Although there will be no Triple Crown on the line when the 151stBelmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets is run on Saturday at Belmont Park, the tradition-rich mile-and-a-half contest still carries great weight. The last of the spring classics could establish a leader of the 3-year-old division, depending on the outcome.
The $1.5 million Belmont Stakes is the centerpiece of the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, which begins on Thursday and encompasses 18 stakes races in all. NBCSN will offer live coverage from 5-6 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Friday.
There will be 10 stakes on Saturday, eight of them Grade 1s. NBCSN will open Saturday’s broadcast from 2:30-4 p.m. before programming shifts to NBC from 4-7 p.m.
Britney Eurton, 31, who traces much of her expertise to knowledge gained while she was growing up as the daughter of veteran West Coast trainer Peter Eurton, will be among those providing analysis and commentary for NBC. She participated in a question-and-answer session with Tom Pedulla on behalf of America’s Best Racing, below.
PEDULLA: How did your father’s position as a trainer help you to learn racing?
EURTON: I lean a lot on my father for insight, for advice, for help. He helped me tremendously in the beginning. I would run questions by him. I would take a look at a race and he would help me analyze it. He’s been an incredible support system. He gave me the love of the sport, but he also has helped me tremendously in learning more about it.
PEDULLA: Do you still talk racing with him on a regular basis?
EURTON: Absolutely. Daily. I speak to my Dad at least once a day. He gives me a rundown of all of his horses, how they’re doing. We’ll bounce a lot of ideas off each other. It’s fun to be able to do things like that.
PEDULLA: Do you see this as an interesting Belmont even though there is no opportunity for a Triple Crown?
EURTON: Absolutely. I think the Belmont is one of the most exciting races because you are seeing these horses go a distance they have never run before. It is very much a specialty distance. Who can handle that marathon distance? And it’s a big field. When you are looking at it from a betting standpoint, it is a very exciting race. Although we don’t have the Kentucky Derby winner, we’ve got a lot.
PEDULLA: What is your opinion so far of this 3-year-old class?
EURTON: It’s tough to say. I think it’s more evenly matched than we’ve seen in previous years. I think the summertime is going to be incredibly exciting. If we see War of Will meet up with Maximum Security and Country House in the Travers, you’re going to have a heck of a race.
PEDULLA: What is your opinion of War of Will? Can he add the Belmont to the Preakness?
EURTON: I think the talent is there. I watched the Preakness. He showed everybody he was the horse his connections thought he could be. Going into the Belmont, it is a very difficult thing to run in all three legs. You’ve got to be a superior horse.
PEDULLA: Is Tacitus the horse to beat?
EURTON: I do think he is the horse to beat. He’ll go off favored because he is fresh and there was so much buzz surrounding him before the Derby. He is impeccably bred as a son of Tapit, and the sons of Tapit just have a knack for this mile-and-a-half distance. I think 1,000 percent he is the horse to beat.
PEDULLA: Tyler Gaffalione earned his first victory in a Triple Crown race in the Preakness and returns aboard War of Will in the Belmont. Although he is only 24 years old, how good is he at this stage of his career?
EURTON: I think he is incredibly talented and I think he has a very bright future. He respects how far he has come, but he knows there is a lot more he wants to achieve. He, I believe, is the future of racing. He is the future of the jockey colony. Not just that, but he is a good person. He cares immensely for these horses. The connection between him and War of Will is something very special. You can really hear it and see it when Tyler is around War of Will and when he speaks about War of Will.
PEDULLA: What is your opinion of Preakness runner-up Everfast? Was his Preakness fluky or is he the real deal?
EURTON: Whenever Dale Romans is in a race, we know he loves being part of the big parties, but he doesn’t run a horse that he doesn’t think has a shot. I spoke to him earlier that day and he told us not to overlook this horse. Whether or not he can repeat that performance is to be seen.
PEDULLA: Can Tax rebound from a rather disappointing Kentucky Derby?
EURTON: I think because of the state of the track that day we’ll see a lot of horses rebound because perhaps they just absolutely hated the slop. The rain came down when the track opened. It was a muddy mess. I think the jury is still out on Tax and whether he wants to go the mile and a half and is at that level. I am not quite sure he is at the level of a Tacitus yet.
PEDULLA: How about a live longshot?
PEDULLA: I know things can change, but who are your top four finishers at this stage?
EURTON: Tacitus would be my top choice. And then, not in any particular order, War of Will, Bourbon War and the Japanese horse, Master Fencer. He ran a fantastic race in the Kentucky Derby, and I don’t want to overlook him again.