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Belmont Contenders Update: Random Thoughts And Morning Line Odds Predictions

James Murphy
by in Horses on
  • The 2022 Belmont Stakes will be held on June 11, 2022 at New York’s Belmont Park.
  • There is currently a projected field of 8 for this year’s Belmont. A maximum of 16 horses can be entered.
  • Preakness Stakes winner Early Voting will not enter the Belmont as his connections are targeting the Travers Stakes on August 27 at Saratoga.

Just like that we’re down to a likely eight horse field for the Belmont Stakes. Howling Time and Brigadier General are targeting the Matt Winn at Churchill Downs on June 12. Ethereal Road is recovering from a quarter crack–assuming he recovers quickly the Grade 3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 25 is the likely next race.

The Belmont Stakes post position draw will be announced on Tuesday, June 7 at 11 AM Eastern. In the meantime, here are some random thoughts on the prospective entrants:


If nothing else, Barber Road is consistently solid. His two career wins came early in his career over 6.5 furlongs at Keeneland and Churchill Downs respectively. Very experienced at this stage of his career. The Belmont will be his 10th career start. Joel Rosario will ride Barber Road in the Belmont. Barber Road will be ‘blinkers off’ for this race. The Kentucky Derby was the first time he finished out of the money since his professional debut. Ran into traffic problems in the Kentucky Derby, was in last place at the quarter pole and in 14th near the stretch but he rallied through the traffic late to finish sixth. Ended up finishing just five lengths behind Rich Strike. Rosario is an excellent closing rider and without the Derby traffic he’s got a shot. The problem is that he won’t get the frenetic pace he got on the first Saturday in May with We The People the only true speed in the race. He’s a closer in a field of closers meaning he’s unlikely to win but could hit the board. Worth using underneath in exotics.


Creative Minister wasn’t Triple Crown nominated by any of the deadlines but has developed very quickly in the past month or so. Had to be supplemented into the Preakness to the tune of $150 thousand USD and responded by finishing third. Looked very sharp in two wins prior to the Preakness which is why owners Paul Fireman and Greg Back were willing to reach for their checkbook. Brian Hernandez, Jr. will ride. This will be his third race in five weeks but trainer Kenny McPeak says he’s doing well and will be ready to run. Gives off the vibe that he’s still got considerable upside and hasn’t hit his prime. Hernandez will likely position him right off the pace at the Belmont and save ground. Another horse that wants to come from off the pace in a field without much speed. I really like Creative Minister and he’s definitely worth using in exotics. Tough to assess his chances to win as no clue how good he really is.


Turned in mediocre performances on the Derby prep trail finishing 5th in the G3 Sam F. Davis, 4th in the G2 Tampa Bay Derby and 4th in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes. Finished second in the May 14 Peter Pan Stakes behind We The People which got his entrance fees for the Belmont Stakes covered by NYRA:

We The People flat out dominated the Peter Pan, winning by 10 1/4 lengths on a sealed wet track. Trainer Mark Casse hopes that the fact his colt wasn’t in the same zip code as the winner was due to track conditions. Based on his past performances, probably not on the same level as We The People or the other top horses in the field. Yet another closer in a field full of better closers.


Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal had everything working against him in the Kentucky Derby. He started from the rail with post position 1. He broke late, got caught up in traffic but scrapped his way to a fifth place finish. It was the first time in his career that he finished out of the money. Irad Ortiz Jr. is one of the best jockeys in the business and will give him a good ride. Has the pedigree for distance and Ortiz will have him in a position for a strong close. Without the Derby traffic he could win the thing. Could be the morning line favorite but my hunch is that he won’t be the post time favorite as Rich Strike, wise guy favorite We The People and Kentucky Oaks runner up Nest are getting much more hype. If I had to pick one horse to win the race, it would likely be this one. Yet another closer but arguably the best in the field.


Kentucky Oaks runner up behind Secret Oath. Trained by Todd Pletcher, she began her career at Belmont Park. Dominated the field in the G1 Ashland and the Suncoast Stakes. Pedigree (daughter of Curlin) suggests she can handle the distance. Really under the radar heading into the post position draw which is good since she’s got the ability to hit the board–if not win the race. Pletcher has already won the Belmont with one filly (2007 Rags to Riches) and Nest could become the fourth female horse to win this race (and only the second since 1905). Could be seriously undervalued by the betting public but that just means a better price for us on a horse that can definitely win the race. Jose Ortiz should position her just off the pace and she doesn’t need the speedy pace that the deep closers do.


Such an intriguing entry. Got the ride of the century from Sonny Leon in a race that set up perfectly and won the Kentucky Derby as an 80-1 underdog. Should be rested, having skipped the Preakness. Word on the streets is that he’s looked great since arriving at Belmont Park, and he reportedly looked sharp in his workouts at Churchill Downs before leaving for New York. Now the intrigue–how good is he really? Entered the Derby off of three capable performances on the Tapeta surface at Turfway Park finishing third in the G3 Jeff Ruby Stakes, 4th in the John Battaglia Memorial and 3rd in the Leonatus Stakes. Throw out the Derby and how do you evaluate a horse that ran his entire three year old campaign on a synthetic surface? He’s yet another closer in a field full of them and almost certainly won’t get the fast pace that allowed him to win on the first Saturday in May. While we’re at it, how good is jockey Sonny Leon? He turned in a ride for the ages at Churchill Downs and credit for seeing an opportunity and taking advantage. He’s never raced at Belmont Park–a track that greatly favors experienced jockeys. Did Rich Strike and Sonny Leon catch the proverbial ‘lightning in a bottle’ in the Kentucky Derby or were they just ‘under the radar’. My guess is that he’ll take a lot of money due to the mainstream coverage of his Kentucky Derby win and go off as a decided underlay. Better value elsewhere in the field.


Another massive question mark. If you like experienced horses, you’ll like Skippylongstocking–the Belmont will be his 11th career start. Spent most of his early career in Florida at Gulfstream Park. Good but not great performances in the Wood Memorial where he finished third behind Mo Donegal and Preakness winner Early Voting. Finished fifth in the Preakness. Was never a threat in either race. On the plus side, has a perfect running style for this race and should be able to handle the distance. Jockey Junior Alvarado has plenty of Belmont experience and that’s also a plus. Yet another closer in a field full of them but he’s definitely got a ‘puncher’s chance’ to win this race. Definitely use him underneath on exotics as he could easily hit the board. Value bettors note–he could go off as the race longshot and as such will likely be an overlay. At anything higher than 10/1 you almost have to bet him to win on general principle. Like sports betting, horse racing is all about finding value and from a theoretical standpoint this could be the betting interest to back.


Every major stakes race has a ‘wise guy favorite’ that eventually crosses over to the mainstream betting public. In this race, it’s Peter Pan winner We The People. Correction–he didn’t just win the Peter Pan he flat out dominated by 10 1/4 lengths:

An impressive performance but against a less than formidable field. There’s also the track conditions that could have been a factor. Not every horse wants to run in the slop. Only four career starts–he won all but one which also happens to be the only other Grade 1 he’s entered. Finished 7th in a field of nine in the Arkansas Derby–it was one of those races where everything goes wrong. Got a bad start, caught wide on the first turn, faded heading into the stretch. He needs to be at or near the pace to win but as the only true speed in this race that’s where he should be. Jockey Flavien Prat has plenty of Belmont experience and that won’t hurt his chances. Handicapping theory suggests that the lone speed in a race is always capable of winning and he’s in against a field of stalkers and closers here. Sired by Constitution, who is a son of Tapit. Tapit has sired four Belmont winners, Constitution was the sire of 2020 winner Tiz the Law. Very much capable of winning the race, but will take plenty of money from the public and could go off as the post time favorite. Seriously doubt if he’ll be ‘betable’ based on price alone.

Now, my best guess at morning line odds. Obviously, there could be an additional late scratch and post position always matters.


Mo Donegal3/1
We The People7/2
Rich Strike6/1
Creative Minister9/1
Barber Road15/1
Golden Glider20/1


Barber RoadJohn OrtizReylu Gutierrez
Creative MinisterKenny McPeekBrian Hernandez, Jr.
Golden GliderMark CasseDylan Davis
Mo DonegalTodd PletcherIrad Ortiz, Jr.
NestTodd PletcherJose Ortiz
Rich StrikeEric ReedSonny Leon
SkippylongstockingSaffie Joseph, Jr.Manny Franco
We the PeopleRodolphe BrissetFlavien Pratt

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