By US Racing Team
So what if Forte’s last race was nearly 70 days ago? Who cares if he missed the Kentucky Derby (G1) with a foot bruise, and then was prevented from running in the Preakness (G1) two weeks later due to health and safety rules.
Forte is back and looking as good as ever for the 155th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) on Saturday, which drew a field of nine 3-year-olds for the final leg of the Triple Crown.
The 2-year-old champion who won the Florida Derby (G1) in April 1, was tabbed the 3-1 morning-line favorite on Tuesday (June 6) with Preakness winner National Treasure the fourth betting choice at 5-1.
“We ride our race and ride to win the race,’’ Forte’s Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said. “You have to expect him to be a fit horse. It’s 10 weeks between races, but he had a great foundation leading into that and he hasn’t missed much training.
“His breezes here have been very good. I personally haven’t seen the bottom of him. In all of his training, he comes back and cools out quickly. We still have to do it. It wasn’t ideal the way we got here, but it’s how it’s unfolded.”
Pletcher, seeking a fifth Belmont victory, also sends out Derby seventh-place finisher Tapit Trice as the second betting choice at 3-1. Brad Cox-trained Angel of Empire, third in the Derby, is the 7-2 third choice.
Forte, a winner in six of seven career starts for New York-based co-owner Mike Repole, will be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., leaving from the No. 6 gate. Pletcher and Ortiz teamed up to win the 2022 Belmont with Mo Donegal.
Pletcher attempts to become the first trainer since his former boss D. Wayne Lukas was back-to-back Belmonts (1994-96), while Ortiz could become the first jockey to win consecutive Belmonts since Ron Turcotte with Riva Ridge in 1972 and Triple Crown champion Secretariat in 1993.
Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert’s National Treasure comes into the 1 ½-mile Belmont off a gate-to-wire victory in the Preakness. National Treasure drew the No. 4 gate and will be ridden by Hall of Famer John Velazquez. The popular rider will be in his 26th Belmont looking for a third victory in the “Test of the Champion.”
“He’s been going over the track very well here. I couldn’t be happier with him,’’ Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “I look forward for good things to happen. Most of the Belmonts we’ve won (three), our horse has been up close, so I’d say that’s where he’ll probably be.”
Baffert has a horse in the Belmont for the first time since Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in 2018. Last year, after he was suspended by Churchill Downs for two years due to the DQ of 2021 Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit for an overage of a race-day medication, NYRA also suspended Baffert for a year.
Also entered are Peter Pan (G3) winner Arcangelo (post 3, 8-1), Derby fifth-place finisher Hit Show (post 7, 10-1), Preakness fourth-place finisher Red Route One (post 9, 15-1), Tapit Shoes (post 1, 20-1), and Il Miracolo (post 5, 30-1).
Cox, looking for his second Belmont win, has three entries: Angel of Empire, Hit Show, and Tapit Shoes.
Arcangelo is trained by Jena Antonucci, who will saddle a Belmont horse for the first time. Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who won his first Derby aboard Mage, has the call.
“It’s unbelievable to be here with all these Hall of Fame trainers,’’ Jon Ebbert, owner of Arcangelo said. “Jena has done a great job. It’s a dream.”
|1||Tapit Shoes||3-1||Brad H. Cox||Jose Ortiz|
|2||Tapit Trice||3-1||Todd A. Pletcher||Luis Saez|
|3||Arcangelo||8-1||Jena M. Antonucci||Javier Castellano|
|4||National Treasure||5-1||Bob Baffert||John R. Velazquez|
|5||Il Miracolo||30-1||Antonio Sano||Marcos Meneses|
|6||Forte||5-2||Todd A. Pletcher||Irad Ortiz, Jr.|
|7||Hit Show||10-1||Brad H. Cox||Manuel Franco|
|8||Angel of Empire||7-2||Brad H. Cox||Flavien Prat|
|9||Red Route One||15-1||Steve M. Asmussen||Joel Rosario|
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.