Thoroughbred Daily News
Tapit - Settling Mist, by Pleasant Colony - Lane's End
Lane's End - Versailles, KY | 2011 | Entered Stud 2016 | 2019 Fee $15,000

Big Field Ready for ‘War’ in Belmont Stakes

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Tacitus | Sarah Andrew

By Steve Sherack

ELMONT, NY – A highly anticipated showdown in the final leg of the Triple Crown, a Met Mile for the ages and ideal spring weather are all on the menu for Saturday’s blockbuster GI Belmont Stakes program. And if that’s somehow not enough, there are six other Grade I races on tap on the loaded 13-race card.

The top two choices in the main event–War of Will (War Front) and Tacitus (Tapit)–will get a very good look at each other breaking from the two outside stalls when they spring the latch for the 151st renewal of the Belmont S. at 6:37 p.m.

The Gary Barber colorbearer looks for his second Classic victory following a powerful 1 1/4-length defeat of Everfast (Take Charge Indy) in the GI Preakness S. three weeks ago. The striking bay, eighth across the line and elevated to seventh after losing all chance on the turn for home in the GI Kentucky Derby, will be the only sophomore to contest all three legs of the Triple Crown this year. War of Will also won the GIII Lecomte S. and GII Risen Star S. earlier this term.

“I think he’s put on 40-50 pounds and that’s what we’ve been looking for,” trainer Mark Casse said of War of Will’s condition since the Preakness. “We kind of know everyone in the field by now. I tend to just worry about my horses and not anybody else’s. If the pace is slow, he’ll probably be on the lead. If it’s quick, hopefully he’ll sit behind the pacesetters.”

The blue-blooded Juddmonte homebred Tacitus, meanwhile, winner of this year’s GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and GII Wood Memorial S., closed smartly from far back to cross the line fourth-elevated to third-in Louisville.

“Had Tacitus won the Kentucky Derby, I suppose we would have taken a chance at the Preakness, but we didn’t feel like we wanted to run him back in two weeks,” said Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who collected his first Kentucky Derby win with Country House (Lookin At Lucky). “Generally, going a mile and a half they won’t be further back. If anything, we will be closer. We hope he goes a good mile and a half.”

While the top two have trained all week in the Big Apple like they’re ready to put on a show, there are eight other rivals standing in their way.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will have two upset chances with ‘TDN Rising Star’ Intrepid Heart (Tapit) and Spinoff (Hard Spun) to register his fourth Belmont win.

The former adds blinkers following a disappointing third after stumbling at the start while making his stakes debut in the local GIII Peter Pan S. May 11. Spinoff, runner-up in the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, reported home 18th at 52-1 over the sloppy going in the Derby.

“[Spinoff] has trained, to me, consistently with some of the horses that we’ve run in the Belmont over the years that have performed well, and I’m hoping he catches a fast track and gets to prove how good he is or is not,” Pletcher said.

As for Intrepid Heart, Pletcher added, “I really think this horse needs blinkers, he’s so worried about what everybody else is doing instead of what he should be doing.”

Japanese raider Master Fencer (Jpn) (Just a Way {Jpn}), runner-up in Nakayama’s Fukury S., has received plenty of attention off his rallying seventh-he was moved up to sixth via disqualification-on the First Saturday in May, while Bourbon War (Tapit), a punchless eighth in the GI Preakness S., attracts Hall of Famer Mike Smith for the first time.

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