Updated June 8, 2023 - 12:11 pm
Michael “The Wizard” Kipness, a professional horse racing handicapper since 1986, analyzes the nine-horse field for Saturday’s 155th Belmont Stakes, designating each horse as a contender or pretender to win the third leg of the Triple Crown.
Visit Wizardraceandsports.com for his full card selections and wagering strategies for Friday’s card (11 races) and Saturday’s card (13 races), as well as educational tools on how to win money at the races and a recent podcast.
Post position, horse, jockey, morning-line odds:
1. Tapit Shoes, J. Ortiz, 20-1
Has shown steady improvement and more tactical speed in all three starts this year. Beaten by a head last time out by Belmont Stakes rival Red Route One. This is a big step up in class, which I feel at this point is too big of an obstacle to overcome. Pretender.
2. Tapit Trice, Saez, 3-1
Following four straight wins in which he showed steady improvement, Tapit Trice finished a disappointing seventh in the Kentucky Derby as the second betting choice. I feel he will improve in the Belmont with the freshening, added distance and trainer Todd Pletcher in his corner. Contender.
3. Arcangelo, Castellano, 8-1
Showed big improvement stretching out in distance winning the Peter Pan over this track. Acts like he should handle the 1½ miles, which he’s bred very well for. He’s 2-2 with Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano aboard. Contender.
4. National Treasure, Velazquez, 5-1
The Preakness winner could not have had a better set up that day on the front end. Improving 3-year-old from the always dangerous Bob Baffert barn responded well to blinkers back on. Must respect his tactical speed stretching out in distance, but the Belmont will test his stamina in a tougher spot. The one to catch. Contender.
5. Il Miracolo, Meneses, 30-1
Exits a front-running win, where he dropped in class and faced much weaker competition while going a mile and adding Lasix for the first time. Has no shot in the Belmont stretching out in distance. Pretender.
6. Forte, I. Ortiz Jr., 5-2
The Kentucky Derby favorite was scratched on the morning of the race because of a foot injury. He’s likely 100 percent ready for the Belmont. Forte has won six of his last seven starts, including last time out when he defeated Derby winner Mage. Has the looks of a colt who should have no problem handling 1½ miles. He broke his maiden in his only start at Belmont. Amazingly, trainer Todd Pletcher is looking to win the Belmont Stakes for the fifth time in his illustrious career. My concern is how fit and healthy Forte is returning from a 70-day layoff and that he’ll likely be over-bet. Contender.
7. Hit Show, Franco, 10-1
His fifth-place finish in the Derby was better than it looks. Broke from the dreaded No. 1 hole. Eased outside on the far turn, making a strong middle move into quick fractions. Lost ground in the final stages of the race which was not unexpected because of his trip. Hit Show has shown steady improvement in all three starts this year. With the right trip and ride in the Belmont, he can make his presence felt at big odds. Contender.
8. Angel of Empire, Prat, 7-2
Steadily improving 3-year-old rallied from far back in the Derby to finish a close third. In the Belmont, he will not be taken out of his game, which is to settle early and make one run. But I don’t expect him to be as far back in this smaller field. The added distance should pose no problem. Training very well. Will be equipped with blinkers for the first time in his career. Contender.
9. Red Route One, Rosario, 15-1
He’s a deep one-run closer who was taken out of his game in the Preakness. Will return to his best game in the Belmont, but his running style rarely wins this race. I also feel he’s not as talented as several others. Pretender.