Admittedly, I'm not that excited about this year's Belmont Stakes.
After his amazing run as an 80-1 shot, Rich Strike was held out of the Preakness. The Preakness was then won by Early Voting, who is now being held out of the Belmont.
I can handle a Belmont that doesn't have a chance for a Triple Crown winner. But I really wish we could at least see a matchup between those two.
Despite my lack of excitement, that doesn't mean I won't be watching or betting on the race.
If you want to skip down to see what I'm betting, you can, but first let's take a look at the options.
2022 Belmont Stakes Preview
There are only eight horses in the 2022 Belmont Stakes, and they are sorted below from least to most enticing. I have listed the jockey, trainer, and owner. If you want more details, reach out to me on Twitter, but I'll also provide a few quick thoughts on each here as well.
Previewing the Horses
Jockey: Dylan Davis
Trainer: Mark Casse
Owner: Gary Barber/Conrad Farms
The good news is Casse has won the Belmont before. The bad news is that he has finished in the money just once in his last four races, and, even in that race, he was over 10 lengths behind fellow Belmont competitor We The People. Easy fade.
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: John Ortiz
Owner: WSS Racing
Ortiz and Rosario make for a very nice team and have the success to show for their partnership. Furthermore, Barber Road is a closer who doesn't have to jump out in front of the pack and try to maintain the lead. And I do like that he has finished in the money four times this year.
However, Barber Road didn't win a single race this year and was a non-factor sixth-place finisher at the Kentucky Derby. We can toss him out too.
Jockey: Manny Franco
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Owner: Daniel Alonso
I still like this horse (one of my favorite long shots in my Preakness preview). And I don't foresee the longer distance of the Belmont being an issue for this horse. It might not be a bad bottom-of-the-ticket inclusion, and I love this horse to race well after the Belmont. But it is just not at that elite level right now that I'd even consider putting it into an Exacta bet.
Jockey: Sonny Leon
Trainer: Eric Reed
Owner: RED TR-Racing
Still one of the greatest runs ever in a Triple Crown race. But there are reasons it opened at 80-1 in Kentucky, as well as not even being one of the top two betting options here at the Belmont. My heart would love to see him finish in the money again, but my head says it won't.
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Owners: Fern Circle Stables, Back Racing, and Magdalena Racing
Plenty of industry experts believe this horse hasn't reached its peak yet. I'm not going to argue otherwise. Creative Minister descends from the same line as Tapit on one side and the famed Storm Cat on the other. McPeek's horse also finished a solid third in the Preakness.
I'm really curious to see if this line moves or not, as I keep changing my mind about how well this horse does come Saturday. If the odds become shorter, say 3-1, I'll probably fade this horse. At its current 6-1, the value is about even. But if the odds lengthen closer to 8-1, I'll be including it in nearly every ticket. I can't pass up that kind of value.
We The People
Jockey: Flavien Pratt
Trainer: Rodolphe Brisset
Owner: WinStar Farms
We The People is the opening line favorite and has the best Beyer figure of 103, the best in the entire field. (Rich Strike is second at 101). Coming off a victory in the highly respected Peter Pan, I'm not surprised to see it as the favorite.
And yet ... I'm not convinced. Based on the race conditions and the way that race unfolded, We The People should have won. I don't like punishing a horse for winning a race that it should either. Yet perhaps it's the seventh place in the Arkansas Derby that has me concerned. I got a feeling this horse is on plenty of winning tickets that have multiple horses on it. But my gut says to stay away from picking it to win outright, and that's exactly what I am doing.
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Repole Stable/Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners
Curlin was the highest North American money earner from 2008 to 2016. He was also a two-time Horse of the Year.
In 2021, he was the Leading Sire of G1SWs with 5 and Grade 1 Stakes Horses with 9 Co-Leader of GSWs with 13. Why all the breeding details? Because Nest was sired by Curlin, so it's easy to see this filly giving the boys all they can handle.
She recently finished second in the Kentucky Oaks. That capped off a streak of six straight races finishing in the money, which includes three victories. I got a feeling she hits the board this weekend and I love the current value (8-1) for her to win outright.
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher
Owner: Donegal Racing and Repole Stable
I'm hoping bettors see this horse's fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and avoid him, thereby lengthening his odds. But if you watch that race again, Mo Donegal had to swing wide for room entering the lane in that race. However, he still had an impressive, ground-saving trip most of the race. So I look at that Derby as a reason to wager for Mo Donegal, not against him.
Furthermore, before the Derby, he had a very impressive win in the Wood Memorial, where he beat out both Early Voting and Skippylongstockings. That came after a string of four races finishing in the money, including two victories.
In addition to a strong racing record, Mo Donegal checks all the boxes for me. Pletcher is a Hall of Fame trainer and all Ortiz has done is be the leading rider in New Yorkl since 2012. Throw in a breeding line that includes A.P. Indy and Tabasco Cat, I really like Mo Donegal to win the Belmont.
2022 Belmont Stakes Recommended Bets:
I'm going with a "simple" box exacta of Mo Donegal and Nest.
Got a thicker wallet than me? I'd go with a box trifecta of Mo Donegal, Nest, and We The People. Throw Creative Minister in there somewhere if you are going to bet a superfecta as well.
If you're looking for a long shot that might mess up some others' tickets, take a long look at Skippylongstocking. I might actually bet him to win, especially on those sites where if your horse doesn't win but finishes in the money, you get your money back.
But as I said, I'll keep it simple and wager mostly on Mo Donegal and Nest. That will about do it for my Belmont Preview and Bets. Go, baby, go!
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Contributor Network. Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.