Belmont Stakes 2019: How to watch, post time, odds, weather, We’re down to the final leg of horse racing’s biggest trio of runs.The 151st Belmont Stakes will take place on Saturday in Belmont Park, New York. The top two competitive horses are expected to leave the gate side-by-side. Betting favorite Tacitus drew the outside post, while Preakness Stakes winner War of Will will start from post 9, just inside his fellow competitor.
Although there will be no recipient of the Triple Crown due to the controversial events that occurred at the 145th Kentucky Derby, there are still several familiar names to keep an eye out for.
If you can’t make it down to party it up surrounding the 1.5 mile track, you can still catch all of the action. Here’s how:
2019 Belmont Stakes: Saturday Odds, The Bets You Should Make, And Tacitus’ Battle With Distance
Of all the jockeys riding in the 2019 Belmont Stakes later this afternoon, one decorated veteran who arguably knows the track best is three-time Belmont Stakes winner and Hall of Famer Mike ”Big Money” Smith, who’s piloting Bourbon War today, and who deftly guided Justify to his history-making Triple Crown win last year. Smith described Belmont’s huge, and hugely deceptive, length this way: “The six-furlong pole (marking three-quarters of a mile, or half of the Belmont’s twelve furlongs from the finish) is where the half-mile (four-furlong pole) is at other tracks.”
Translated, Smith’s saying that jockeys not schooled in the effects of Belmont’s immense scale can think that they are further in the race than they are. In a race as intellectually and tactically demanding on its two-legged athletes as this enormous run, that confusion can cause jockeys to make a move too early, a disastrous mistake anywhere, but particularly so at Belmont. As ever, it also means that this afternoon’s feature will be a hard-fought jockeys’ race, which is another way of saying, with Mike Smith in the irons, perhaps another look at Bourbon War on the strength of this Hall of Fame jockey is probably a good idea.
Now for the challenges facing the equine athletes. To imagine the athletic demands of the mile-and-a-half faced by Tacitus, War of Will, Tax, Bourbon War, and the rest of 2019’s Belmont Stakes crazy-quilt field, it helps to remember that Belmont’s oval track is a mile-and-a-half long. It makes the turns bigger, and means that the turns take up more track. Over half of the Belmont Stakes — 51%, to be precise — is run in the track’s two enormous turns, compared to 39% of the Kentucky Derby being run in Churchill’s turns. It means it’s harder for the horses to save ground at Belmont.
Second, as Mike Smith reminds us above, it means that the furlong poles at Belmont, each signifying one-eighth of a mile, are in different positions on the track relative to the turns and stretches, when compared to the pole positions at “normal,” shorter American venues such as Churchill. Bluntly put, at Belmont, the half-mile pole, the three-eighths pole and the quarter pole are still in the far turn. Belmont’s furlongs aren’t any longer than those anywhere else, they just seem that way because it takes more poles to clock a full revolution of the enormous track.
But before we bring on the Bluegrass Wise Man to parse these and other difficulties faced by the Belmont field, first the odds, which we’ll be updating all day until post time.
Without further ado, the Bluegrass Wise Man ™, a Kentucky owner and lifelong horseman who has been so generous to us all with his horse sense in Triple Crown seasons past. Note: The Bluegrass Wise Man ™ has no horses in the Belmont Stakes, although he will be betting it.
Let’s move through the track, then move on get going on how the race will unfold and then move back to the track.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Let me back up with one thing about the track. If 50 percent of the Belmont is in the turns, then I think you have to imagine this race as two races put together. There’s one race they have to run in the straight, and then they have a very different race in the turns. They’re connected, but in a complicated way, because at different stages different horses move, go well for couple of furlongs, then you watch the track just pull ’em under.
Is it the sand?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Combination of the sand and the scale. On dry days the sand can get deep, and some horses don’t like that, but some do. It’s like golfers. Dustin Johnson is comfortable at Augusta National. But I think the main thing is, if the jockey’s not paying proper attention to the horse, not holding him or saving him, not riding him really, then they both just kind of get lost out there. It’s a jockey’s race, more than most.
Moving to the race, then. What do we see.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: One advantage of a track this big is that there’s plenty of room at the start. I don’t see a Kentucky-style rugby scrum into the first turn. Joevia’s got the rail, so it’ll take some work from him, but he likes to be up front, so maybe he can get there. People are liking Everfast a little, who’s got quite the distance pedigree in A.P. Indy and Seattle Slew, and he’s breaking from the two hole. I can see him being in the mix on the backstretch, if only because he had a good Preakness. I’m not sure I trust him on this track or in this race.
Do you reckon Master Fencer factors in anywhere?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: No idea, which I guess is a diplomatic way of saying no. I mean, he can always wreck something for somebody else, but I can’t figure out what his morning line odds are doing that low. I just don’t see him as a third-favorite, and I don’t think he will be at post time. Could he bring something? Sure. Talented jock in Leparoux, meaning, he’s aware of the track and can handle it. One race here in the good old USA. Sixth in the Derby. At the risk of repeating myself, I just don’t see it. I see him fading.
Tell me what kinda race Sir Winston is going to have.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: His odds are as low as they are because of the Peter Pan, which I don’t need to tell you is at Belmont. In that he beat Intrepid Heart, Pletcher’s horse. Now, that’s a mile-and-an-eighth, so he’s gonna hafta step up and show us he’s got enough tactical speed and gas in the tank to add three-eighths of a mile to that, and he’s going to have to do that against Tacitus, War of Will, and some others. He’s not my favorite, even as a spoiler, but he did have one good race on this track.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Respect. I’m not sold on Bourbon War himself, but for Mike, hats off. Put it this way, if I were racing against him today, I’d tell my jockey to watch where he is at every second, particularly coming out of the second turn. Bourbon War’s out of Tapit, and A.P. Indy is his granddaddy, so he’s got the Belmont in him somewhere. What makes me so unsure about him is the Preakness. He ran terribly. Put it this way, Mike is going to have to use every ounce of his smarts to get that horse around this track and onto the board. He can do that, but man, that’s a job.
Hit us with some race-day Tacitus thinking. Will we see the duel?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Don’t know about the duel, but I’ve grown fonder of Tacitus as post time gets closer. Maybe because I think I would like to see him and War of Will duke it out in the stretch, if it sets up right. I think an exciting Belmont starring those two would also go toward resuscitating the kinda nutty Triple Crown season we’ve been having. I’m saying Tacitus and War of Will have the opportunity now to show us that there is talent in the ranks behind Omaha Beach and Maximum Security. So, can Tacitus actually execute. He had a respectable Derby and has had some rest, and he had a really nice Wood Memorial, but raced against nobody. The Belmont is the big leagues. Like everybody out there today, he’s gonna hafta show us the ability. It’s not just him. None of them have done this.