By Steve Sherack
FLUSHING, NY – The top two choices on the morning-line will break side-by-side in Saturday’s 151th renewal of the GI Belmont S.
After drawing the dreaded one hole in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, GI Preakness S. winner War of Will (War Front) will exit from post nine in the ‘Test of the Champion.’
War of Will, a well-documented eighth across the wire in the GI Kentucky Derby after almost going down on the far turn-he was elevated to seventh following the controversial disqualification of Maximum Security (New Year’s Day)-is the only sophomore to contest all three of this year’s spring Classics.
“I think the word is satisfaction,” Casse said of War of Will’s powerful win in Baltimore. “It wasn’t about revenge. I just wanted him to have a fair chance–that’s all I wanted–and I thought he got it.”
The Gary Barber colorbearer is the 2-1 second-choice on the morning-line for the Belmont.
“He’s an exceptional horse and he can handle a lot of things,” Casse added. “For me, when we start with the Derby, I’m hoping and planning on running in all three and we’re fortunate to be able to do so.”
Casse will also saddle GIII Peter Pan S. runner-up Sir Winston (Awesome Again).
After rallying smartly from far back on the First Saturday in May, Juddmonte Farms homebred and GII Wood Memorial S. hero Tacitus (Tapit) has been installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite for the Belmont.
Fourth past the wire and moved up to third via disqualification, the first foal out of champion Close Hatches (First Defence) drew widest of all in post 10 for the Belmont. Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, of course, also trains this year’s Derby winner Country House (Lookin At Lucky), who recently returned to training at Churchill Downs.
“Tacitus had to alter course several times in the race,” said Mott, who upset the 2010 Belmont with Drosselmeyer. “He never had to check, and he never got stopped. He ate a lot of mud. The track was like pea soup that day, which was very disappointing. He was quite a ways back in the field and he had to come through a lot of traffic, but we offer no big excuses. He was moving very well at the end of the race.”
Prince Khalid Abdullah’s operation won the 2003 Belmont with Empire Maker.
With three Belmont winners and five second-place finishers already on his resume, trainer Todd Pletcher has entered ‘TDN Rising Star’ Intrepid Heart (Tapit), a disappointing third in the Peter Pan, and Spinoff (Hard Spun), a well-beaten 18th in the Derby, in this year’s renewal.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Pletcher said. “The horses have run well and we’ve taken a couple of nasty beats, too. It’s a race that we really cherish. It’s home for us.”
For the second straight year, the Belmont S. draw was held at the Foxwoods Club at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, before a game. The Mets faced the San Francisco Giants later Tuesday evening.