Based off the morning line, the Belmont Stakes boils down to two horses, War of Will and Tacitus.
Surprisingly, Tacitus was installed as the slight favorite over War of Will by the oddsmakers. Given that the Belmont is considered a special race because of its length (1½ miles), it is not uncommon to see the Preakness winner not become the favorite in the Belmont, and in many cases the Preakness winner chooses to not even attempt the Belmont.
However, Tacitus is by no means an obvious choice for the Belmont. He ran a respectable fourth in the Kentucky Derby, but the Derby has become a bit of a toss-out this year because of the traffic problems in the stretch and the disqualification of Maximum Security (which resulted in Tacitus placing third).
Before that, he has a very short but impressive racing dossier, culminating in a win in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He is bred for the distance and has proven his preference to run late, a quality many people believe is an asset in the Belmont. But the Belmont does not always go to a late closer. Just like any other race, if the pace does not set up well for the closing types, their bids come too late.
War of Will certainly proved the Derby was a toss-out by coming back in the Preakness and winning impressively. The Preakness field was stronger than this Belmont field, so there is no reason to bail on War of Will now unless there is a concern over his ability to handle the Belmont distance. He should stay closer to the front than Tacitus, and will likely make the turn for home on or near the lead. If his morning-line odds hold up, 2-1 is a great value for War of Will.
The Belmont has produced some long-shot winners in the past — Lemon Drop Kid, Da’Tara and Sarava among them — so it would be wise to try to find one that might jump up and be that high-odds spoiler this year. Spinoff is one who will be overlooked at the betting windows, but has a shot. His one bad race was the Derby, but he found himself wide throughout in that one. This field is much weaker and his up-close, stalking style will be an asset Saturday.
Win bet: War of Will
Exacta bet: Wheel War of Will and Spinoff over War of Will, Spinoff, Tacitus and Tax
Trifecta bet: Wheel War of Will and Spinoff over War of Will, Spinoff, Tacitus and Tax
Liam Durbin is owner-handicapper of e-ponies.com. He shares his Triple Crown picks and betting tips with The Baltimore Sun each year.