There may not be a Triple Crown on the line this year, but the Belmont Stakes (6 p.m., NBC) still promises to be a very exciting race. It drew a competitive field of 13, but here are the three horses you should be watching for when the field is sent on its way on Saturday.
Exaggerator (Post Position: 11, Odds: 9-5)
Exaggerator won’t offer generous odds having just won the Preakness Stakes three weeks ago, especially after the defection of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist due to sickness, but he will be tough to beat on Saturday. Exaggerator’s credentials are overwhelming, as he’s won four graded stakes in his career (two this year), and figures to handle the testing mile-and-a-half distance of the Belmont Stakes based on pedigree (he’s by Curlin, who ran second in this race in 2007 en route to becoming the richest horse of all-time upon retirement). He’ll also take to any track condition. Kent Desormeaux will ride Exaggerator again, but there was some speculation that he wouldn’t be able to after checking into alcohol rehab sometime after the Preakness. Desormeaux has one Belmont Stakes win to his credit; it came aboard Summer Bird in 2009. The one knock against Exaggerator might be his post, but he should have enough time to drop back and cross over toward the rail before the first turn of the mammoth Belmont Park oval.
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Stradivari (Post Position: 5, Odds: 5-1)
Stradivari was a wild card going into the Preakness Stakes; he had never run in a stakes race before, but was coming off two straight romps against lesser. He was a little hard to control early and suffered a wide trip partially due to his outside post, but his effort was commendable; he was fourth beaten four lengths. That was on a sloppy track; he’s already proven he can handle a fast one, which is what he’s likely to catch on Saturday. Todd Pletcher and John Velazquez, the trainer/jockey combo behind Stradivari, teamed up for win in the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with the filly Rags To Riches.
Governor Malibu (Post Position: 1, Odds: 12-1)
Governor Malibu will have to improve a bit from a speed figure standpoint, but this 12-1 shot has a lot going for him in this race. He was a fast-closing second in last month’s mile-and-an-eighth Peter Pan Stakes, the traditional prep at Belmont for the crown jewel of their spring/summer meet. His running style suggests he’ll improve with added distance, as does his pedigree. He’s by Malibu Moon, a noted distance influence, whose sire was 1992 Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy. Governor Malibu will be represented by the same connections that won the 2014 Belmont Stakes with Tonalist; jockey Joel Rosario and trainer Christophe Clement.