Belmont Stakes 2018: Full field, post positions and jockey list

(Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images)
(Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images) /

Justify arrives at Belmont Park hoping to become the next Triple Crown winner. Who will be on the line trying to stop Justify’s bid in the Belmont Stakes?

The biggest story entering the 2018 Belmont Stakes is the horses that are not racing as much as it is about the horses that are going to be at the race. Specifically, Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Audible will not be racing at Belmont Park on June 9.

This has drawn speculation about whether or not Audible is actually dealing with injury or fatigue, or if the decision was based on competitive gamesmanship. Those accusations stem from the fact that Audible is owned by the same consortium that owns Justify. The theory posits that Audible would have been the biggest threat to a Triple Crown close-out by Justify, so the group shut down Audible’s bid before it could destroy the profits.

It probably isn’t much of a conspiracy theory, and the ownership group is well within its rights to run or not run any of their horses in the grueling 12-furlong slog on Big Sandy. It is frankly the smartest economic decision they could make. And should Justify win the Triple Crown, it will not be any less legitimate for Audible’s absence.

Related Story: Audible’s Belmont Stakes absence reflects big money behind the sport

That won’t necessarily sit well with fans of sport more generally, who would love nothing more than to see the best compete against the best at all times. But there are still plenty of legitimate challengers that will line up looking to take down Justify. Read on for the post positions and more information on each horse in this year’s Belmont Stakes.

1. Justify

  • JOCKEY: Mike Smith
  • OWNER: China Horse Club/Head of Plains Partners/Starlight Racing/WinStar Farm
  • TRAINER: Bob Baffert
  • BREEDER: John D. Gunther

Justify arrives at the Belmont Stakes as the heavy favorite to win the second Triple Crown in four years. Bob Baffert’s horse was pressed at the close of the Preakness, and it will be interesting to see how the added length of Belmont Park affects the pacing of this race.

The finish of the Preakness will leave some second-guessing the horse’s chances of joining American Pharoah as 21st-century Triple Crown winners, but until further notice it is going to be hard to bet against Justify. The horse drew the inside post, historically the most frequent winning position in the Belmont Stakes.

2. Free Drop Billy

  • JOCKEY: Robby Albarado
  • OWNER: Albaugh Family Stables
  • TRAINER: Dale Romans
  • BREEDER: Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust

Free Drop Billy is a longshot at Belmont Park after finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby. The horse entered his three-year-old campaign with high hopes after winning the Breeders Futurity at Keeneland in October 2017. But top-three finishes at the Holy Bull, Gotham, and Blue Grass Stakes did little to prepare Free Drop Billy for the tougher competition and expanded field. In a smaller field at Belmont Park, might this horse’s pedigree set it up for a surprise?

3. Bravazo

  • JOCKEY: Luis Saez
  • OWNER: Calumet Farm
  • TRAINER: D. Wayne Lukas
  • BREEDER: Calumet Farm

Bravazo went to the Kentucky Derby and finished a respectable sixth as a longshot on the Churchill Downs track. The horse followed up the performance by pushing Justify at the finish of the Preakness to take second. Bravazo has been hit or miss at a variety of distances, so it is hard to project a natural learning curve that might portend future results at the 12-furlong distance. Bravazo will either get the jump and spoil the Triple Crown or fade out of the money.

4. Hofburg

  • JOCKEY: Irad Ortiz Jr.
  • OWNER: Juddmonte Farms
  • TRAINER: William I. Mott
  • BREEDER: Juddmonte Farms

Hofburg is hoping that a five-week rest is enough time to recharge and turn the tables on a poor performance at the Kentucky Derby. Entering the Triple Crown season as one of the Derby favorites, Hofburg put in a disappointing seventh-place finish at Churchill Downs. William Mott and Juddmonte Farms immediately refocused the horse toward the Belmont Stakes. Will the added recovery time provide the winning difference as Hofburg gains attention once again?

5. Restoring Hope

  • JOCKEY: Florent Geroux
  • OWNER: Gary L. West and Mary E. West
  • TRAINER: Bob Baffert
  • BREEDER: Gary and Mary West Stables

Restoring Hope is the wild card in the Belmont Stakes. When many of its Belmont opposition was preparing for the first leg of the Triple Crown, Restoring Hope was also at Churchill Downs. But instead of racing in the Kentucky Derby, the Bob Baffert-trained horse left the gate two races earlier in the Pat Day Mile. Restoring Hope finished 12th in the 14-horse field. Though the No. 5 post has historically done well at Belmont Park, Restoring Hope is unlikely to challenge the favorites.

6. Gronkowski

  • JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz
  • OWNER: Phoenix Racing
  • TRAINER: Chad Brown
  • BREEDER: Epic Thoroughbreds

The New England Patriots tight end has a minority ownership stake in the horse that bears his name. Like his namesake, this Thoroughbred is a well-built athlete in his own right. Gronkowski, however, has spent his three-year-old career on the synthetic surfaces of British tracks. How will this horse fare on the dirt of Belmont Park? The Belmont Stakes is Gronkowski’s first encounter with a dirt track in competition.

7. Tenfold

  • JOCKEY: Victor Espinoza
  • OWNER: Winchell Thoroughbreds
  • TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
  • BREEDER: Winchell Thoroughbreds

After missing out on the Kentucky Derby, Tenfold went to Pimlico and scored his first top-three finish in a stakes race at the Preakness. Now, the horse sets sight on the Belmont Stakes and another showdown with Justify. Jockey Victor Espinoza was atop American Pharoah in 2015 when the horse became the first Triple Crown winner in over three decades. Now he will look to upset another horse’s bid for immortality.

8. Vino Rosso

  • JOCKEY: John Velazquez
  • OWNER: Repole Stable/St. Elias Stable
  • TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
  • BREEDER: John D. Gunther

After winning the Wood Memorial in April, Vino Rosso came to Churchill Downs with high hopes. The horse left the Kentucky Derby after a disappointing ninth-place showing in the race. Todd Pletcher skipped the Preakness altogether, focusing attention on a multi-horse bid to win the Belmont Stakes. Vino Rosso has not raced since the Derby, but Pletcher hopes this horse’s closing speed will show in the final two furlongs at Belmont.

9. Noble Indy

  • JOCKEY: Javier Castellano
  • OWNER: WinStar Farm/Repole Stable
  • TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
  • BREEDER: WinStar Farm

Noble Indy, the Louisiana Derby winner, went to Churchill Downs without much expectation of contending for a top-three finish. There was no surprise on the first Saturday in May, as Noble Indy finished 17th in the field of 20 horses. Since then, the horse has been part of Todd Pletcher’s multi-horse strategy to surprise at this year’s Belmont Stakes. The horse is likely going to be a straggler once again, even with Javier Castellano replacing Florent Geroux as jockey.

10. Blended Citizen

  • JOCKEY: Kyle Frey
  • OWNER: Greg Hall/Sayjay Racing
  • TRAINER: Doug O’Neill
  • BREEDER: Ray Hanson

Blended Citizen is one of two horses that Justify has yet to see in competition. Though the Doug O’Neill-trained horse qualified for the Kentucky Derby, there were not enough scratches to open up a spot in the final field. Thus the owners turned focus squarely on the Belmont Stakes, bypassing the Preakness to come to New York early. In his most recent race, Blended Citizen won on the dirt track at Belmont Park in the 10-furlong Peter Pan Stakes on May 12.

Next: Triple Crown 2018: Schedule for Derby, Preakness, Belmont

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