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Submitted by John DaSilva on Wednesday, June 5, 2019 at 3:50 PM


For National Race Masters
Wednesday, June 5

After just missing in the Preakness with longshot Owendale I am ready to get it all back and more in the Belmont Stakes.

Let’s take a look at the ten 2019 candidates that drew posts Tuesday night for the 151st Belmont Stakes on Saturday.

From the rail out:

JOEVIA (30-1) – Trainer Gregory Sacco is not a household name among the conditioner’s roster for this year’s Belmont. But it is worth noting that he has won 2 of the 7 runners he has gotten into graded stakes competition. The son of Shanghai Bobby has exhibited the speed his sire indicated he might so it is likely he will wing it from this inside post. How far he takes them will depend on the female side of his blood lines where he gets plenty of long range stamina from his dam sire line through War Front, who is of course the sire of Preakness winner and Belmont returnee War Front. While this is definitely the most ambitious try yet or the colt, he has worked well at Monmouth since winning the Long Branch Stakes 4 weekends ago. And getting the services of Jose Lezcano (31% at the current Belmont Meet) certainly helps. All that said, he will need to improve considerably from his Wood Memorial performance when he was buried by both Tacitus and Tax, who return for the Belmont Stakes after sitting out the Preakness.

EVERFAST (12-1) – The first thing that is notable is that the ML maker in New York believes the public is going to send this guy off at 12-1. I wonder if that will be public money? In the Preakness Everfast was sent off at 29-1, which under normal circumstances makes him a longshot. But based on his previous 6 races in which he only came close once, when second at 128.7-1 (not a misprint) in the Holy Bull and in those 6 races averaged off odds of 89-1 and 18 beaten lengths, the 29-1 was actually an underlay. Yet there he was coming on late for the place. So the question becomes, were the connections on to something in the Preakness, were they the ones that “stepped into” the win pool? The $947.00 exacta with War of Will was on the other hand, an overlay. So does the son of Take Charge Indy take another forward step Saturday, or does he bounce as he did the last two times he ran his best career races when as a 2-year old, 14th at 51-1 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup after a solid allowance effort and 8th by 18 lengths in the Fountain of Youth after his second in the Holy Bull? For whatever it might mean, Joel Rosario, who was aboard in the Preakness stays with Sir Winston, who he rode to a second place finish in the Peter Pan Stakes. Though trainer Dale Romans will leg up the quite capable Luis Saez.

MASTER FENCER (8-1) – If you believe that deep, resilient closers from the Kentucky derby are viable candidates in the Belmont Stakes, you will have little difficulty showing interest in this Japanese bred colt after his effort in the Run for the Roses. I’ll let the chart caller define his Derby trip. [He] veered out to get away behind his field, was crowded from heavy outside pressure at the start, went along striding a bit awkwardly far back early inside, moved out up the backstretch, began taking better hold of the track in the two-path into the stretch, moved back inside and finished willingly. In the interim the colt turned in a pair of easy half mile breezes at Keeneland and on May 29 over the Belmont surface turned in a solid 5 furlong drill that was well regarded by observers. Julian Leparoux is back in the irons and after being beaten only 4 lengths for it all at Louisville Master Fencer is not easy to ignore.

TAX (15-1) – If you are willing to throw out this guy performance in the Kentucky Derby, when he was completely taken out of his consistently exhibited pressing style in each of his previous races when jockey Junior Alvarado was forced to save ground after shuffled back from his two post. And furthermore, if you willing to forgive his Derby performance, you might want to consider that he is 15-1 on the morning line and likely to remain at double digits despite finishing a strong second to Tacitus in the Wood memorial, while Tacitus is posted as the ML favorite 9-5. Obviously there is value to be seen on paper, but will the son of Arch be able to deliver the goods. There is no question that he has as solid if not better mile and a half blood lines as anyone in the race. His female line (the mare Toll by Giant’s Causeway is classic distance personified as is Arch (Kris S.) With all due respect to Alvarado, trainer Danny Gargan has to be delighted to have the services of Irad Ortiz, Jr, who figures to get the most out of his colt. He will not need the lead, but with no true pace battle (at least on paper) projected, this could be a rider’s race in which tactical speed, versatility and the stamina to finish will play large, he has as good a chance as any of striking to the lead between the 3/8ths and quarter pole, where a blueprint of the race says the winner comes from.

BOURBON WAR (12-1) – If it wasn’t enough that the Preakness disappointment was not considered for the Belmont until late last week, one also has to wonder just what trainer Mark Hennig is hoping for after putting blinkers on for the first time for the Preakness run, watching the son of Tapit act up prior to the race, get washed out before entering the starting gate and running poorly as the second favorite. The son of Tapit has not run a race that would indicate he is about to turn it up this time around. In fact, other than his rally for second in the mile and a sixteenth Fountain of Youth, he has spun his wheels in the stretch and shown little late interest at this level. The colt will have a change of pilots as Mike Smith takes over for Jose Ortiz (was aboard the last 5 races) who it would seem logically stays with Tacitus, for whom he has also been the regular rider. Obviously he has the breeding to get it done, but what makes Bourbon War, and the race in general such a puzzler is that he is so much like many of the entrants who liked to run in a tracking spot either mid-pack or further back, so considering which will fire into position early enough, both for the win and exotic inclusion will command diligent handicapping.

This year preceding the Belmont you'll get:

Three Stakes Races On Thursday and Five More Stakes Races On Friday
Ten More Stakes On Saturday Including The Belmont
(Check Out All The Details Here)

SPINOFF (15-1) – After a solid second in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, the lone bad dirt race of War of Will’s  career to date, the son of Hard Spun was trained up to the Derby following a six week interval. The colt lost all chance when he raced wide the entire way in the Derby and now Todd Pletcher moves forward with what is probably a move that he has had more success with than anyone, skipping the Preakness and working hard in between. Last year, when Justify ruled the three-year old world, Pletcher failed with Vino Rosso (4th) and Noble Indy (10th) when he ran them in the Belmont after skipping the Preakness. But in 2017 he was successful with winner Tapwrit and third place finisher Patch, got second with longshot Destin in 2016 and pulled off a big upset in 2013 with Palace malice. Add in the work tab that shows a sharp half mile on May 18, a second best of 28 five furlong drill in :59 4/5 May 25 and a nice relaxing final work breezed at five furlongs this past Saturday and a step forward by a colt that has shown tactical speed at times and is bred for the distance, would not be a surprise.

SIR WINSTON (12-1) – One of the top two runners in the local Peter Pan Stakes, which has been a traditional prep for later developing 3-year olds heading to the Belmont Stakes this son of Awesome Again hails from the Mark Casse barn and be ridden by Joel Rosario. The colt made little impact with lackluster 4ths and 5th respectively in the Withers Stakes and Tampa bay Derby when he was well behind Tax and Tacitus. That was followed by a terrible effort in the Blue Grass Stakes in a final effort to get Derby points. Casse gave him some time and his runner up try in the Peter Pan was an improvement but he is another closer who will have to show a bit more close interest to the early positioning in the race. With uncoupled stablemate War of Will looking to duplicate his Preakness win it is interesting that Casse enters the Tracy farmer homebred. His last was his top figure yet and is not too far off what is needed to compete in here. Just another unknown who makes this race so intriguing.

INTREPID HEART (10-1) – The other importee from the Peter Pan Stakes, the lightly raced (making just his third career start) son of Tapit finished third behind the aforementioned Sir Winston. Yet Intrepid Heart stumbled badly in that race as the 1.15-1 favorite and flattened out late. Pletcher adds blinkers for career start number 4 and if his two works over the Belmont main track since the Peter Pan are any indication the colt has every reason to improve. And his blood lines not only favor the distance but his dam sire is 1997 Belmont winner Touch Gold and that sire and his dam Flaming Heart also produced Commissioner, who ran a bang up second to Tonalist in the 2014 Belmont Stakes after those two (Tonalist and Commissioner) had also run 1-2 in the Peter Pan in their final prep. Regular rider and Pletcher fixture John Velazquez will be in the irons for a colt whose tactical speed and stalking running style should have him in great position at the top of the lane. He’s a fresh horse with plenty of upside.

WAR OF WILL (2-1) – His gameness is not in question. But is he as good as the unfolding dramatics in the Kentucky derby and what is, in the minds of some analysts a marginal Preakness field? Obviously the Belmont Stakes would settle that question. As far as the blueprint for optimum running style, he has consistently exhibited a strong stalking style in all of his career dirt races and as a son of War Front out of a Sadler’s Wells dam, no distance is a hurdle. While the ML maker places the colt as the slight second favorite behind Tacitus, until further notice he is the one to beat. And while published workouts are always a focal point for these encounters it is most interesting that between the Derby and Preakness all War of Will did was jog and gallop without meeting the clocker and once again in these three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont Stakes there has not been a timed workout. Make of that what you will but if it means that Casse is balancing a mix of recovery during a l9ong uninterrupted campaign, this will be his 6th start of the year, not an overly taxing number, but only Everfast (who will make his 7th start of 2019) has as many. He deserves his support he will get but he will also have company a mile into the race and he has (in the Louisiana Derby when he lost action) at least proven he is mortal.

TACITUS (9-5) – Another son of Tapit, the colt opened the season with wins in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial and turned in a solid effort when originally 4th (beaten 3 ¼ lengths) in the Kentucky Derby. Entering the Derby he was by far the more highly regarded of the two Mott entrants. And from a purely objective point of view, Tacitus had a much more adventurous trip than his stablemate Country House the original runner-up who was placed first. Ironically this meant that trainer Mott, who began the Derby as arguably the best conditioner to have never won a Derby to wind up with first and third place purse money, while still not having a derby runner that ever crossed the wire first.  Anyway, back to Tacitus. His strong run in the stretch in the Derby and his solid pushes in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial indicate he should be kicking it in at the crucial 3/8ths to quarter pole under regular rider Jose Ortiz. His works also speak to his sharpness as his three recent drills, May 18, May 25 and a best of 16 five furlong bullet this past Sunday appear to have him on edge.



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