Forte is back, and he’s the favorite for the final Triple Crown race of the season

No Triple Crown will be on the line Saturday night during the 155th running of the Belmont Stakes to close horse racing’s 2023 Triple Crown season, but plenty of intrigue still remains following Tuesday morning’s post-position draw for the 1.5-mile race.

A field of nine 3-year-old Thoroughbreds was drawn into post positions for the Belmont Stakes, with scratched Kentucky Derby favorite and reigning champion 2-year-old Forte being installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite.

Forte — who was scratched the morning of the Kentucky Derby and was unable to race in the Preakness Stakes due to that late Derby scratch — will be making his lone Triple Crown race appearance when he takes the starting gate at Belmont Park.

“He’s doing great. He’s training really well, obviously didn’t run in the (Kentucky) Derby, but hasn’t missed any training,” Forte’s co-owner, Mike Repole, said during the post-position draw. “We’re excited. We still think this is the best 3-year-old in the crop, and I think on Saturday he’s going to prove that.”

Forte was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the morning of the race at the behest of the chief veterinarian of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Now, Forte will finally make his Triple Crown debut in the Belmont Stakes.
Forte was scratched from the Kentucky Derby the morning of the race at the behest of the chief veterinarian of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Now, Forte will finally make his Triple Crown debut in the Belmont Stakes.

A total of five horses in the Belmont Stakes field have previously raced in a Triple Crown event this year.

This includes Tapit Trice (seventh in the Kentucky Derby), National Treasure (the winner of the Preakness Stakes), Hit Show (fifth in the Derby), Angel of Empire (third in the Derby) and Red Route One (fourth in the Preakness).

This means there are four newcomers to the Triple Crown circuit for the final such race of the 2023 season: Tapit Shoes, Arcangelo, Il Miracolo and the aforementioned Forte.

Brad Cox leads all trainers with three horses in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. Cox won the 2021 Belmont with Essential Quality.

“It’s a good group, a very, very good group, I feel like it’s one of the better Belmonts we’ve seen in a while,” Cox said over the weekend about the projected field. “It’s pretty wide open, it’s a pretty well-balanced group of horses.”

Todd Pletcher has two horses in this year’s Belmont — Tapit Trice and Forte — after winning last year’s event with Mo Donegal.

The last four jockeys to win the Belmont Stakes (Irad Ortiz Jr., Luis Saez, Manuel Franco and Joel Rosario) all have mounts for the 2023 edition of the race.

Belmont Stakes field, with trainers, jockeys and morning-line odds:

1. Tapit Shoes (Brad Cox, Jose Ortiz, 20-1).

2. Tapit Trice (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez, 3-1).

The last Blue Grass Stakes winner to go on and win the Belmont Stakes was Essential Quality in 2021.

Trainer Todd Pletcher already has won four Belmont Stakes races.

3. Arcangelo (Jena Antonucci, Javier Castellano, 8-1).

Arcangelo’s last race was a victory at Belmont Park in the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes in mid-May.

4. National Treasure (Bob Baffert, John Velazquez, 5-1).

National Treasure wore blinkers during his Preakness Stakes victory last month.

Trainer Bob Baffert has already won three Belmont Stakes races.

5. Il Miracolo (Antonio Sano, Marcos Meneses, 30-1).

6. Forte (Todd Pletcher, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-2).

Forte’s last race was his victory in the Florida Derby on April 1 over eventual Kentucky Derby champion Mage.

7. Hit Show (Brad Cox, Manuel Franco, 10-1).

8. Angel of Empire (Brad Cox, Flavien Prat, 7-2).

Trainer Brad Cox said Angel of Empire will wear blinkers for the Belmont Stakes.

9. Red Route One (Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 15-1).

Belmont Stakes news

While the purse for the 155th Belmont Stakes will be $1.5 million for the 3-year-old Thoroughbreds going 1.5 miles on the track’s dirt surface, the New York Racing Association will increase the money awarded to the winning connections from 53.3 percent to 60 percent. This means the winning connections for the 2023 Belmont Stakes will take home $900,000.

Fox Sports will broadcast the Belmont Stakes for the first time this year, and the network will broadcast the race through 2030. Belmont Stakes Day coverage airs nationally from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on FS1, from 4-7:30 p.m. on Fox and from 7:30-8 p.m. on FS2.

Tom Durkin, the former longtime voice of NBC’s Triple Crown coverage, will be returning to the broadcast booth to call the Belmont Stakes for Fox Sports.

Belmont Stakes

When: 7:05 p.m. Saturday

Where: Belmont Park

TV: Fox Sports

Purse: $1.5 million (Grade 1)

Distance: 1 1/2 miles

For: 3-year-old Thoroughbreds