Forte finally gets his shot, as 5-2 favorite in the Belmont Stakes

Belmont Stakes favorite Forte, left, works out with a stablemate at Belmont Park on Saturday. (NYRA Photo/Susie Raisher)

Belmont Stakes favorite Forte, left, works out with a stablemate at Belmont Park on Saturday. (NYRA Photo/Susie Raisher)

With one of three legs of the Triple Crown left, Forte finally gets a shot to run in one of them.

He’s also the favorite to win it.

The 2022 2-year-old male champion drew the No. 6 post in a nine-horse field for Saturday’s 155th Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, and Forte is 5-2 on the morning line.

He was also the favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby, but was scratched the morning of the race with a minor foot bruise and subsequently also missed the Preakness on May 20 because he needed 14 days off and a published workout to clear the mandatory Kentucky veterinary list.

“He’s doing great,” co-owner Mike Repole said during the livestream of the Belmont post-position draw on Tuesday morning. “Obviously, he didn’t run in the Derby, but he hasn’t missed any training. We still think this is the best 3-year-old in the crop, and I think on Saturday he’s going to prove that.”

“You have to expect him to be a fit horse,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “It’s 10 weeks between races, but he had a great foundation leading into that and he hasn’t missed much training. His breezes here have been very good.

“I personally haven’t seen the bottom of him. In all of his training, he comes back and cools out quickly. We still have to do it. It wasn’t ideal the way we got here, but it’s how it’s unfolded.”

The Belmont field will include Preakness winner National Treasure, but not Derby winner Mage, who is recharging for a summer campaign after finishing third in the Preakness.

The Belmont field with odds, from the rail out, will be: Tapit Shoes (20-1), Tapit Trice (3-1), Arcangelo (8-1), National Treasure (5-1), Il Miracolo (30-1), Forte (5-2), Hit Show (10-1), Angel of Empire (7-2) and Red Route One (15-1).

Forte and Tapit Trice are trained by Pletcher, who won his fourth Belmont last year with Mo Donegal.

Trainer Brad Cox, who won the 2021 Belmont with Essential Quality, has three entered, Tapit Shoes, Hit Show, who was fifth in the Kentucky Derby, and Angel of Empire, who was the 4-1 betting favorite in the Derby and finished third.

The other Derby horse running in the Belmont is Tapit Trice, who was seventh at Churchill Downs.

Although Forte missed the Derby and Preakness, he has been in the news, after the New York Times reported on May 9 that Forte’s win in the Hopeful at Saratoga Race Course on Sept. 5 had been disqualified for a drug positive out of that race that took eight months to adjudicate. Pletcher has appealed a fine and suspension, and Repole has said that he’ll fight the penalties in court.

Forte has been cleared to run in the Belmont and has breezed three times at Belmont since May 21, the day after the Preakness.

His stablemate Tapit Trice will get some consideration from the betting public based on his pedigree. His sire, Tapit, has produced four Belmont winners, Essential Quality, Tapwrite, Creator and Tonalist.

Pletcher said the No. 2 post shouldn’t hinder the late-running Tapit Trice’s Belmont chances.

“He did win the Blue Grass from the one hole,” he said. “The key is getting him out of the gate, getting into position. He’s got a big, long stride on him. If we can get him into a good rhythm, I think he’s going to like the mile and a half.”

The Bob Baffert-trained National Treasure has worked twice at Belmont since the Preakness, including five furlongs in 59.55 on Monday.

 “He shipped up from Baltimore and has been very comfortable here and worked out yesterday and looked beautiful,” Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said.

Like Tapit Trice, Tapit Shoes was also sired by Tapit, and Cox said the plan is to get the jump on the field out of the starting gate because of the inside post.

“Given the one hole, we’re going to send him out of there running,” Cox said. “We’d like all of them to break and go forward. Not all of them do that, but that’s going to be the intent.

“He’s continuing to get better, which we expected, given his pedigree. He’s a half to Cyberknife, a horse who obviously got better as he got older.”

Angel of Empire will add blinkers for the Belmont.

“He trained in them all winter, we just never made the change,” Cox said. “And he ran well last time, and [jockey] Flavien [Prat] came back and said, ‘You know, it might not be a bad idea to add the blinkers to him.’ We’ll see if it works out.

“His works have been fantastic, just like they were leading up to the Kentucky Derby. He ran a great race there and has shown us all the signs that he’s continuing to do well and move forward, physically.”

Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said the No. 9 post shouldn’t be a problem for Red Route One, but a lack of early speed from the front-runners could be.

“Hopefully, we have some pace in the race,” Blasi said. “He definitely needs that. I don’t think the draw affects us that much. Sometimes you think there’s pace and there’s not, and then other times they go faster than you think they do. We’ll just have to see.”

Categories: At The Track, Sports

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