fifth consecutive win. He has won 6 of 7 races, including the Breeder's Cup Juvenile last November earning him the 2-year-old champion title.

His style is to come from off the pace and with three horses who prefer to be out front, including National Treasure who went wire-to-wire in the Preakness, Forte should have no excuses.

If he's as good as billed.

Obviously National Treasure will be trying to steal the race and jockey John Vaelaquez is a master of pace.

There are six entries from the Tapit bloodline and his offspring have won this race five times.

Of course, Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort is well represented with three horses, including Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire who found the finish line more than four lengths in front of the field that day.

Angel of Empire is trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Flavien Pratt and they couldn't have had much worse of a Derby as they broke 16th, was 10th after six furlongs and had to go seven wide in the turn to home to have a shot.

Angel of Empire was making up ground in a hurry and finished third. He skipped the Preakness but has had three very good workouts since the Derby.

Also from Oaklawn is Red Route One who won the Bath House Row Stakes, and Tapit Shoes who finished second to Red Route One.

Tapit Shoes has not run since April 22 but has trained well for Cox and gets top shelf rider Jose Ortiz in the saddle.

Tapit Trice will most likely be the second favorite behind Forte after a terrible trip in the Kentucky Derby when he was bumped and got locked down behind a wall of horses. He had won four consecutive before that race.

The guess here is Velazquez will rush National Treasure to the lead. In both of the horse's career wins he set the pace. They will settle down on the rail and try to slow the pace a little but Tapit Shoes will immediately stalk the leader.

Down the backstretch those two will look like the perfect exacta but nearing the final turn Forte and Angel of Empire will start to edge forward.

If they make a bold move on that big turn with the long stretch they will be in trouble.

With a 16th of a mile to go Forte and Angel of Empire pass National Treasure. Forte will win by a half-length over Angel of Empire and National Treasure holds on for third.

Print Headline: Forte should be favorite in Belmont Stakes


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