A field of 10 will travel a demanding 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park on Saturday in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1). The “Test of the Champion” is the third leg of the Triple Crown, and so far we have witnessed a different horse win the first two legs of the series. I expect to see a third unique classic winner on Saturday.
Five of the contenders in the cast ran in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and will go postward in the Saturday feature. Since six of the last seven Belmont winners participated in the Kentucky Derby, we will find our winner from that quintet.
The Danny Gargan-trained TAX (#4) (15-1) makes his first run following a subpar voyage in Louisville, Kentucky, five weeks ago. By Arch, the three-year-old gelding had been in the top-three in each of his five lifetime runs prior to that, with his biggest coup coming in the 2018 Remsen Stakes (G2).
Tax has excuses for his Kentucky Derby flop and will look to make amends in his Belmont Park debut. The Kentucky-bred was a race short at Churchill Downs, in my opinion, when making just his second run in three months. However, he was never comfortable in his first assignment on a sloppy, sealed oval, either.
The dark bay is bred as well as any in the field to endure the grueling 12 furlongs over Big Sandy and the high-cruising speed that he possesses is very conducive to the dynamics of this particular race.
Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will accept the mount atop Tax on Saturday which is a very positive sign. The Puerto Rican native has been among the top pilots in racing while finishing in the top-three of money earned for five consecutive seasons, including finishing first in 2018. He has multiple riding titles at Belmont Park, and he won this race in 2016 aboard Creator as well.
Tax uses Belmont Park as his home training base, so he should be very comfortable in his surroundings. The gelding is bred to run all day, and his jockey knows this course as well as any in the field.
I will back Tax to take the Belmont Stakes as my Best Bet of the Weekend.