Belmont preview: Derby runner-up should prevail at Saratoga

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
The Belmont Stakes card is among the very best every year.  Outside of the Breeder’s Cup, it would be alongside any other collection of races. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The Triple Crown of American thoroughbred racing — the tightly-packed collection of races for three year-olds — winds down another season Saturday with the Belmont Stakes.  

The Belmont Stakes card is among the very best every year.  Outside of the Breeders’ Cup, one could place it alongside any other collection of races and not find it to be out of depth. 

Simply put: It’s as good as it gets.

Saturday’s card also starts the second half of the racing calendar: Breeder’s Cup season.  Starting around December 1st, the racing world focuses on the Kentucky Derby trail; today marks the end of the Triple Crown season, and the beginning of the qualifying races for the World Championships, this year held at Del Mar Racetrack in San Diego.

Remember, there are two major changes this year: They are running the Belmont at Saratoga, as Belmont is being massively renovated; and secondly, the race typically run at one-and-a-half miles is being run at one and a quarter.  This shortening of distance likely bolstered the size of the field, and gave use more likely contenders.

Most likely Belmont winner

The most likely winner is Sierra Leone, who was part of that wild photo finish in the Kentucky Derby and comes in rested since.  Trainer Chad Brown has elected to switch jockeys to Flavien Prat; Prat currently leads all jockeys in 2024 in Grade 1 wins. 

Brown is a New York-based trainer. Sierra Leone is royally-bred. His ownership group is top-level. It goes on.  He’s the most likely winner today.

Serious contenders

Both Seize the Grey and Mystik Dan — the Preakness and Derby winners, respectively — both have major shots today.  Nothing about either of their workout forms says they can’t run it back here.  

There are numerous other Kentucky Derby alums in this field, including Grade 2 Wood Memorial winner Resilience.  The Derby trail still gives us the most reliable method for determining the best three year-olds; his morning line price of 10-1 makes him excellent value in here.

Wild-card entry

The wild card of the weekend is Mindframe, last seen dusting lower-level company on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs.  This is a big ask for a horse with only two lifetime starts, but every person I’ve talked to thinks he might be the most naturally gifted three-year old in training. 

Can he win?  Sure.  Is this still a major ask?  It absolutely is.

Louie’s top Belmont picks

Sierra Leone is on top.  He’s going to win today.

After that, use four horses to hit the trifecta.  We’ll use the two previous winners, Seize The Grey and Mystik Dan. We’ll throw in The Wine Steward as well.  The Wine Steward has never finished worse than second in six career starts.

The play: 9 with 1,3,4 with 1,3,4. $10 trifecta base = $20 wager.

An extra pick 4?  Sure. Pick 4, starts race 4:  5 / 2,3 / ALL / 5 $1 Pick 4 = $16.