The final Triple Crown race of the 2023 season is fast approaching, as all eyes will be on Belmont Park in early June. The Belmont Stakes will be staged on Saturday, June 10, with a field of horses aged three tackling a distance of 1 ½ miles for the first time.
It promises to be a significant edition of the race, with an early insight into the Breeders’ Cup Classic likely to be available. This year’s race looks set to attract a star-studded field, with runners from the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes both making up a number of the most likely runners.
But, who are the names on the Belmont Stakes 2023 lineup?
It would be hard to start anywhere else other than the runner that was creating all the buzz in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. However, unfortunately, Forte wasn’t able to take his chance at Churchill Downs, as he was forced to bypass the opening Triple Crown race through injury. But, connections have teased that a return to action could come at Belmont Park.
If Forte is in the same form as he was before the late scratch at Churchill Downs, he could be incredibly challenging to overlook for Belmont Stakes glory. The Todd Pletcher runner has won seven from eight starts, which includes victories in the G2 Fountain of Youth and G1 Florida Derby this year. In the latter, he achieved his joint-best speed figure of 102 when holding off Kentucky Derby winner Mage by a length.
Angel of Empire
Brad Cox previously trained the winner of the Belmont Stakes back in 2021, as Essential Quality was a standout winner of the race. He could have a very solid chance of repeating the feat in 2023, as Angel of Empire continues to be a runner that is showing an excellent amount of progression. The Belmont Stakes distance will likely play into his strengths, as he looked to only get going late in the day when third in the Kentucky Derby in May.
That run scored a speed rating of 104, which highlights a considerable career-best effort. He has won two from four starts this season, and his progression could be a difficult factor to overlook when assessing the serious challengers at Belmont Park. It also aids his case that he has been off the track since his run at Churchill Downs.
Bob Baffert created headlines by landing the Preakness Stakes with National Treasure at Pimlico, and further Triple Crown glory could be on the agenda at Belmont Park. The Hall of Famer is chasing a fourth win in the race, and a first since Justify in 2018. Arabian Lion has always came with a big reputation, but he finally looked to piece together his form when landing a dominant win on the Preakness undercard.
The Baffert runner led from wire-to-wire over 1 1/16 miles in the Sir Barton Stakes, achieving a career-best speed figure. This son of Justify could yet be reaching his peak, and he could emulate his sire’s success from 2018 this year.
Another runner from the Pletcher yard comes in the form of Tapit Trice. This three-year-old was slightly unfortunate in the Kentucky Derby, as he struggled to get involved before finishing back in seventh. However, his previous form does highlight that he has the ability to get involved at Belmont Park, with his standout success coming in the G1 Blue Grass Stakes when holding off Verifying and Blazing Sevens to record a speed figure of 102.
Unlike many of the other leading contenders mentioned, the distance is a slight unknown, but it is worth remembering that Essential Quality won the race in 2021 from the same progeny.
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