Horses have to be fast enough to win the approximately mile-and-a-quarter races at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, while still having enough endurance not to fade at the longer mile-and-a-half sprint at Belmont.
The D Wayne Lukas-trained Bravazo, who finished a half-length behind Justify at the Preakness, will break from the third post while John Velazquez, a two-times Belmont Stakes victor, will be aboard Vino Rosso in the eighth post.
"They've trained the best horses, start with the best horses and they've earned the right to do it", said trainer Dale Romans, whose colt Keen Ice upset 2015 Triple Crown victor American Pharoah that summer in the Travers Stakes. "He's going to be a target now and you don't know what's going to happen".
The total purse of Triple Crown winners has changed in the past 99 years since Sir Barton won $57,275 in 1919 ($828,481 in today's world). They're relaxed. The Derby is so intense, you've been working on it, and now you've got the Derby victor.
No writer from the Asbury Park-Press is picking a Justify win at the Belmont Stakes in the publication's collection of staff picks.
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But no horse has a better track record at defying the odds than the favorite, Justify. Silver Charm (1997) lost the Belmont by three-quarters of a length, and Real Quiet (1998) lost by a nose. "He was blowing pretty good (after the race), but he wasn't really as exhausted as we thought he was". Pletcher has won this race three times since 2007. He and teammate Tom Brady have wagered together at the Derby in past years.
The Belmont will pit Pletcher against Jack Wolf, his Starlight Racing boss who's part of Justify's large ownership group.
"I never do like to draw the rail, but my horses seem to live in it", he said in response to the question about his nerves. "I thought employing Todd as a trainer because he would get the most out of them".
I am excited to think that Justify may be the next Triple Crown victor.
With trainer Chad Summers keeping a close eye on his every move, school was in session for popular New York-bred Mind Your Biscuits (Posse).
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This will be the second time Wheels Up has signed on to sponsor a Triple Crown contender. Justify, unbeaten in five career starts, became the first horse since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby (as the favourite) without racing as a 2-year-old and then followed up with a Preakness victory (as an even bigger favourite) that wasn't quite as impressive as it appeared Justify might be tiring at the end.
While Justify is the heavy favorite with 4/5 odds, according to the opening line, the horse given the second-best chance at winning the race is Hofburg, whose owner, Juddmonte Farms, has pulled off a Belmont upset in the past.
He's right: It is a who's-who of trainers. So everybody gets to see the Derby victor and you get to see him up close and the other guys are trying to beat you.
"I think he'll run big", Smith said.
"It's a great honor to be asked to call "riders up" for the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, which is one of the great sporting events not only in NY, but in our country", Shurmur said.
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