Looking for longshots in the 2019 Belmont Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

June 6th, 2019

There is a surprising lack of genuine speed horses entered in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park.

The 1 1/2-mile “Test of the Champion” serves as the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, but although the stakes are high, don’t expect to see jockeys getting aggressive for tactical positions. At least half of the 10 starters can be counted as deep closers, who will settle off the pace and make one run at the end, while four others have shown no particular interest in leading the way and prefer to use stalking tactics.

The pace should be slow, and that will play to the strengths of #8 Intrepid Heart. He was pretty much run off his feet in a fast renewal of the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan Stakes (G2) at Belmont last month, but keep in mind he stumbled at the start and ran into a little traffic down the homestretch. A clean break while adding blinkers should see Intrepid Heart right up on the pace in the Belmont Stakes, and from there, he could be difficult to run down.

Intrepid Heart is bred top and bottom to thrive running 1 1/2 miles. His sire, Tapit, has already sired three Belmont Stakes winners. His dam, Flaming Heart, is a daughter of the 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and previously produced the 2014 Belmont Stakes runner-up Commissioner. You’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger Belmont Stakes pedigree than the one belonging to Intrepid Heart.

I’m also encouraged by the way Intrepid Heart has been training under the tutelage of three-time Belmont Stakes-winning conditioner Todd Pletcher. In Intrepid Heart’s final pre-Belmont move, he worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 with a big gallop-out June 1. It was a strong breeze and reminiscent of the one posted by Pletcher’s Palace Malice prior to winning the 2013 Belmont.

If Intrepid Heart stays near his 10-1 morning line odds, I’ll view him as a significant overlay in the wagering and an easy value-based choice to win. Is he the most likely winner? Maybe not. But he does strike me as the best play from a risk-versus-reward perspective.

Preakness Stakes (G1) winner #9 War of Will and the Kentucky Derby (G1) third #10 Tacitus are the logical favorites, and I’ll include both on my tickets. But I also have some interest in #1 Joevia, who looms as the lone frontrunner in the field. He’s kept good company throughout his career and wasn’t exactly disgraced in the Wood Memorial (G2), where he went hard for the lead (pulling seven lengths clear of the field) before understandably weakening in the homestretch.

There’s a very real chance Joevia could shake loose on an easy, uncontested lead in the Belmont Stakes. Whether he’s good enough to capitalize is another question, but in a wide-open Belmont without any standout favorites, why not include a 30-1 shot who could enjoy a clear-cut tactical advantage? We might just be looking at another Da’ Tara.

Since I have Intrepid Heart and Joevia listed as overlays on my fair odds line, let’s bet them both to win in amounts that will guarantee a profit if they come home on top at anywhere near their morning-line odds. Then let’s key Intrepid Heart in the top two spots of a trifecta, while adding a cheap exacta with Joevia on top:

$20 to win on #8 Intrepid Heart $5 to win on #1 Joevia $2 trifecta: 8 with 9,10 with 1,5,6,7,9,10 ($20) $2 trifecta: 8 with 1,5,6,7,9,10 with 9,10 ($20) $2 trifecta: 9,10 with 8 with 1,5,6,7,8,10 ($20) $1 trifecta: 8 with 1,5,6,7 with 1,5,6,7 ($12) $1 exacta: 1 with 8,9,10 ($3)

Total: $100

Good luck!