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Home / Articles / Jeff's 2023 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Preview & Prediction

Jeff's 2023 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes Preview & Prediction

By: Jeff Hochman     Date: Jun 7, 2023
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Race 12 (7:02 PM E)

The 155th running of the Belmont Stakes is set to be an exciting one, with some of the top horses in the world ready to compete. Taking place on Saturday, June 10th, 2023, it is the longest continually-held stakes race in North America and has been contested since 1867. With its long and rich history, this year’s race promises to be a thrilling one for racing enthusiasts. The field is stacked with proven resumes, including Preakness winner National Treasure, Forte—who has won six of his seven career races, including five in a row, Tapit Trice—who has the bloodlines to win this type of race, and Angel of Empire—who has accumulated over $1.3 million in career earnings. Arcangelo is an interesting runner who has won two in a row, including the Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont Park. Only two horses have won the Peter Pan and Belmont Stakes in the same year. Lets take a look at this year’s field!

#1 Tapit Shoes (20/1), trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Jose Ortiz. This 3-year old son by Tapit has hit-the-board in three of five starts with career earnings of $82,878. In April, he nearly took first place in a 1 1/8 mile stakes race at Oaklawn Park, coming in just a few inches away from the winner, Red Route One. Tapit's offspring tend to excel when running at greater distances. In fact, four of the Belmont Stakes wins were achieved without any victories in the Kentucky Derby. Tapit Shoes has made great progress with all of its five starts, as evidenced by the increasing Equibase speed figures from a 69 to 102. Will be running off Lasix for the first time since his 6th-place finish at first asking on October 22, 2022. He broke his maiden 33 days later by 7 ½ lengths on Lasix. Long shot!

#2 Tapit Trice (3/1), trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Luis Saez. Another horse by the amazing Tapit, Tapit Trice has four wins and one third place finish in six career starts, earning $883,650. His four-race winning streak came to an abrupt halt after finishing a distant seventh in the Kentucky Derby. He didn’t have the best of starts and actually ran a pretty good race. This horse has a history of not breaking out of the gate in a normal fashion and will be key to his success. Tapit Trice is a grey horse, just like his sire Tapit, and is a Grade 1 winner at the Blue Grass held at Keeneland. He was heavily favored in the betting for the Kentucky Derby as the second choice at 9/2 odds. Tapit Trice has a great pedigree and only needs a clean start. Win contender!

#3 Arcangelo (8/1), trained by Jena Antonucci and ridden by Javier Castellano. This 3-year old son by Arrogate has two wins and one second in four starts, with career earnings of $167,400. Since 2010, veteran New York trainer Jena Antonucci has won 160 races, with a pair of Grade 3 stakes to her credit. She wins 33% with an ROI of +13% when teaming up with Jockey Castellano. Arcangelo has been victorious in his last two races. His first win in March was a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, followed by the Grade 3 Peter Pan at Belmont last month. Both races were won as a result of strong finishes from Arcangelo— as he lacks early speed. This seems like a tough spot for a horse that hasn’t faced this level of competition, without a foundation of races leading up. In the Mix!

#4 National Treasure (5/1), trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by John Velazquez. This 3-year colt by Quality Road has finished in-the-money- five of six with career earnings of $1,335,000. He won the Preakness and is the third choice on the morning line. It goes to show you how tough the level of competition is in this year’s Belmont Stakes. Owns the fastest early and middle pace speed figures in the race. National Treasure recently won the Preakness Stakes race by leading from the start and this was true in his maiden win at Del Mar. He is expected to be in the front running position again, but it will be more difficult than usual due to its extended length of 2 1/2 furlongs. NT won’t be alone on the lead as both Tapit Shoes and Il Miracolo would like to be on or very close to the lead. Has been working lights out, which is typical for all horses trained by Bob Baffert. He has been victorious at the Belmont Stakes on three occasions, with Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah, along with Point Given in 2001. Win Contender!

#5 Il Miracolo (30/1), trained by Antonio Sano and ridden by Marcos Meneses. A chestnut colt by Gun Runner, has finished first or second in five of 10 starts with career earnings of $103,125. Il Miracolo notched a second win of his career with a front-end effort in an allowance as the even-money chalk at Gulfstream Park last month. Between his maiden win at Gulfstream Park on November 12th, 2022 and the recent victory, he made five starts in stakes races and never finished better than fifth. His class and speed figures rank 7th and 9th respectively in this field. Both of his wins were front-running efforts, and will be sent from the gate— which could throw a wrench into National Treasures’ chances of “stealing” a victory. Toss!

#6 Forte (5/2), trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Irad Ortiz. The deserving favorite and for good reason. It’s hard to ignore six wins (Four Grade 1’s and One Grade 2) from seven starts with career earnings of $2,409,830. After being disqualified from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the 2-year-old champion Forte will now be running at Belmont. This decision was made by a state veterinarian in Kentucky. Violence's son has not competed since April 1, when he won the Grade 1 Florida Derby against Mage who eventually won the Kentucky Derby. The question you have to ask yourself is— if you want back a horse at odds much lower than his ML, coming off an injury going 1 ½ miles on a race track they call “Big Sandy”. I would be nervous betting this horse at anything less than his morning line. Owns the fastest late-pace Equibase speed figure (111) in the field. The One to Beat!

#7 Hit Show (10/1), trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Manny Franco. Has finished first or second in four of six starts with career earnings of $494,375. This son of Candy Ride finished a respectable 5th in the Kentucky Derby navigating through traffic along the way. His class and speed ratings are just okay. Hit Show would need to improve his speed figures by at least 10 points after finishing with a 95 in the Kentucky Derby. I don’t think this horse will like the Belmont track. I could be wrong, but that’s what I see. Toss!

#8 Angel of Empire (7/2), trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Flavien Prat. Impressive record with four wins, one second, and one third in seven starts, posting career earnings of $1,369,380. Angel of Empire did not participate in the Preakness Stakes as his connections planned to focus on the Belmont Stakes instead. This was after a noteworthy performance in the Kentucky Derby in which he placed third. Classic Empire's son was the favorite for the Run for the Roses and dominated the course at 4/1 odds. Despite racing seven wide, he had a strong finish and was only 1 ½ lengths behind the victor, Mage. Visually, it looked to me that he would benefit from the long stretch run at Belmont Park. I compare his running style to last year’s winner, Mo Donegal. We had him across-the-board! Angel of Empire owns the second fastest late-pace speed figure (108) of the group. Trainer Brad Cox & Jockey Flavien Prat win 34% with an ROI of +19% together. Also, Brad Cox wins 44% with an ROI of +52% when racing with first time blinkers. Great spot for this horse. My Top Choice!

#9 Red Route One (15/1), trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Joel Rosario. This chestnut colt by Gun Runner has hit-the-board in five of 10 starts with career earnings of $732,525. Red Route One won his first race on a turf track at Kentucky Downs last September, following which he was seen competing in six graded stakes events and securing two second-place finishes. In April, he emerged victoriously in a one mile-listed stakes race at Oaklawn Park, winning by a head against Tapit Shoes. However, he came in fourth place in the Preakness due to disruptions during the race. His declining speed figures and deep closing style are a major concern, especially at Belmont Park. Fourth race in nine weeks. First time doing that. Toss!

It is noteworthy that only three horses since 2000 have succeeded in winning the Belmont with a front-running effort. Justify and American Pharoah, who won the Triple Crown and Da' Tara in 2008, are the only ones to have accomplished this feat. Tapit Shoes and Il Miracolo could be strong competitors to National Treasure on the front end, despite him winning his last race in convincing fashion. However, past history suggests that it may be difficult for National Treasure to lead from start to finish again. In the 21st century, only two horses have won the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year – Point Given in 2001 and Afleet Alex in 2005.

My Selection: #8 Angel of Empire (7/2) to win, place, and show


  Jeff Hochman

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