2019 Belmont Stakes Cheat Sheet

Preakness Stakes War of Will (left) and Wood Memorial Stakes winner Tacitus headline a projected 10-horse field in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Although a Triple Crown is not on the line, Saturday’s $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets shapes up to be, as usual, a fantastic betting race and one that will have a major impact on the 3-year-old male division heading into the second half of the year. Ten contenders are scheduled to contest the 1 ½-mile “Test of the Champion” around Belmont Park’s massive dirt main track, led by Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve third-place finisher Tacitus. War of Will is seeking to become the 12th horse in history to lose the Kentucky Derby and win both the Preakness and Belmont, and the first since champion Afleet Alex accomplished that feat in 2005.

The Belmont Stakes will be televised live on NBC as the culmination of a broadcast that runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, preceded by an hour and a half of coverage on NBCSN from 2:30 to 4 p.m. Eastern. Belmont Stakes post time is set for approximately 6:38 p.m. Eastern. For a full schedule of media coverage, click here.

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Read on for information about all 10 Belmont Stakes starters.

Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

1. Joevia (30-1)

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Trainer: Gregory Sacco

Owners: Michael Fazio and Jeff Fazio

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $131,600

Earnings per start: $26,320

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100

Pedigree: Shanghai Bobby – Peace Process, by War Front

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: This son of champion Shanghai Bobby projects as a pace factor in the Belmont Stakes, but Joevia would have to improve significantly at a distance that appears to be unsuitable to  both his racing form and pedigree to get a namecheck in the homestretch. He rebounded from a disastrous showing in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets to win the 1 1/16-mile Long Branch Stakes at Monmouth Park on May 12 by 2 ¾ lengths in a gate-to-wire effort, but he defeated only three horses in that race, one of which was injured and lost his jockey in the race. In the Wood Memorial, Joevia crowded several opponents shortly after breaking from the far outside post in an aggressive bid for the early lead, tired badly after setting a contested pace, and was disqualified from seventh to last of 11. He ran competitively in his three career starts before the Wood, winning his debut last summer and finishing second twice in listed stakes earlier this year after a long break, but he still appears overmatched against the best of his crop, especially in a long-distance race like the Belmont. Expect this colt to move straight for the lead breaking from his inside post position, receiving pace pressure from War of Will and possibly Spinoff and Tax through the first half-mile before hitting a wall well before the field reaches the far turn.

Belmont history: This will be the first Belmont Stakes appearance for Joevia’s owners and for trainer Greg Sacco. Jockey Jose Lezcano counts a fourth-place finish on Street Life in 2012 his best finish from four Belmont tries. 

Bet Joevia in the Belmont Stakes.

Eclipse Sportswire

2. Everfast (12-1)

Jockey: Luis Saez

Trainer: Dale Romans

Owner: Calumet Farm

Career record: 11 starts – 1 win – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $464,805

Earnings per start: $42,255

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Take Charge Indy – Awesome Surprise, by Awesome Again

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A last-minute addition to the Preakness Stakes, Everfast shocked more than a few fans and bettors with a runner-up finish behind War of Will at 29.30-1 odds. Those odds actually made the colt an underlay in the Preakness based on poor form entering the race, as he had lost his prior three contests by a total of 43 ¾ lengths, going off at odds of 63.60-1 or higher in all of them. Prior to that streak, however, Everfast finished a fast-closing second in the Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull Stakes at 128.70-1 odds, and in the Preakness he capitalized on a speedy early pace and a deft ride by jockey Joel Rosario through the stretch to angle inside and edge Owendale for second, circling back to his best form. The fact remains, however, that this son of Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy hasn’t won since his debut last August at Ellis Park, and deep closers haven’t had much success in the Belmont Stakes in recent years. He figures to be a longshot once again on Saturday, and merits consideration mainly as a trifecta or superfecta filler since he’s never strung together two good efforts in a row.

Belmont history: Calumet Farm won the Belmont twice during its historic 20th century run, as both Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948) captured the Triple Crown with victories in the final leg. Calumet also finished second five times and third twice during that era. Since Brad Kelley assumed ownership, Calumet has sent three horses to the Belmont, finishing second with Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow in 2013. Dale Romans has finished third four times in the Belmont from 10 starters, most recently with Keen Ice in 2015. This will be jockey Luis Saez’s fourth appearance in the Belmont.

Bet Everfast in the Belmont Stakes.

Coady Photography

3. Master Fencer (8-1)

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda

Owner: Katsumi Yoshizawa

Career record: 7 starts – 2 firsts – 2 seconds – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $234,392

Earnings per start: $33,485

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106

Pedigree: Just a Way – Sexy Zamurai, by Deputy Minister

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Overshadowed somewhat by the controversy in the Kentucky Derby was the good effort from this Japanese shipper, who outran his 58.60-1 odds to finish a late-running seventh (placed sixth after Maximum Security was disqualified). He was regarded as a Derby afterthought by most of the U.S. racing cognoscenti based on his mediocre record in his home country and the fact that the first three horses on the Japanese qualifying points list declined the invitation to Louisville. Still, he earned an Equibase Speed Figure of 106 in his North American debut, which places him among the top tier of Belmont Stakes starters, and showed good courage during his stretch run over a sloppy track at Churchill Downs to close from last under Julian Leparoux. Leparoux retains the mount for the Belmont, and this son of promising young stallion Just a Way (a Japanese champion from the legendary Sunday Silence sire line that country) should be positioned near the back of the field again in the Belmont’s early stages. While the added distance in the Belmont should suit Master Fencer, he may not get the solid pace he needs to close into in the stretch. He also stumbled and was pulled up during his breeze at Belmont on May 29, although his exercise rider said following the workout that there were no ill effects, and Master Fencer has handled the track better in subsequent gallops. Overall, replicating the third-place finish by Japan-based Lani in the 2016 Belmont would appear to be this colt’s ceiling.    

Belmont history: This is the first Belmont for owner Yoshizawa and trainer Tsunoda. Leparoux returns to the Belmont for the fifth time; he has finished third twice aboard Anak Nakal in 2008 and Atigun in 2012.

Bet Master Fencer in the Belmont Stakes.

Eclipse Sportswire

4. Tax (15-1)

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr. 

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Owners: R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 2 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $326,300

Earnings per start: $54,383

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105

Pedigree: Arch – Toll, by Giant’s Causeway

Color: Dark bay or brown

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A “wiseguy” longshot pick by some handicappers to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby, Tax turned in the first subpar performance of his career, never making an impression during the race and finishing 15th (placed 14th). Prior to that, he had shown up in all five starts, the last four coming in two-turn races. In his first two starts of 2019, he won the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and then ran a game second to Tacitus in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at the same track and distance. Based on his overall résumé, this gelding’s best effort puts him right behind Tacitus and War of Will as a win candidate in the Belmont Stakes, and if his Derby was indeed a fluke he should be among the mix of contenders racing out of “Big Sandy’s” far turn and into the homestretch. He was bred and originally owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, and has a pedigree rich in the stamina bloodlines associated with Claiborne’s tradition of dominance. He also has one of the best backstories among this year’s Belmont field, having been claimed by trainer Danny Gargan off of a sharp two-length win in a 1 1/16-mile maiden claiming race at Keeneland last fall. 

Belmont history: This will be the first Belmont appearance for all members of Tax’s ownership group save Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, who co-owned 2011 Belmont Stakes seventh-place finisher Mucho Macho Man, eventual winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic. It’s also the first Belmont for New York-based trainer Danny Gargan. Jockey Irad Ortiz won the 2016 Belmont aboard Creator at odds of 16.40-1 and finished third last year on Hofburg.

Bet Tax in the Belmont Stakes.

Lauren KIng/Coglianese Photos

5. Bourbon War (12-1)

Jockey: Mike Smith

Trainer: Mark Hennig

Owners: Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable

Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds

Career earnings: $202,100

Earnings per start: $33,683

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 110

Pedigree: Tapit – My Conquestadory, by Artie Schiller

Color: Bay

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Sent off as the second betting choice in the Preakness Stakes at odds of 5.60-1, Bourbon War never threatened in a disappointing eighth-place finish. He received the solid early pace in the Preakness that he needed to set up his closing kick, but had no response as he crossed the wire 9 ½ lengths behind War of Will. He had added blinkers for the Preakness after finishing fourth in the Xpressbet Florida Derby, but trainer Mark Hennig said they would be removed for the Belmont Stakes. Hall of Famer Mike Smith also picks up the mount on Bourbon War, which boosts his chances for a comeback effort. If this colt, who is well-bred for the 1 ½-mile distance, can regain his early 2019 form, when he dominated a Gulfstream Park allowance race and then nearly caught Code of Honor in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes, he’s a threat to hit the board on Saturday – but on the other hand, closers typically haven’t fared that well in recent Belmonts and this year’s renewal does not have an abundance of speed horses lined up.

Belmont history: This is the first Belmont Stakes appearance for Bourbon War’s owners. Trainer Mark Hennig returns to the Belmont Stakes for the second time after finishing fourth in 2004 with Eddington. Mike Smith makes his 21st start in the Belmont Stakes; he has won the race three times – on Drosselmeyer (2010), Palace Malice (2013), and on last year’s Triple Crown winner Justify. Smith has also finished second twice and third twice.

Bet Bourbon War in the Belmont Stakes.

Coady Photography

6. Spinoff (15-1)

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Wertheimer and Frere

Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $260,000

Earnings per start: $52,000

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Pedigree: Hard Spun – Zaftig, by Gone West

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Press the pace/stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: One of the two horses in the Kentucky Derby to not have their final position altered by Maximum Security’s disqualification, Spinoff checked in 18th of 19 after breaking from the 17th post position. That post compromised his chances severely, as he raced wide throughout and backed up in the far turn. The Derby was essentially a throw-out race, and he’s been training well at Belmont Park since then. After impressing last summer as a juvenile, winning his debut and then finishing third in the Saratoga Special Stakes Presented by Miller Lite, Spinoff was off for six months but came back strong in his two first starts of 2019, romping in a one mile and 40-yard race at Tampa Bay Downs and then finishing second by three-quarters of a length in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby after leading in mid-stretch. He’s got a forwardly placed running style that should be to his advantage in an edition of the Belmont Stakes that lacks an abundance of speed, and he also has an above-average pedigree for stamina. This colt is still inexperienced – he only beat four opponents at Tampa and could not close the deal in the Louisiana Derby – and the Belmont’s mile-and-a-half distance is a major obstacle. But Spinoff has enough talent and untapped potential to make him a solid longshot choice in the Belmont Stakes if he can resume his race-to-race improvement after the Derby debacle.

Belmont history: Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, best known in the U.S. as the owners of Goldikova, finished sixth in the 2010 Belmont Stakes with Interactif, their only prior starter. Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is a Belmont mainstay, with 35 total starters in the classic. He’s won it three times, with the great filly Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013, and Tapwrit in 2017. This is Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano’s 13th Belmont Stakes appearance. He has finished second three times, with Stay Thirsty (2011), Commissioner (2014) and Destin (2016), the last two by very close margins.

Bet Spinoff in the Belmont Stakes.

Michael Burns/WEG Photo

7. Sir Winston (12-1)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Tracy Farmer

Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $161,773

Earnings per start: $17,975

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101

Pedigree: Awesome Again – La Gran Bailadora, by Afleet Alex

Color: Chestnut

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Like several other Belmont starters, this son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Awesome Again should be running from well off the early pace. Sir Winston enters Saturday’s race off of his best effort during his 3-year-old season, rallying through the stretch to finish second behind Global Campaign in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 11. He had failed to muster any threat at all in three prior graded stakes this year – fourth in the Withers Stakes, fifth in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, and seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes – but responded well to jockey Joel Rosario in their first pairing in the Peter Pan. Rosario retains the mount for the Belmont, rather than staying on Preakness Stakes runner-up Everfast, and that’s a good sign. This colt put together his best three-race streak last fall at Woodbine on its synthetic main track, winning twice, including a stakes race, and finishing third in a graded stakes. He has a solid pedigree for the Belmont’s 1 ½-mile distance, and a patient rider in Rosario who is one of the sport’s best closers. If the Peter Pan showed that he indeed favors Belmont’s track, Sir Winston could sneak up into the trifecta or exacta – but when assessing the entire field, he’s definitely the understudy to trainer Mark Casse’s other entrant in this race, budding superstar War of Will.

Belmont history: Tracy Farmer will have his first starter in the Belmont Stakes since back-to-back appearances in 2004 (third, Royal Assault) and 2005 (fourth, Indy Storm). Mark Casse, firmly entrenched as one of the top trainers in North American racing, will be making his first Belmont appearance with two horses. Joel Rosario won the 2014 Belmont aboard Tonalist, finished second in 2015 on Frosted, and has also finished third twice from seven prior starts.

Bet Sir Winston in the Belmont Stakes.

Coady Photography

8. Intrepid Heart (10-1)

Jockey: John Velazquez

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Owners: Robert and Lawana Low

Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $140,400

Earnings per start: $46,800

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103

Pedigree: Tapit – Flaming Heart, by Touch Gold

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Stalker

Notable achievements and interesting facts: A $750,000 purchase by Robert and Lawana Low as a juvenile – the highest-priced horse sold at auction among this year’s Belmont Stakes field – this son of leading sire Tapit turned heads in his very first start, scoring by 7 ¾ lengths in a one-mile maiden race at Oaklawn Park on the Feb. 18 Southwest Stakes undercard. He bettered that effort with a hard-fought half-length win in a 1 1/16-mile allowance optional claiming race at Keeneland on April 5, but then regressed in the May 11 Peter Pan Stakes, finishing third as the 1.15-1 favorite behind Global Campaign and Belmont opponent Sir Winston after stumbling at the start and bumping a rival. He weakened in the stretch while still passing a couple of horses from last in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan, which is a concern for the Belmont Stakes, but on the positive side this colt is still relatively inexperienced and has plenty of room to improve. Whether he’ll reach that potential in the grueling Belmont is a big question, but he has the pedigree for stretching out, as Tapit has sired three of the past five Belmont Stakes winners and his dam’s (mother’s) family includes 2014 Belmont runner-up and near-winner Commissioner and recent Gold Cup at Santa Anita Stakes winner Vino Rosso (fourth in last year’s Belmont). Look for Intrepid Heart to sit near the front-runners in the Belmont and vie for the lead through the far turn – and, as always in this race, jockey timing will be crucial. To that end, regular rider John Velazquez is deeply familiar with Belmont's unique main track and his skill at judging pace should be beneficial to Intrepid Heart's chances. The colt will add blinkers for his Belmont start.

Belmont history: Intrepid Heart is the Lows’ second Belmont starter, following seventh-place Steppenwolfer in 2007. Seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is a Belmont mainstay, with 35 total starters in the classic. He’s won it three times, with the great filly Rags to Riches in 2007, Palace Malice in 2013, and Tapwrit in 2017. He’s also finished second seven times and third four times. Hall of Famer John Velazquez is making his 23rd start in the Belmont. He piloted Rags to Riches in 2007 and also was aboard Union Rags for a thrilling win in 2012. Velazquez also has finished second three times and third twice.

Bet Intrepid Heart in the Belmont Stakes.

Eclipse Sportswire

9. War of Will (2-1)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Trainer: Mark Casse

Owner: Gary Barber

Career record: 10 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third

Career earnings: $1,491,569

Earnings per start: $149,157

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: War Front – Visions of Clarity, by Sadler’s Wells

Color: Bay

Running style: Press the pace

Notable achievements and interesting facts: After gaining a measure of redemption by winning the Preakness Stakes, this talented, competitive colt enters the Belmont Stakes aiming to take control of the 3-year-old male division. He endured the worst of the controversial traffic jumble midway through the far turn of the Kentucky Derby, checking hard just behind leader Maximum Security when that foe darted out several paths. War of Will lost momentum for several strides after the incident before briefly re-rallying, only to tire in deep stretch and finish eighth (moved up to seventh after Maximum Security was disqualified). In the Preakness, he employed a similar stalking trip to his Derby effort, tracking along the rail from the inside post position, and was rewarded this time when space opened up at the top of the Pimlico stretch. War of Will powered clear to win by 1 ¼ lengths, matching his career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure earned in January’s Lecomte Stakes. The Preakness was his third win from five starts on dirt, all three of them stakes victories, and he has had legitimate excuses in his two off-the-board finishes in the aforementioned Kentucky Derby and in the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby where he lost stride shortly after the start and was taken out of his preferred running style. It will be important for jockey Tyler Gaffalione to get War of Will situated in a comfortable position just off of the pace in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes, breaking from an outside post position this time after two consecutive starts on the rail. He'll need to be patient and keep enough of the horse’s energy in reserve through Belmont Park’s long backstretch and sweeping far turn before pushing the “go” button at the right time. Rising star Gaffalione will be making his first Belmont Stakes start, as opposed to Belmont-winning riders such as Jose Ortiz (Tacitus), Joel Rosario (Sir Winston), Irad Ortiz (Tax), and John Velazquez (Intrepid Heart), which could be a disadvantage in this high-stakes arena. But War of Will has already proven to be one of the most talented athletes in his age group, and looms as the horse to beat once the starting gate opens Saturday evening.

Belmont history: As mentioned above, this will be Tyler Gaffalione’s Belmont Stakes debut – and somewhat surprisingly, the same can be said of Mark Casse, who also conditions Sir Winston. Gary Barber co-owned Multiplier, who finished 10th in the 2017 Belmont.

Bet War of Will in the Belmont Stakes.

Eclipse Sportswire

10. Tacitus (9-5)

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Trainer: William Mott

Owner: Juddmonte Farms

Career record: 5 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third

Career earnings: $953,000

Earnings per start: $190,600

Top Equibase Speed Figure: 107

Pedigree: Tapit – Close Hatches, by First Defence

Color: Gray or roan

Running style: Closer

Notable achievements and interesting facts: Sent off in the Kentucky Derby as the third betting choice at 5.80-1 odds, Tacitus overcame some minor early traffic trouble and made a sustained run through the far turn and homestretch to finish fourth behind Maximum Security, elevated to third after that foe was disqualified. He checks all of the boxes for a live Belmont Stakes contender, and should vie with War of Will to be the post-time favorite on Saturday. To wit: He’s in good form, having won both the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial Presented by NYRA Bets prior to the Kentucky Derby; he’s shown the ability to overcome in-race adversity, in the Kentucky Derby and especially in the Wood; and he’s got a bull’s-eye pedigree for the Belmont’s mile and a half, as a son of three-time Belmont sire Tapit and of dam (mother) Close Hatches who earned over $2 million and specialized in winning graded stakes at route distances. This colt is similar in several ways to 2017 Belmont winner Tapwrit, who also won the Tampa Bay Derby, ran decently in the Kentucky Derby (sixth), skipped the Preakness, and then took the Triple Crown’s final leg. Jose Ortiz rode Tapwrit two years ago, and kept his mount closer to the early pace than in prior races and timed his move for the lead just right. Look for Ortiz to employ similar tactics on Tacitus in this year’s renewal, in order to take advantage of this horse’s stamina and rallying ability in the stretch.

Belmont history: Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms has had three prior Belmont starters. Juddmonte won the 2003 Belmont with Empire Maker, finished second in 2000 with Aptitude, and third last year with Hofburg. Hall of Famer Bill Mott trained Hofburg, which was his seventh Belmont starter. He won the 2010 edition with Drosselmeyer and also finished second in 1999 with Vision and Verse. Jose Ortiz, as noted above, won the 2017 Belmont. He also finished second last year with European invader Gronkowski from four prior starters.

Bet Tacitus in the Belmont Stakes.

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