The third leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown is set to go off on Saturday evening in Elmont, NY home of Belmont Park and the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes. As far as the first two legs are concerned, Rich Strike became the longest odds to ever win the Kentucky Derby in early May, choosing to sit out the Preakness in preparation for this race.
A few weeks later, Early Voting was crowned winner of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, as he too now is sitting out this race in preparation for another. Just because Early Voting isn’t here, there’s plenty of star power in the field as Mo Donegal, who is 5-2, takes part in his second leg (Kentucky Derby), and We The People makes his debut as the odds on favorite at just 2-1.
Just because this is the third and final leg doesn’t mean there will be any less coverage as things get started on CNBC at 3 PM EST breaking down the race that is scheduled for 6:45 PM EST. Official race coverage will begin at 5 PM EST on NC, hosted by the usual All-Star Cast of Mike Tirico, Randy Moss, and Jerry Bailey.
As race day approaches in New York, let’s take a closer look at the track, the field, and where I see the value remaining in the eight-horse field.
Previous Winners of the Belmont Stakes
- 2021: Essential Quality
- 2020: Tiz the Law
- 2019: Sir Winston
- 2018: Justify
Track Preview: Belmont Park
Located just east of New York City, Belmont Mark opened in 1905 with a renovation in 1968, producing the track we see today. Known as “The Big Sandy”, its main dirt track is the longest of the Triple Crown races at 1.5 miles.
It’s also known for the dirt’s depth, often times tiring horses at a faster pace than standard dirt tracks. With a capacity of over 120,000, Belmont Park also boasts some of the biggest attendance records in Triple Crown history. Operated by the New York Racing Association (NRYA), Belmont is one of the most prominent tracks on the east coast and a win here is a dream for the sport’s very best.
Outright Favorite Betting Pick (10/1 or less)
Mo Donegal (5-2)
Trained by one of the most established trainers in the history of the sport, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher has won three previous Belmont Stakes, including the 2017 edition with Tapwrit. Knowing this track as good as any trainer in the field, Pletcher also will be working with one of the sport’s best jockeys in 29-year-old Irad Ortiz Jr.
Coming into this week and every year since 2017, Ortiz Jr. is ranked #1 in terms of wins in the national jockey standings. Additionally, he’s finished top three every year since 2013 in annual jockey standings, showing a propensity to finish near the top regularly.
As far as the horse is concerned, Mo Donegal was one of the favorites in the Kentucky Derby before finishing 5th. While it was the finish anyone on his team had hoped for, it is worth noting he was in the #1 gate, widely considered the worst in horse racing but especially at the crowded Kentucky Derby. Add in the fact that Mo Donegal finished first in three of the previous five career races, and I think there’s value here heading into the Belmont Stakes.
Outright Longshot Betting Pick (10/1 or more)
Barber Road (+1200)
Flying largely under the radar in this field of just eight horses, I think, is Barber Road. In his nine career starts, the three-year-old colt has shown in seven of them, finishing as high as 2nd at the super-competitive Arkansas Derby earlier this year.
Joel Rosario is the jockey and is a three-time Triple Crown race winner himself, including the Belmont stakes twice (2014 and 2019. With Kentucky Derby experience (6th) under his saddle as well, Barber Road comes into the Belmont at longer odds than I would’ve expected, given his recent race history and jockey’s pedigree.
Best Exacta bet: Mo Donegal, Creative Minister (box)
We the People is the favorite in this race, and I will include him in my smattering of bets on Saturday. However, he comes off as a bit of a front-runner, as evidenced by the win in the Peter Pan stakes race earlier this year at Belmont. In the Arkansas Derby, We the People experienced much more resistance and couldn’t overcome it, finishing 7th. This horse seems to need to get out of the gates in front, which might be difficult when up against the rail in the first post position.
That leads me to my top choice in this race, Mo Donegal, who finished a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby and was held out of the Preakness. Before that, Mo Donegal won the Wood Memorial, beating Preakness winner Early Voting.
Mo Donegal checks all the boxes from a speed perspective, and it’s hard to go against the combination of trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. Mo Donegal also has a win at Belmont in his career dating back to October 2021. I tend to gravitate toward horses that have won at a track before.
As for my second choice, Creative Minister feels like a horse ascending. The horse finished a respectable third in the Preakness, posting a career-best 100 Beyer speed figure. This horse’s best performance has yet to come, and it could very well come Saturday at Belmont.
Best trifecta bet: Mo Donegal, Creative Minister, Barber Road (box)
So I’ve outlined why I like Mo Donegal and Creative Minister. And frankly, I’ll probably do a couple of versions of this trifecta using We the People and Rich Strike. However, let’s talk about Barber Road, a long shot that might not be getting the respect it deserves.
Barber Road is a proven producer and is a heck of a worker. Before a 6th place finish at the Kentucky Derby, Barber Road had finished in the top three in seven straight races. This horse doesn’t have the talent to win the Belmont, but he knows how to hit the board, and I suspect he’ll be involved in the end.
And check out our previews for the top horses of the 2022 Belmont Stakes:
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