Tacitus, War of Will headline 151st Belmont Stakes

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Tacitus, War of Will headline 151st Belmont Stakes

By NY Hot List Staff

 

The final chapter in the 2019 Triple Crown will be staged Saturday at Belmont Stakes.

In a race known as “The Test of the Champion,” a mile and a half test will provide one last chance for a 3-year-old to become a classic winner.

Unlike the Preakness, which featured neither the Kentucky Derby winner nor the horse disqualified from first, the Belmont Stakes landed Preakness winner War of Will who will meet Tacitus and eight other rivals in an intriguing showdown.

War of Will was the one who bumped with Maximum Security in the Kentucky Derby leading to that one’s disqualification to 17th. Placed seventh after the disqualification, War or Will seemed to making a solid move in the Kentucky Derby when the rough stuff started.

What happened at Churchill Downs took a different look when War of Will rallied strongly along the rail and posted a 1 ¼-length victory in the Preakness.

Now he’ll get a chance to prove whether the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness was the fluke.

The morning line paints the 151st Belmont Stakes as a two-horse race and it surely looks that way.

Tacitus, who was moved up from fourth to third in the Kentucky Derby, was set as the 9-5 favorite with War of Will right behind him at 2-1.

After that, the only other entrant below 10-1 is the Japanese entrant Master Fencer.

Trainer Bill Mott notched his first Kentucky Derby victory when Country House was moved up from second to first after the disqualification of Maximum Security, and now he will chase a second Belmont Stakes win with Tacitus.

Drosselmeyer gave Mott his Belmont victory in 2010.

“Any of the Triple Crown races are very important,” Mott said. “You know, Belmont is sort of home for us now. It would be great to come back and do it again. I mean, it was exciting with Drosselmeyer. He was a bit of a price in the race that day, and it was a pretty good feeling to win it that day. I’d like to do it again if we could.”

Prior to the Kentucky Derby, the New York-based Tacitus triumphed in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

War of Will is an imposing obstacle, especially after the return to top form in the Preakness. Trained by Mark Casse, War of Will became a top Kentucky Derby candidate through wins in the Risen Star and Lecomte.

But then he lost his action for a bit in the Louisiana Derby and finished ninth at 3-5. Afterwards, he was sent off at 16-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby but dropped to 6-1 for the Preakness and will battle for favoritism in the Belmont Stakes.

“The key to it all I think is having a horse that will relax, because the horse that’s going to fight you early is going to be tired in the end,” Casse said. “So that’s the key. Nobody knows how they are going to do that until you actually run them.”

Master Fencer was 19th and last in the Kentucky Derby before he closed quickly in the final furlong to wind up sixth.

The longer, mile and a half distance of the Belmont Stakes should work in his favor, though closers from the back of the pack are usually at a disadvantage in the Test of the Champion.

“He’s been doing great and he’s so energized all the time,” said trainer Koichi Tsunoda, while speaking through an interpreter. “So, a long race is better, and also he can fully utilize his ability with the 12 furlongs.”

There are some other threats, such as Everfast, who was second in the Preakness, or the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Intrepid Heart and Spinoff, adding to the intrigue of a race that will close out the Triple Crown and set the stage for the drama to come in the summer.