The Belmont Derby, the first leg of the Turf Triple series, has drawn a wide open and international cast of 13 ready to take to the Belmont turf course for the top prize in the $1 million race on Saturday.
Vying for favoritism could be a pair of colts coming directly out of the Group 1 Epsom Derby in Stone Age and Nations Pride.
Stone Age is the 9/2 morning line favorite after finishing a disappointing sixth in the big race in England. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, the son of Galileo had won his previous two starts impressively in Ireland.
Nations Pride, meanwhile, was 8th of 17 in the Epsom Derby, but had won four straight races in England and Dubai before that for trainer Charlie Appleby.
Of the Americans, both Emmanuel and Tiz the Bomb are listed as 6/1 co-third choices on the morning line.
Emmanuel comes in off a wire-to-wire score in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge at Belmont last time. While Tiz the Bomb returns to turf after finishing 9th of 20 in this spring’s Kentucky Derby.
The 1 ¼-mile Belmont Derby will be followed in the series by the $1 million Saratoga Derby in August and the $1 million Jockey Club Derby back at Belmont in the fall.
Belmont Derby Predictions and Race Analysis
This son of Galileo looks to be the class of a very strong Belmont Derby field. He took a while to get going for trainer Aidan O’Brien last year but closed the season with a strong second in the Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud. Proving his forward momentum he began this year with two big wins.
The streak did not carry over last time when sixth in the English Classic, but may prefer ground with less cut, which he should find here on Saturday. 10 furlongs may be a bit short of his best, but should be enough to show his class.
Along with the horse directly below him, he looks like one of the two to beat on Saturday.
This one was also well backed last time in the Epsom Derby and also probably did not do his absolute best with the course condition. Like the top one, he could find the firmer turf more to his liking. This should be more like his win in Dubai three starts back.
The Godolphin homebred also should appreciate the cut back in ground to a distance where he has already won three times. Trained by Charlie Appleby, who has excelled with horses shipping into America in recent years, this one looks primed for a big effort on Saturday.
Speed is always dangerous and this son of More Than Ready proved that by controlling a slow pace last time in the Grade 2 Pennine Ridge. The win in his turf debut proved that he can get it done against good horses, and that he likes the grass.
Unfortunately, he is unlikely to get a similar pace scenario here, as he faces a stronger bunch, while going an extra eighth of a mile. I like him in general, but for all those reasons, I will not be playing this Todd Pletcher charge in the Belmont Derby.
Tiz the Bomb
After a decent effort in the Kentucky Derby, this classy son of Hit it a Bomb returns to his preferred surface for the Belmont Derby. Already a four-time stakes winner, and a solid horse on every surface, grass should help his chances against the best of competition.
He does have the advantage of already having been the distance over the other Americans, but it is also fair to question whether he will come back from the tough Kentucky Derby run at his very best. Considering his class, he is definitely a serious contender here, but I do like a few others better.
Coming from the powerhouse barn of Chad Brown, I won’t be surprised if this one is bet quite a bit more than his 10/1 on the morning line. Having done little wrong in his four-race career, he was the victim of lack of early pace in each of his two stakes losses.
He should get a more reasonable pace on Saturday, but still he will need to prove that he can break through against Grade 1 competition. I could easily see the son of War Front making a move forward in the Belmont Derby, but still it’s a tough spot for a horse likely to get bet.
This one comes in off a career best effort when winning the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. It was a nice score, but competition and distance only get tougher in the Belmont Derby.
The son of Bodemeister has proven to be a nice horse, but the 10 furlong distance will be a big question he needs to answer. In his lone 9-furlong race, he struggled home down the lane. He’s one of many here to consider, but I don’t think this will be his spot.
One of the more interesting runners of the home team, this one suffered his first career defeat last time when a late-running third behind Stolen Base in the American Turf. Before that he had moved impressively through his first three starts, including a pair of stakes wins.
I like him better than the horse who beat him last time, but now he must prove he can return to his winning ways against a stronger and deeper group, while stretching out three-sixteenths in distance. Trained by one of the best in Graham Motion, he could do it, but I like a few others better.
This late running son of Kitten’s Joy should enjoy the added distance of the 10-furlong Belmont Derby. Last time he got absolutely no early pace, but still made up plenty of ground to finish a good third behind Emmanuel in the Pennine Ridge.
Before that the Shug McGaughey-trained runner flew late to score in a Keeneland allowance. I like what he has done this year, and with a little more pace and distance, I look for a very strong effort on Saturday. I think he has the best chance of all the Americans. At the price, he is the top pick.
Like the two favorites, this once last raced in the Epsom Derby on June 4. Much less preferred at the windows, he had nothing when the real running began and finished 16th. He was a top 2-year-old last year, though, and has competed against only the best this year.
He was a respectable second to the Derby winner Desert Crown two starts back in the Group 2 Dante Stakes. Perhaps a return to firmer ground and less distance here will help. He has the potential to surprise at a price, but honestly only looks third best of those coming from England.
This well traveled son of Giant’s Causeway returns to New York for the first time since breaking his maiden at Saratoga last summer. A speedy winner of two graded stakes races early this year at Tampa Bay Downs, he was unable to get it done against the best of the crop since.
Now trained by Kenny McPeek, he will make his turf debut after running a decent third in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby last time. Both the turf and distance could be to his liking, but this is an extremely difficult ask for his first try on grass. He should be part of the early pace, though.
This French runner has already raced six times this year and won twice. Both of those came on an all-weather surface, though. When returned to the grass and facing group competition in his last three, he has yet to find the winner’s circle.
He finished seventh last out in the Group 1 French Derby, but may not have cared for the soft ground. The dark bay could run a much improved race on Saturday, but I like the English raiders better.
The last of the five European shippers, this American-bred son of Constitution has only been able to win once in seven starts in Europe, while running primarily in France. In fact, he has already faced Machete twice over there and was beaten by that rival both times.
He has the potential to move up in America, but of a strong European group he looks to be the least likely to run a big one on Saturday at Belmont.
The other one from the Todd Pletcher barn, this son of Medaglia d’Oro earned a pair of stakes wins on the turf early this year at Churchill Downs. Unfortunately, he has been beaten twice by Sy Dog, and comes in off in a fourth-place finish in the Audubon at Churchill Downs.
He’s a nice, consistent horse, but looks to be just a cut below the best here as he faces his toughest test yet. I like too many others better to consider in this spot.