Welcome to the Belmont Stakes

The third and final leg of the Triple Crown promises to be one of the most exciting this year, as separate winners in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes look to claim two of the big three and stake their claim to horseracing glory.

In previewing this year’s “Test of Champions” from Belmont Park in New York, let’s take a look at a few of the predominant storylines.

Keeping an Eye on Orb
Led by Hall-of-Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, Orb captured the Kentucky Derby and had been running well enough prior to the Preakness to be viewed as a legitimate Triple Crown threat. An average showing at Pimlico – fourth overall  – dashed those hopes, but McGaughey is hopeful that his horse is back on track for a solid showing at Belmont.

Earlier in the week, Orb had a very positive one-mile gallop in anticipation of the Belmont, with exercise rider Jennifer Patterson calling the ride “beautiful” and suggesting that Orb might be rounding back into the form that made him successful at Churchill Downs.

Oxbow Running Strong
Oxbow was the story at Pimlico after Orb dropped back to finish fourth – the D. Wayne Lukas-trained horse captured the Preakness and put himself in prime position for a solid showing at Belmont.

This past week, Oxbow returned to the track (at Churchill Downs) for the first time since winning the Preakness, a light workout that Lukas said was mostly a formality after a few days off.

Lukas said Oxbow showed the most energy out of all his horses and expects him to have one more maintenance workout at Churchill Downs before shipping Oxbow off to New York.

In other news out of the Lukas camp, he confirmed that another of his horses – Will Take Charge – will run in the Belmont with jockey Jon Court chosen to saddle. Mike Smith had rode Will Take Charge in the Preakness after Court saddled at the Kentucky Derby.

Napravnik to Ride Code West
Jockey Rosie Napravnik has been tabbed by trainer Bob Baffert to ride Code West at Belmont.

Napravnik, 25, is looking to become just the second female to ever win the Belmont Stakes; Julie Krone captured the Belmont in 1993 while saddling Colonial Affair.

Krone remains the only female jockey to ever win a Triple Crown event, though Napravnik has shown the talent and pedigree to be the second.

Napravnik has shown a special affinity for riding Baffert’s horses – especially Mylute, who will be held out of the Belmont but showed extremely well while being ridden by Napravnik in the first two legs of the Crown.

Napravnik finished fifth at the Kentucky Derby with Mylute, then put forth a stellar third-place showing at Pimlico.
Smith to Ride Palace Malice

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will saddle Palace Malice at Belmont, according to Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell.

While he only finished 12th at the Derby, Palace Malice was the early pacesetter and raised a lot of eyebrows by getting off to a remarkably fast start before eventually fading to the back of the pack.

About Tennessee Leduc

Born in Summersville Kentucky, Tennessee is an impassioned fan of horse racing, women, civilized debauchery, and... mint juleps. He writes, he reads, he listens, but above all he experiences the world he lives in.

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