Scully: Playing against favorites in Belmont Stakes

June 10th, 2023

Four-time Belmont winner Todd Pletcher will send out the top two morning line choices in Saturday’s $1.5 Belmont (G1), Forte and Tapit Trice, and I’ll take a stand against both at short odds. The 1 1/2-mile distance following a 10-week layoff represents a significant obstacle for Forte, and Tapit Trice’s inability to get out of the gate effectively may leave him too much to do behind a projected moderate pace.

I find little appeal to backing confirmed closer Angel of Empire — who leveled off in upper stretch after rallying from nearly a different area code in the early stages of the Kentucky Derby — at expected short odds from off the pace.

National Treasure, the early 5-1 fourth choice, had everything his own way on the lead in the Preakness (G1), loose through an opening half-mile in nearly 49 seconds, and appeared vulnerable turning for home, going all out to narrowly beat Blazing Sevens from off the pace. I lack confidence in his chances at 12 furlongs.

#3 Arcangelo (8-1) and #7 Hit Show (10-1) are my top two choices in the Belmont.

Out of a mare by four-time Belmont-winning sire Tapit, long-striding Arcangelo is a son of Arrogate, and the gray colt needed a few starts before putting everything together, graduating impressively at Gulfstream Park in mid-March. The convincing win came back fast (97 Brisnet Speed rating), and after being given a couple months to keep filling out, late-blooming Arcangelo jumped to stakes competition in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan (G3) at Belmont Park on May 13.

He was listed at 10-1 on the morning line, but Arcangelo was bet down to early favoritism, eventually going off the 5-2 second choice to a razor-sharp Bishops Bay, who ran a big race on the front end. Arcangelo stalked within a few lengths of the pace before reeling in the pacesetter leaving the far turn, hooking up in a stretch battle. Bishops Bay briefly regained the advantage in deep stretch before Arcangelo surged to win by a head, netting a 101 Speed rating that is tied for the top last-out figure in the Belmont field.

I will tab Arcangelo to keep progressing with a minor upset in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

After chasing an extremely hot pace, Hit Show was in position to challenge turning for home in the Kentucky Derby. The gray colt weakened slightly to be a commendable fifth, displaying vastly improved tactical speed in his third start of the year for Brad Cox, and I expect to see Hit Show carry his form forward with a strong showing on the front end.

Arcangelo and Hit Show will be keyed in horizontal and vertical wagers.