The third jewel of the Triple Crown will be run this Saturday at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
A field of nine has been entered in the Belmont, headed by morning-line favorite Forte and Preakness winner National Treasure. Kentucky Derby winner Mage was not entered.
Forte was also the Kentucky Derby morning line favorite but was scratched by track officials due to a hoof injury. He's listed as the 5-2 favorite with stablemate Tapit Trice the second choice at 3-1. National Treasure is the fourth choice in the morning line at 5-1.
Let's take a look at the entrants, ranking them from worst to first, regardless of the morning-line odds.
--Belmont Stakes entrants ranked
9. Il Miracolo
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Jockey: Marcos Meneses
Forecast odds: 30/1
Il Miracolo translates to "The Miracle." It would be just that if this son of Gun Runner improved 20 lengths and won this race.
Il Miracolo has gone to the post 10 times and won twice, including his last start when he went wire-to-wire in a one mile optional claimer. He lost by 13 lengths in the Florida Derby in his prior start.
This colt could play a key role in the Belmont if he goes to the front again or at least puts pressure on projected front runner National Treasure. In any case, he won't be a factor when the real running begins.
If there were odds on which horse would finish last, Il Miracolo would be the heavy favorite.
8. Red Route One
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Red Route One has run in seven graded stakes but didn't win any of them. He was dropped into a restricted $200K stakes race at Oaklawn Park two starts back and snapped a six-race streak. Red Route One made up 11 lengths and won by a head.
Another son of Gun Runner, Red Route One was then entered in the Preakness and finished fourth, as the pace was too slow for this deep closer.
Despite an unimpressive workout on Monday, Red Route One will try once again against the big boys. He could make up some ground late but he's simply not good enough to threaten this group.
7. Tapit Shoes
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Forecast odds: 20/1
Tapit Shoes has one thing in his favor -- as his name would suggest, he's a son of Tapit. That sire has been a dominant force in the Belmont, as four of his sons have won the event.
This son looks a little overmatched. Tapit Shoes has run only once since February -- he lost a stretch duel to Red Route One at Oaklawn in April.
Cox is a big-time trainer but this is the first time in six starts that Tapit Shoes has even been entered in a graded stakes. Tapit Shoes will be a little more forwardly placed than a majority of the horses in this field and he should save ground most of the way. However, he'd need to improve dramatically to beat the proven stakes runners here.
6. National Treasure
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: John Velazquez
Forecast odds: 5/1
Baffert's last two Belmont winners -- American Pharoah and Justify -- completed Triple Crown sweeps. National Treasure wasn't entered in this year's Derby due to Baffert's Churchill Downs suspension.
National Treasure took advantage of a field otherwise lacking in early speed when he won the Preakness. He set a slow pace, yet still barely held off Blazing Sevens to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown.
National Treasure will likely try similar tactics on Saturday, though he may get more pressure from Il Miracolo and Tapit Shoes. Front running victories have happened many times in the Belmont, despite the 1 1/2-mile distance.
However, the field for the Belmont is a lot stronger than the one National Treasure faced in the Preakness. This time, he'll fade by the time they complete the final turn.
Trainer: Jena Antonucci
Jockey: Javier Castellano
A son of Breeders Cup Classic winner Arrogate out of a Tapit mare, this ridgling sold for just $35K at auction, $15K less than the sire's stud fee. Boy, did his connections get a bargain.
Arcangelo broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in his third career outing, then captured Belmont Park's traditional prep for this race, the Peter Pan. Arcangelo overcame a slow pace and won a stretch duel, running the last eighth in a strong 12 1/5 seconds.
Jockey Javier Castellano won the Derby for the first time on Mage and now picks up this live longshot for the Belmont. Unheralded trainer Antonucci had a rough 2022 (three wins in 72 starts) but has a shot to make history as the first female trainer to win a Triple Crown race.
It may be a stretch for Arcangelo to beat all the Pletcher and Cox stakes horses here but he could certainly finish in the money.
4. Tapit Trice
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Luis Saez
Forecast odds: 3/1
This could be Tapit's fifth son to win the Belmont. The gray horse will look to bounce back from an uninspired performance in the Kentucky Derby, when he finished seventh despite a favorable pace scenario.
That snapped a four-race win streak for Tapit Trice, who was coming off a victory in the Blue Grass at Keeneland. Trainer Todd Pletcher is seeking his fifth Belmont victory and second straight after winning with Mo Donegal last year.
Even though Pletcher's main stable is in New York, Tapit Trice will be running at Belmont Park for the first time. He didn't begin his career until late in the fall.
The biggest knock on Tapit Trice, other than his Derby clunker, is his tendency to break poorly. The pace is expected to be moderate and conceding too much ground early would put Tapit Trice at a disadvantage.
3. Hit Show
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Manny Franco
Forecast odds: 10/1
Among the longshots in the field, Hit Show might be the most enticing. Hit Show won the Withers Stakes at New York's Aqueduct Racetrack by five lengths in February, then drew the outside post in the 12-horse Wood Memorial at the same track.
Hit Show lost by a nose as the favorite to extreme longshot Lord Miles, then was shipped to Kentucky. Hit Show drew the rail in the Derby and made a menacing move around the final turn, only to flatten out and finish fifth.
Hit Show should be sitting third or fourth in the early going on Saturday and his grinding style usually works well at the taxing Belmont distance. He also has some Tapit blood in him -- his dam, Actress, is a daughter of the prolific Belmont sire.
2. Angel of Empire
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Flavien Prat
Forecast odds: 7/2
Like Hit Show, Angel of Empire is trained by Brad Cox, who won the 2021 Belmont with Essential Quality.
Angel of Empire's path to the Belmont is similar to Essential Quality, who finished fourth in the Derby and then redeemed himself after skipping the Preakness. Angel of Empire closed to finish third in the Derby but couldn't catch Mage or Two Phil's.
In his previous start, Angel of Empire easily won the Arkansas Derby by swooping around the field during the final turn to take control. Prat rode the horse in his last two starts, so the jockey has a good feel for when to push the button and unleash Angel of Empire's rally.
In an interesting twist, Cox is adding blinkers to Angel of Empire. That suggests 'Angel' will be closer to the pace, a move that could either enhance the colt's chances or completely backfire. We're banking on the former -- Cox doesn't make a lot of mistakes with stakes horses.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Forecast odds: 5/2
Trainer Todd Pletcher, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and owner Mike Repole formed a winning combination in last year's Belmont. A repeat could be in the cards on Saturday.
Forte, who broke his maiden at Belmont, hasn't started since winning the Florida Derby but it wasn't planned that way. He came into the Derby as the morning line favorite but was scratched by track officials due to a bruised hoof. Being placed on the vet's list meant he couldn't compete in the Preakness, either.
Forte has posted three solid works at Belmont since then, so he's ready to run on Saturday. He carries a five-race win streak into the race, including four in Grade 1 events. The son of Violence overcame a sluggish start to win at Gulfstream but he's not a habitual slow breaker.
Jockey Ortiz has been riding lights out at the Belmont meet and he'll have the colt in good position to pounce as the field enters the far turn. Forte should get the jump on the closers and live up to his role as the favorite.