Rich Strike, the second-biggest longshot winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve in history, makes his return in the $1.5 million, Grade 1 Belmont Stakes after his connections decided to skip the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes. A win in the race will go a long way toward erasing any lingering doubts about a fluke win in the Derby and burnish his credentials as the best of his class.
Rich Strike will square off against a tough field featuring horses who ran in the Derby (Mo Donegal, Barber Road), the Preakness (Creative Minister, Skippylongstocking), and some talented new shooters as well (We the People, Nest). The 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes is nicknamed the “Test of the Champion” for an appropriate reason: its marathon distance is something none of these 3-year-olds has ever attempted before and may never attempt again. Thirteen horses have managed to follow wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by taking the Belmont, thus etching their names in the sport’s lore as Triple Crown winners: Sir Barton (1919); Gallant Fox (1930); Omaha (1935); War Admiral (1937); Whirlaway (1941); Count Fleet (1943); Assault (1946); Citation (1948); Secretariat (1973); Seattle Slew (1977); Affirmed (1978); American Pharoah (2015); and Justify (2018).
The Belmont Stakes, with a scheduled post time of 6:44 p.m. ET, anchors a spectacular day of racing at “Big Sandy” that also features eight other graded stakes, including three “Win and You’re In” qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. NBC Sports’ coverage June 11 begins on CNBC at 3 p.m. ET before switching to NBC at 5 p.m. ET. Earlier races Saturday at Belmont will be shown on “America’s Day at the Races” on FS2.
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Whether you are interested in making a couple of bucks on the race or just want to know a little bit about this year’s runners, we’ve got you covered with our 2022 Belmont Stakes Cheat Sheet.
1. We the People (2-1 morning-line odds)
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset
Career record: 4 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $230,250
Earnings per start: $57,563
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101
Pedigree: Constitution – Letchworth, by Tiznow
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: “Lone speed is always dangerous” … so the handicapping maxim goes, and We the People could put it to the test in Belmont 154. The son of good, young sire Constitution enters with a record of three wins in four starts, and all three have come while either setting the pace or pressing it. He won two straight in February and March at Oaklawn Park to kick off his career at age 3, setting up a start in the Arkansas Derby where he went off as the 2.40-1 second betting choice. In that Kentucky Derby prep, however, he was washy prior to entering the starting gate and never factored in the race, showing no speed out of the gate, getting caught wide into the first turn, and fading on the far turn to finish seventh of nine, 13 ¼ lengths behind winner Cyberknife. Even considering the big class jump, We the People’s effort was disappointing for his connections, and they shipped him to Belmont Park for a hopeful bounce-back race in the 1 1/8-mile, one-turn Peter Pan Stakes on May 14. The colt responded with a visually impressive, gate-to-wire win, coasting on the “off” track rated good and defeating Golden Glider by 10 ¼ lengths. Now, he’s the only confirmed front-runner starting in the Belmont Stakes, and if he breaks cleanly from the rail post he should be able to dictate the early tempo under Flavien Prat, who has held his own against the tough NYRA jockey colony since moving his tack to Belmont this spring. There’s always the chance that one or two jockeys familiar with Belmont’s vast configuration could be more aggressive in placing their horses close to the lead to give this projected pacesetter some pressure … but by and large, this is a field comprised of come-from-behind runners, and that gives We the People an advantage, even if he’s one of the more inexperienced horses in the race. This colt’s pedigree is solid for 1 ½ miles as well, as Constitution is a son of Tapit (who has sired four Belmont winners) who himself has already sired a Belmont winner in Tiz the Law (although that edition in 2020 was held at 1 1/8 miles). Belmont Stakes history: Flavien Prat finished a very good second in last year’s Belmont Stakes aboard his first starter in the race, Hot Rod Charlie. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset will be making his Belmont debut. Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm owned 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer and co-owned 2015 Belmont winner Creator and 2018 Belmont and Triple Crown winner Justify. WinStar also campaigned Bluegrass Cat and Commissioner, runners-up in 2006 and 2014, respectively.
2. Skippylongstocking (20-1)
Jockey: Manny Franco
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Owner: Daniel Alonso
Career record: 10 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $214,600
Earnings per start: $21,460
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100
Pedigree: Exaggerator – Twinkling, by War Chant
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Skippylongstocking enters the Belmont Stakes off of a fifth-place finish in the Preakness Stakes, in which he settled in midpack through the backstretch and basically kept that position through the final furlong. This Florida-based colt has run respectably since moving north, finishing third behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino before his Preakness start. He was no threat in either race, however, and checked in 7 ½ lengths behind Early Voting at Pimlico. Overall, Skippylongstocking has competed best when out of stakes company and when racing at Gulfstream Park – neither of which is on the table Saturday. Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. told turf writer Bob Ehalt that he was confident about his charge’s ability to handle the taxing 1 ½ miles of the Belmont Stakes, and indeed this son of Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator is a grinding type that never really revs into a higher gear that could eventually tire him out. That running style could put him in the final rung of the superfecta, but anything more would be a surprise on Saturday. Belmont Stakes history: This will be the first Belmont appearance for Joseph and owner Daniel Alonso. Jockey Manny Franco won the Belmont Stakes with his very first mount aboard Tiz the Law in 2020; he ran seventh last year.
3. Nest (8-1)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Career record: 6 starts – 4 wins – 1 second – 1 third
Career earnings: $850,550
Earnings per start: $141,758
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Pedigree: Curlin – Marion Ravenwood, by A.P. Indy
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Trainer Todd Pletcher earned his first Belmont Stakes victory in 2007 when the filly Rags to Riches, coming off a win in the Kentucky Oaks, outfinished Preakness Stakes winner and eventual two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in one of the most exciting races this century. Now, he is bringing another supremely talented filly to the “Test of the Champion,” and like Rags to Riches, this one’s got a legitimate chance to win. Nest comes in off a runner-up finish behind Secret Oath in the Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 6, where she sat a good trip stalking the pace and made a sustained drive through the stretch to finish two lengths behind the winner, who made a well-timed bid for the lead at the quarter-pole at Churchill Downs and got the jump on the rest of the field. Prior to the Oaks, Nest had posted two dominant wins against females to kick off her 3-year-old season, the most impressive being a 8 ¼-length blowout in the 1 1/16-mile Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 8. Her Equibase Speed Figures are competitive with the rest of the Belmont Stakes field, and she’s got an excellent stamina pedigree as a daughter of the aforementioned Curlin and out of a dam by Belmont winner and 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy that also produced Nest’s full brother (same sire [father] and dam [mother]) Idol, winner of the 1 ¼-mile Santa Anita Handicap. This filly appeared eager to handle extra distance based on the stretch run in the Kentucky Oaks, and she’ll get plenty of that in Saturday’s classic. Nest is a definite threat to hit the board in the Belmont and, along with Mo Donegal, gives Pletcher a solid pair of chances to tally his fourth career victory in this race. Belmont Stakes history: Pletcher has sent a record 33 horses to the Belmont Stakes with three firsts (Rags to Riches, 2007; Palace Malice, 2013; Tapwrit, 2017), six seconds, and three thirds. Mike Repole owned 2011 Belmont runner-up Stay Thirsty and has also owned or co-owned six other starters. Jose Ortiz, a perennial top rider on the NYRA circuit, has had seven mounts in the Belmont including the past six editions in a row. He won in 2017 on Pletcher’s Tapwrit and finished second in 2018 and 2019 aboard Gronkowski and Tacitus, respectively.
4. Rich Strike (7-2)
Jockey: Sonny Leon
Trainer: Eric Reed
Owner: RED TR-Racing
Career record: 8 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 3 thirds
Career earnings: $1,971,289
Earnings per start: $246,411
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 106
Pedigree: Keen Ice – Gold Strike, by Smart Strike
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: After providing horse racing fans – and sports fans in general – with a thrilling Kentucky Derby experience, this proverbial “little guy’s horse” will be the center of attention in Belmont Stakes 154 as he attempts to prove that his 80.80-1 win wasn’t a fluke. Truth be told, one could hold a 30-minute seminar with a slew of PowerPoint slides and bullet points galore to explain just how many things had to go exactly right for Rich Strike to win the Kentucky Derby. What’s become somewhat lost in all of the ”what if?” recollections is the possibility that this unheralded colt had been gradually improving under the radar over the past several months while finishing a nonthreatening third, fourth, and third in three stakes races at Turfway Park. Racing on Turfway’s synthetic Tapeta Footings surface just may have masked his progress, which was revealed after he switched back to dirt and returned to the track where he’d romped by 17 ¼ lengths last September (albeit in a maiden claiming race). Rich Strike earned a strong 106 Equibase Speed Figure in the Derby, and he's appeared to maintain his energy, posting a sharp five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs May 30 prior to making the trip to Belmont Park. Trainer Eric Reed said back when his charge was a Kentucky Derby also-eligible that the Belmont Stakes was the long-term goal, and Rich Strike’s connections should be credited for sticking to that plan and bypassing the Preakness Stakes, even if it was a letdown for both day-to-day followers of horse racing as well as the general public. He’s bred for 1 ½ miles as a son of Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice and a dam (mother) who was a Canadian champion and is by the late Smart Strike, one of the best sires of the past 20 years. By no means is Rich Strike a lock in the Belmont, though: he’s a closer who almost certainly won’t get the swift pace he got to rally into in the Kentucky Derby, and jockey Sonny Leon has never ridden at Belmont Park before (insert memories of inexperienced riders moving too soon over “Big Sandy” here). Still, Rich Strike enters Saturday’s race in career-best form, and he’ll have millions of fans in his corner rooting for another incredible effort that could put “Richie” and his connections front and center in the sports spotlight once again. Belmont Stakes history: This is the first Belmont appearance for all of Rich Strike’s connections.
5. Creative Minister (6-1)
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Career record: 4 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 1 third
Career earnings: $322,095
Earnings per start: $80,524
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Pedigree: Creative Cause – Tamboz, by Tapit
Color: Gray or roan
Running style: Stalker/closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Up-and-coming Creative Minister faces a tough task in the Belmont Stakes, but he faced much the same three weeks ago in the Preakness Stakes and validated trainer and co-owner Ken McPeek’s confidence in him by finishing third. The Creative Cause colt shipped to Pimlico off of a sharp win in an allowance-optional claiming race on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs, and in the Preakness he stalked the pace through the backstretch while saving ground. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. angled his mount out for a stretch rally behind eventual winner Early Voting, and Creative Minister continued on well to the finish without threatening Early Voting and runner-up Epicenter, who ran past him on the inside. His Equibase Speed Figure dropped from a 108 at Churchill to a 99 in the Preakness, but Creative Minister has only had four career starts – all this year – and there appears to be a lot of untapped potential left. His sire, Creative Cause, also ran third in the Preakness Stakes and is by the “Iron Horse” Giant’s Causeway, and his dam’s sire (Creative Minster’s maternal grandfather) is the renowned Tapit, who has already sired four Belmont Stakes winners. McPeek captured the 2002 Belmont Stakes with the highest-odds winner in the race’s history, 70.25-1 Sarava. Creative Minister will leave the starting gate with much more respect from bettors Saturday, and he’s got a chance to become McPeek’s second winner in the classic. Belmont Stakes history: McPeek also finished third in the 2012 Belmont with Atigun from six prior starters. Fern Circle Stables owned McPeek-trained Senior Investment, who finished fifth in the 2017 Belmont, and McPeek’s Magdalena Stables co-owned another of his Belmont runners, 2012’s sixth-place finisher Unstoppable U. Brian Hernandez Jr. will be making his first start in the Belmont Stakes.
6. Mo Donegal (5-2)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owners: Donegal Racing and Repole Stable
Career record: 6 starts – 3 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $711,800
Earnings per start: $118,633
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 103
Pedigree: Uncle Mo – Callingmissbrown, by Pulpit
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This classy colt will vie for post-time favoritism in the Belmont Stakes – he’s campaigned by a three-time Belmont-winning trainer, ridden by arguably the best current jockey on the NYRA circuit, and is bred to excel at 1 ½ miles. Mo Donegal enters off of a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby where he was rallying late but ran out of real estate to check in 3 ¾ lengths behind fellow come-from-behind horse Rich Strike. He broke slow from the “kiss of death” rail post position in the Derby and at one point was racing 10-wide in the stretch, and as a result he finished off the board for the first time in his career. Mo Donegal boasts a win in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes at age 2 and another win at the distance in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino in his start prior to the Kentucky Derby (defeating subsequent Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting). He’s got stamina in his pedigree through second dam (maternal grandmother) Island Sand, a millionaire Grade 1 winner on the track who was sired by Belmont winner Tabasco Cat (Canadian Queen’s Plate winner Niigon is a notable extended family member). Pletcher has been working Mo Donegal steadily at his home base on “Big Sandy’s” vast oval and should have him primed for his best effort in the Belmont. The Belmont Stakes is often unkind to closers, and it would not be shocking at all to see Irad Ortiz Jr. have his mount positioned in midpack through the first mile or so rather than near the rear guard. This colt is a grinder who will need to be within striking range at the top of the stretch in order to make that one sustained run that could land him in the winner’s circle. Belmont Stakes history: Pletcher’s Belmont wins came with the great filly Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017). He’s also finished second six times and third three times from a record 33 starters in the race. Irad Ortiz Jr. won the 2016 Belmont on longshot Creator and finished second on Pletcher-trained Dr. Post in 2020 and third on Hofburg in 2018 from seven prior starters overall. Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing owned 2015 Belmont third-place finisher Keen Ice. Mike Repole’s Repole Stable owned 2011 Belmont runner-up Stay Thirsty. Repole has either owned or co-owned seven prior Belmont starters.
7. Golden Glider (20-1)
Jockey: Dylan Davis
Trainer: Mark Casse
Career record: 6 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $159,122
Earnings per start: $26,520
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 99
Pedigree: Ghostzapper – Golden Scarf, by Orientate
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This Mark Casse trainee returns to the Triple Crown scene after missing the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Golden Glider jumped into Derby preps back in February off of two consecutive wins to begin his career but he did not make much of an impression once there, his best finishes a pair of fourths in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. Redirected toward the Belmont Stakes, he started in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes on May 14, held around one turn at Belmont Park. In the Peter Pan, he raced three to 3 ½ lengths off of pacesetter We the People through six furlongs and had no response (nor did the rest of the field) when that horse drew clear in early stretch. While Golden Glider finished 10 ¼ lengths behind We the People, he did outfinish third-place Electability by a nose. With a tougher field lined up for Belmont 154, it’s hard to see this runner hitting the board, but perhaps a more contested pace and the longer distance will help his longshot chances. He’s by Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, winner of the 1 ¼-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic, and his female family gives him another stamina boost as he’s related to 1998 Belmont winner Touch Gold and Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval through his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Passing Mood. Belmont Stakes history: Mark Casse will be making his third Belmont appearance, and he won the 2019 Belmont with the less-heralded of his two starters that year, Sir Winston, as opposed to Preakness winner War of Will. Golden Glider will be Casse’s fourth starter overall in the Belmont Stakes. Dylan Davis has been on a tear in 2022 and has established himself among the best riders on the NYRA circuit after missing time last year with an injury. Golden Glider is his first Belmont mount.
8. Barber Road (10-1)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: John Ortiz
Owner: WSS Racing
Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 4 seconds – 1 third
Career earnings: $650,720
Earnings per start: $72,302
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100
Pedigree: Race Day – Encounter, by Southern Image
Color: Gray or roan
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Barber Road exceeded expectations in the Kentucky Derby, outrunning his 60.40-1 odds to finish sixth, 4 ¾ lengths behind winner Rich Strike. He entered the run for the roses off of four consecutive on-the-board finishes in prep races at Oaklawn Park earlier in his 3-year-old campaign, including a runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby. In the Kentucky Derby, he raced last of 20 through the first quarter-mile and raced wide through the far turn before moving even farther out in the stretch and picking off tired horses. He checked in a length behind fifth-place finisher Mo Donegal and will face that foe again in the Belmont as well as Rich Strike, who was also well back in the field early on but saved much more ground en route to posting a shocking upset. During his 2-year-old season, Barber Road was comfortable racing much closer to the pace, but this year he’s been a stone-cold closer and there’s no reason to expect anything different in the Belmont. Two-time Belmont-winning jockey Joel Rosario picks up the mount on Barber Road Saturday, and he’s one of the best closing riders in the business. Look for Rosario to position Barber Road in the rear guard through the backstretch and far turn and to wait as long as possible before pushing the “go” button. Filling out the Belmont Stakes superfecta should be considered a success for this hard-trying colt. Belmont Stakes history: Rosario’s two Belmont wins came aboard Tonalist in 2014 and Sir Winston in 2019. He’s also finished second on Frosted in 2015 and third three times. It’s the first appearance for owners Bill and Tammy Simon and trainer John Ortiz.