The 2017 Belmont Stakes have been thrown for a loop. Classic Empire, who was the +200 favorite on the futures market for Saturday’s race, was taken out of consideration for Wednesday’s post-position draw after developing an abscess in his right front hoof – the same hoof that had issues after Classic Empire finished third at the Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes in February. The Mark Casse-trained colt might return to action at the Haskell Invitational on July 30, but he won’t run at Belmont Park this Saturday.

As a result, Irish War Cry is the new favorite on the Belmont Stakes odds list. He’s available at 3/1 on the futures market at Bovada Racebook, followed closely by Epicharis 7/2 and a tight grouping of viable second-tier contenders. Here’s how Saturday’s field of 12 horses looks at press time:

Post Position Horse Odds
1 Twisted Tom 20/1
2 Tapwrit 15/2
3 Gormley 12/1
4 J Boys Echo 16/1
5 Hollywood Handsome 33/1
6 Lookin at Lee 11/2
7 Irish War Cry 3/1
8 Senior Investment 13/2
9 Meantime 14/1
10 Multiplier 16/1
11 Epicharis 7/2
12 Patch 25/1

There could be more changes to this list before post time (Saturday, 6:37 PM ET, NBC). Epicharis was treated for a “possible foot injury” in his right front Wednesday night; trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara said Thursday morning that he saw “no problem” with the Japanese-bred horse being ready for the Belmont. Gormley was also given fluids after a case of “mild dehydration,” while Senior Investment was treated for a “slight muscle spasm.”


Going the Distance

These developments should make Irish War Cry’s path to victory that much easier. But can he handle the 1 ½ miles awaiting him at Belmont Park? Skipping the Preakness Stakes should help; eight of the past 17 Belmont winners did the same thing after running in the Kentucky Derby. Lookin at Lee is the only horse in this field who will have run all three Triple Crown races – which could sap his betting value in exotics after finishing second at Churchill Downs and fourth at Pimlico.

Of all the horses in the second tier of the online betting odds, Tapwrit appears most likely to take down the Belmont. He’s the son of Tapit, the leading sire in North America three years running. Tapit was scratched from the 2004 Belmont Stakes, but his progeny includes 2014 winner Tonalist and 2016 champion Creator. Tapwrit finished sixth at the Derby after Irish War Cry veered into the pack and caused that chain reaction at the start of the race, then he skipped the Preakness to make himself ready for Saturday’s race. That strategy worked for Creator last year. There’s a good chance it’ll also work for Tapwrit and trainer Todd Pletcher this year.

If you’re filling out trifectas and superfectas, there could be some value with third-tier contenders J Boys Echo and Multiplier. J Boys Echo had to settle for 15th at the Derby, but made the top four in each of his other four races after breaking his maiden, including first place at the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes. Multiplier won the Grade 3 Illinois Derby, then skipped Louisville and came in sixth at the Preakness after having some issues down the stretch. Better luck at the Belmont could pay off handsomely for horseplayers this Saturday.


*Odds as of June 9, 2017