It’s off to the races this weekend for Belmont Stakes aficionados and horses participating in the thoroughbred event on Long Island.
Justify fans – and bettors – are hoping the horse with a blazing white forehead will take home the Triple Crown. If he does, he will be only the 13th horse in history to win the title.
From the horse that could beat Justify to ones who have unique sponsors and owners, here’s a look at Belmont Stakes contenders you should keep your eye on.
All eyes – and many bets – are on Justify as the thoroughbred could gallop his way to a Triple Crown victory. On a 5-0 winning streak, Justify has already won the Preakness Stakes and Kentucky Derby. He drew the No. 1 post for the Belmont Stakes.
If Justify wins Saturday, he will be only the 13th horse to become a Triple Crown champion. He’s coached by Bob Baffert, who already solidified a Triple Crown victory with horse American Pharaoh in 2015; he will be ridden by Mike Smith, a hall of fame jockey.
He has 4-5 odds of winning the race.
Aside from Justify, Bravazo is the only other horse to have raced in both the Preakness and Kentucky Derby. And while he finished sixth in the Derby, he nearly beat Justify in the Maryland race. Now he has 8-1 odds of spoiling the Triple Crown.
“We’ve got a nice horse, and we’ll make it interesting,” venerable trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 82, told the Courier-Journal. “I said that before the Preakness, and we made it interesting.”
Bravazo will be ridden by Luis Saez.
Hofburg has a 9-2 chance to beat Justify and win the $1.5 million race Saturday. Trainer Bill Mott sure isn’t ready to give up on the 3-year-old colt.
“Our horse has been getting some attention. They made him second choice in the morning line,” Mott told The Associated Press. “From the rumblings I have been hearing, it seems there are a few people talking about him and handicappers seem to like him.”
Hofburg didn’t compete in the Preakness and only came in seventh at the Kentucky Derby, but he’s got the genes for the Belmont Park’s 1 ½ mile race. He’s the son of Tapit, who has sired three of the last four Belmont winners.
Hofburg will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, who has already won the Belmont Stakes three times, Vino Rosso skipped the Preakness but did finish ninth in the Kentucky Derby, according to The New York Times.
Mike Repole, who grew up in Queens, has always dreamed of owning a horse that could win the Belmont Stakes. Now, he co-owns Vino Rosso, who won the Wood Memorial Stakes in Queens in April, the New York Post reported.
With 8-1 odds, Repole has faith in Vino Rosso and said he was purchased specifically for a future Belmont Stakes win.
“Before we even bid on this horse, the Belmont Stakes has been on my mind,” he told the Post. “The horse can go two miles, never mind a mile and a half. And I get excited by that.”
A fun fact about Vino Rosso: he and Justify were born at the same Versailles, Kentucky, farm – Glenwood Farm – just a few days apart, according to The Times.
Vino Rosso will be ridden by John Velazquez.
In the No. 7 hole, Tenfold was a fast-closing third place finisher in the Preakness.
Aside from being backed by Winchell Thoroughbred, his owner, Tenfold also has the support of Sentient Jet and Homes For Our Troops, a nonprofit that builds and provides homes to severely disabled and injured post-Sept. 11 veterans, according to Forbes.
Sgt. Steven Curry, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, lost his leg after he was injured by an improvised explosive device. In 2016, Curry and his family were able to move into a new home that is built to equip his wheelchair and help Curry navigate on his own, Forbes reported.
Sentient Jet has often brought veterans who have received homes through the nonprofit to horse races – and will do so again at the Belmont Stakes, according to Forbes. Curry already went to Preakness and was able to meet Tenfold and the people who work with him. He said “it was interesting to learn their stories about traveling with and training horses.”
At 12-1 for the Belmont, he will be ridden by Ricardo Santana Jr.
With 12-1 odds, horse Gronkowski isn’t the most favored to win the Belmont Stakes, but that isn’t stopping his part owner from believing in him. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, whom the horse was named after, said he’s looking for a victory.
“We’re trying to go for the win,” Gronkowski told Sports Illustrated. “You’ve always heard so many stories where the underdog wins – you just never know. Maybe my horse found a niche on how to get faster somewhere down the line in the last couple of weeks.”
Gronkowski – the horse, that is – missed the Kentucky Derby due to a fever. But Gronkowski – the Super Bowl champion – said maybe the horse developed “extra powers” from his illness and could be even faster now.
“Hopefully if they named it after me, it’s just a beast of a horse, it’s fast and it’s ready to roll,” he said.
According to Sports Illustrated, “beast” is an apt description for the thoroughbred. He weighs 1,300 pounds. Justify, on the other hand, weighs about 1,268 pounds.
Gronkowski – again, the horse – will be ridden by Jose Ortiz.