Known as the “Test of the Champion,” the Belmont Stakes serves as the third jewel in the American Triple Crown and Justify will try to complete the sweep at its demanding 1 ½-mile distance. The well-built chestnut colt is unbeaten from five starts.

The Bob Baffert-trainee registered the highest BRIS Speed rating in the six-year history of the Kentucky Derby points’ qualifying system when posting a 114 for an easy win in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) and his numbers tower over the Belmont competition. However, Justify’s Speed ratings declined in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and he failed to earn a triple-digit number for the first time in the latter.

Here are the BRIS Speed ratings of the current Belmont Stakes probables (Bandua & Gronkowski don’t have numbers from Europe):

HORSE

 

RACE

 

BRIS SPEED

BLENDED CITIZEN

 

Peter Pan

 

98

 

 

Blue Grass

 

93

 

 

Jeff Ruby

 

100

BRAVAZO

 

Preakness

 

97

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

93

 

 

Louisiana Derby

 

76

FREE DROP BILLY

 

Kentucky Derby

 

58

 

 

Blue Grass

 

94

 

 

Gotham

 

96

HOFBURG

 

Kentucky Derby

 

93

 

 

Florida Derby

 

104

 

 

Maiden

 

96

JUSTIFY

 

Preakness

 

98

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

102

 

 

Santa Anita Derby

 

114

NOBLE INDY

 

Kentucky Derby

 

57

 

 

Louisiana Derby

 

100

 

 

Risen Star

 

96

RESTORING HOPE

 

Pat Day Mile

 

59

 

 

Wood Memorial

 

96

 

 

Maiden

 

92

TENFOLD

 

Preakness

 

97

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

94

 

 

Allowance

 

93

VINO ROSSO

 

Kentucky Derby

 

91

 

 

Wood Memorial

 

102

 

 

Tampa Bay Derby

 

91

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis

Blended Citizen posted consecutive triple-digit Speed ratings earlier this year (third & fourth starts back) and he’s remarkably the lone Belmont Stakes prospect with a start over the track, closing strongly to capture the May 12 Peter Pan (G2) going away by 1 ½ lengths. It was a strange track last time (downgraded to good prior beforehand after on-and-off-again rain all day) and I liked the tactical speed Blended Citizen displayed, racing within two lengths of the lead at the early points of call before offering another visually impressive late kick. He possesses a formidable turn foot, registering BRIS Late Pace ratings as high as 108 while passing rivals and closing ground through the stretch of his last six starts, and brings improving form into the Belmont Stakes for Doug O’Neill.

Bravazo took a step forward upon recent efforts in the Preakness, closing boldly in deep stretch to miss by only a half-length in second, but it is a little disconcerting to see the dark bay colt fail to earn a Speed rating better than 98 from 10 career starts. He does appear on the upswing for D. Wayne Lukas, who has orchestrated notable turnarounds in form from 3-year-olds Charismatic, Oxbow and Will Take Charge in recent decades, and Bravazo remains a candidate to step forward with a career-best performance in the Belmont Stakes.

Free Drop Billy doesn't appear fast enough to challenge.

Hofburg ran the fastest race among Justify’s rivals, netting a 104 Speed rating for his runner-up effort to subsequent Kentucky Derby third-placer Audible in the Florida Derby (G1). Conditioned by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Hofburg was making his stakes bow in the Florida Derby and appeared arguably a race short when stepping up with a troubled seventh in the Kentucky Derby. The chestnut colt has had five weeks to regroup and may be ready for a much-improved effort in the Belmont Stakes. And he’s by Tapit, who hasn’t had much luck in the Kentucky Derby but always seems to have one of his offspring ready for a peak performance in the Belmont Stakes, siring three of the last four winners.

Justify brings dangerous speed to the Belmont Stakes and his last two starts have come on wet tracks, conditions which make me leery to make any definitive declarations upon his lower Speed ratings. He ran great earlier this year under fast conditions, including the Santa Anita Derby which he dominated on the lead through moderate fractions, and Justify must be viewed as a serious threat to run the competition off their feet similar to American Pharoah, who made an easy lead and saved plenty for the final furlongs. Declining Speed numbers can still be classified as a legitimate concern especially with an odds-on choice trying a new track surface for the first time. And betting against prohibitive favorites with a Triple Crown on the line has been the way to play the Belmont Stakes, with an 11-for-12 success rate (92%) over the past 40 years.

Noble Indy is one of five horses with a triple-digit Speed rating from the last three starts, netting a 100 for a game tally in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2), and he had little chance from post 19 in the Kentucky Derby. The Todd Pletcher pupil has the speed to be a pace factor but tough to envision him being involved in the latter stages.

Restoring Hope never fired on a sloppy track in the Pat Day Mile (G3) and the maiden winner has never run fast from five career ouitings.

Tenfold didn’t make his career debut until February and after an after an even performance in his stakes debut, he bounced back with a fine third in the Preakness. The Curlin colt grinded his way into contention late and came up only three-quarters of a length short, registering a career-best 97 Speed rating. He still has plenty of potential upside for Steve Asmussen and Tenfold can’t be dismissed from consideration with another step forward in the Belmont Stakes.

Vino Rosso posted comfortable wins over maiden and allowance foes in his first two starts but couldn’t deliver upon his promise when facing stakes rivals in the Sam F. Davis (G3) and Tampa Bay Derby (G2). He rebounded from those setbacks in the Wood Memorial (G2), earning a 102 Speed figure for the three-length decision, and the emphasis seemed to be on the Belmont Stakes in the aftermath. The chestnut made up some ground late to be ninth in the Kentucky Derby and we can count on Pletcher tightening the screws for the Belmont Stakes. Two of his three wins have come in New York and Vino Rosso could be poised for a big effort.

Here are the BRIS Speed ratings for the last 15 Belmont Stakes winners:

HORSE

 

RACE

 

BRIS SPEED

TAPWRIT

 

Kentucky Derby

 

89

 

 

Blue Grass

 

87

 

 

Tampa Bay Derby

 

101

CREATOR

 

Kentucky Derby

 

84

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

100

 

 

Rebel

 

95

AMERICAN PHAROAH

 

Preakness

 

100

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

100

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

102

TONALIST

 

Peter Pan

 

107

 

 

Allowance

 

93

 

 

Maiden

 

93

PALACE MALICE

 

Kentucky Derby

 

93

 

 

Blue Grass

 

96

 

 

Louisiana Derby

 

97

UNION RAGS

 

Kentucky Derby

 

100

 

 

Florida Derby

 

102

 

 

Fountain of Youth

 

103

RULER ON ICE

 

Federico Tesio

 

93

 

 

Sunland Derby

 

93

 

 

Allowance

 

93

DROSSELMEYER

 

Dwyer

 

94

 

 

Louisiana Derby

 

96

 

 

Risen Star

 

95

SUMMER BIRD

 

Kentucky Derby

 

96

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

98

 

 

Maiden

 

92

DA’ TARA

 

Barbaro

 

99

 

 

Derby Trial

 

96

 

 

Allowance

 

91

RAGS TO RICHES

 

Kentucky Oaks

 

109

 

 

Santa Anita Oaks

 

98

 

 

Las Virgenese

 

98

JAZIL

 

Kentucky Derby

 

99

 

 

Wood Memorial

 

101

 

 

Fountain of Youth

 

94

AFLEET ALEX

 

Preakness

 

112

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

99

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

107

BIRDSTONE

 

Kentucky Derby

 

90

 

 

Spiral

 

87

 

 

Allowance

 

97

EMPIRE MAKER

 

Kentucky Derby

 

106

 

 

Wood Memorial

 

111

 

 

Florida Derby

 

106

Analysis

Seven of the last 15 Belmont Stakes winners earned a declining Speed rating in the previous start. Two of those, Palace Malice (97-96-93) and Union Rags (103-102-100), had declining numbers in the last two outings like Justify (114-102-98).

Six Belmont Stakes winners came into the race off an improved number. Da’ Tara (91-96-99) was the only one with increasing numbers in the last two starts.

American Pharoah and Ruler on Ice paired up in the last two starts.

Here are the BRIS Speed ratings for the last eight horses who came up short with a Triple Crown on the line:

HORSE (YEAR)

 

RACE

 

BRIS SPEED

CALIFORNIA CHROME (2014)

 

Preakness

 

104

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

103

 

 

Santa Anita Derby

 

106

BIG BROWN (2008)

 

Preakness

 

101

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

111

 

 

Florida Derby

 

110

SMARTY JONES (2004)

 

Preakness

 

113

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

106

 

 

Arkansas Derby

 

105

FUNNY CIDE (2003)

 

Preakness

 

111

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

108

 

 

Wood Memorial

 

111

WAR EMBLEM (2002)

 

Preakness

 

110

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

113

 

 

Illinois Derby

 

109

CHARISMATIC (1999)

 

Preakness

 

104

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

105

 

 

Lexington

 

104

REAL QUIET (1998)

 

Preakness

 

106

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

101

 

 

Santa Anita Derby

 

107

SILVER CHARM (1997)

 

Preakness

 

112

 

 

Kentucky Derby

 

107

 

 

Santa Anita Derby

 

102

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis

All registered triple-digit BRIS Speed ratings in the three previous starts, with five of eight improving from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness.

Two of the three with declining Speed figures in the Preakness (War Emblem and Big Brown) were unplaced in the Belmont Stakes and Charismatic finished third.

For complementary Belmont Stakes past performances courtesy of Brisnet.com, visit http://www.brisnet.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/BelmontStakes18.pdf.