Tacitus, War of Will look hard to beat in Belmont

The Grade I, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the Triple Crown’s third and final jewel, will be run for the 151st time this Saturday at Belmont Park. There’s no Triple Crown on the line this year, but 10 three-year-olds with Eclipse Award aspirations have assembled for the “Run for the Carnations.” The Belmont Stakes, set for 1 1/2-miles on the main oval, carries an approximate post time of 6:37 p.m. ET. The “Test of the Champion” goes as Race 11 on a program loaded with Grade I stakes.

#10 TACITUS (9-5, morning-line favorite) was last seen rallying for fourth in the Kentucky Derby, snapping a three-race win streak. The way he closed suggests that he’ll appreciate the extra two furlongs in the Belmont. TACITUS will have the added advantage of extra rest over main rival WAR OF WILL, who won the Preakness in the interim. Based on pedigree, TACITUS is a cinch to handle the 1 1/2-miles (by Tapit, sire of three Belmont winners since 2014 out of Close Hatches). The Bill Mott trainee should lay several lengths off the pace before making his move. That was the winning strategy for TACITUS in the Tampa Bay Derby and Wood Memorial earlier this year. Jose Ortiz maintains the assignment.

#9 WAR OF WILL (2-1) rebounded nicely off some highly-publicized Kentucky Derby misfortune in the Preakness Stakes three weeks ago. He gets distance influence from both sides of his pedigree (by War Front out of a Sadler’s Wells mare) that suggest he’ll handle the stretchout in the Belmont. However, it’s worth wondering whether or not the fatigue of running in all three Triple Crown races (the only horse to do so this year) will catch up with him. Tyler Gaffalione and Mark Casse team up with WAR OF WILL once more.

#7 SIR WINSTON (12-1) is best used underneath in the Belmont Stakes, his Triple Crown series debut. He gained position late in the Withers and Tampa Bay Derby earlier this year without seriously threatening the eventual winners. His most recent effort, a runner-up result in the Peter Pan Stakes over this course, was arguably the best of his career. SIR WINSTON is by Awesome Again out of an Afleet Alex mare, so he should take to this distance. Joel Rosario has the call.

#1 JOEVIA (30-1) will take them as far as he can in the Belmont at a big price. The pace is likely to be slow based on his opponents’ running lines. JOEVIA was last seen winning Monmouth’s Long Branch Stakes on May 12; he placed in two lower-level stakes prior to that, with a toss-worthy DQ in the Wood Memorial sandwiched between. Jose Lezcano will be aboard the son of Shanghai Bobby (out of a War Front mare).

The play: $8 exacta box 9/10, $3 exacta 10/1,7,9 ($25)

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