Veteran Horse Racing Writers Analyze the 2023 Belmont Stakes

Angel of Empire Belmont Stakes Bob Ehalt Tom Pedulla
Esteemed turf scribes Bob Ehalt and Tom Pedulla both landed on Angel of Empire, above, as their top selection in the 2023 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Bob Ehalt and Tom Pedulla became fast friends when they met on their first day at Fordham Preparatory School in the Bronx, N.Y., in 1970. Bob soon introduced Tom to the joys of Thoroughbred racing.

weekend Television schedule

Thursday, June 8: 3:30-8 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Friday, June 9: 12:30-5 p.m. and 6-6:30 p.m. on FS2; 5-6 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Saturday, June 10: 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m. on FS1; 4-7:30 p.m. on FOX; 7:30-8 p.m. on FS2; post time varies on FanDuel TV

Sunday, June 11: 12:30-3 p.m. on FS2; 3-6 p.m. on FS1; post time varies on FanDuel TV

They have endured some rough moments at the track, with Tom taking exception when Bob repeatedly smacks him on the back with a program as one of their horses launches an all-out drive. Much to Tom’s chagrin and the amusement of onlookers, Bob has been known to call for security as he proceeds to cash a $27 triple.

They have owned a number of horses together and were part of the group that owned 1998 Whitney runner-up Tale of the Cat. They are often seen carrying on as if they never left their teenage years.

Here is their take on Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets:

PEDULLA: Bob, I am still lamenting the Preakness Stakes that got away. I really thought I would get home with Blazing Sevens, but they allowed National Treasure to crawl on the front end and my horse did not get the ideal trip, losing precious ground. I can come up with more reasons why I failed to cash, but you have heard them all before. I will not need any excuses after the Belmont. Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire fell a bit short when he launched a seven-wide bid and finished third in the Kentucky Derby. I expect him to be more forwardly placed here and look for Flavien Prat to work out a much better trip for Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox.

EHALT: I see trouble here with a capital T for Thomas. I’m also siding with Angel of Empire. I picked him in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and he rallied late to grab third and narrowly missed second. His connections say more distance is his ally, so the mile and a half should be right up his alley. Just hope we didn’t bring out the devil on this Angel by both of us picking him.

Tapit Trice Toyota Blue Grass Stakes 2023 Belmont Stakes Belmont Park Triple Crown
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Tapit Trice. (Eclipse Sportswire)

PEDULLA: We’ve heard for a long time that Tapit Trice is a Belmont horse. He, too, did not have things break his way in finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby. We definitely know he is better than that. He would be my pick to win if not for his penchant for slow starts. And we’ve learned over the years that deep closers do not fare nearly as well as one would expect in the Belmont marathon.

EHALT: A slow pace gave National Treasure a big helping hand in the Preakness, but I liked the way he dug down in the stretch and held off Blazing Sevens. There should be a slow pace here as well and judging by a sharp work over the track Monday, he has bounced out of the Preakness as sharp as ever. Despite the longer distance, National Treasure should be hard to catch here and is a serious threat to pull a Meat Loaf. You know, Thomas, as you so often sing while ripping up Pick 3 tickets, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”

PEDULLA: Forte, a stablemate of Tapit Trice, would be my selection if he was not coming off such a long layoff. He last danced on April 1, when he was all out to repel eventual Kentucky Derby winner Mage by one length in the Florida Derby. We both respect Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, but can he possibly have Forte ready for a mile and a half off such an extended layoff?

EHALT: Agreement X 2. I’ve also penciled in Forte for third. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins and what’s better than a celebration by my Queens bro Mike Repole in the winner’s circle? But the combination of doubts over the distance and lack of a race since April 1 dampen my enthusiasm and cloud my thoughts about him winning on a day when I hope they swap Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for that Barbra Streisand tune you loved to sing in high school. You know, “On a clear day …”.

PEDULLA: They won’t let National Treasure and cagey jockey John Velazquez set a sluggish pace again. The Quality Road colt has failed to hit the board just once in six lifetime starts. He gets only a minor piece this time.

EHALT: I was going to include Tapit Trice, but made a late scratch. Hit Show turned in a reasonably good effort in the Kentucky Derby while finishing fifth and an encore could be good enough to move him into the superfecta. Of course, by moving Tapit Trice out the picks, I may have also sealed the deal for him to emerge victorious.

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