The Return Of Baffert, The Rise Of Tapit, The Test Of Champions: Breaking Down The 2023 Belmont Stakes

Written By Grant Lucas on June 10, 2023
starting gate for 2023 belmont stakes

The final leg of the Triple Crown has arrived: the 155th Belmont Stakes.

Horse racing’s spotlight will shine down on Belmont Park on Saturday as nine contenders look to emerge victorious at the Test of Champions that is the Belmont Stakes.

While no Triple Crown title is at stake, that doesn’t mean that this final leg will not be entertaining.

After all, Bob Baffert makes his return to New York following a suspension. A championship pedigree may well be on full display. And championship-laden jockeys are set to ride yet again.

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Looking at the field for the 2023 Belmont Stakes

The field of nine for the Belmont Stakes is stacked.

From the favored Forte to top contender Tapit Trice, even down to Angel of Empire and National Treasure, the starting gate looks as even as possible based on morning odds alone.

Post PositionHorseJockeyOdds
1Tapit ShoesJose Ortiz20-1
2Tapit TriceLuis Saez3-1
3ArcangeloJavier Castellano8-1
4National TreasureJohn Velazquez5-1
5Il MiracoloMarcos Meneses30-1
6ForteIrad Ortiz Jr.5-2
7Hit ShowManny Franco10-1
8Angel of EmpireFlavien Prat7-2
9Red Route OneJoel Rosario15-1

Belmont Stakes rife with championship pedigree

From horse lineage to jockeys to trainers, plenty of past success at the Belmont Stakes exists in the 2023 field.

The trainers

Start with trainers. Brad Cox has three horses expected to run Saturday: Angel of Empire, Hit Show and Tapit Shoes. Two other entrants come from Todd Pletcher in Forte and Tapit Trice. Meanwhile, Bob Baffert makes his return to New York with Preakness champion National Treasure. And Steve Asmussen boasts Red Route One.

Those four names have combined for nine Belmont Stakes wins, led by Pletcher’s four victories and Baffert’s three. The lone outlier is Jena Antonucci. Should her trainee Arcangelo win, she would become the first female trainer to groom a Belmont victor.

The jockeys

The jockeys, naturally, have their own stacked résumés.

Five riders have combined for nine Belmont Stakes wins over the past 16 years, including each of the past four races. Among them is Irad Ortiz Jr., who will saddle up Forte and guided Mo Donegal to the 2022 Belmont Stakes win — his second Belmont victory in seven years.

It’s a family affair for the jockey, as his brother Jose Ortiz won in 2017 aboard Tapwrit.

Joel Rosario, riding Red Route One on Saturday, has wins in 2014 and 2019, while Luis Saez (2021) and Manny Franco (2020) have also enjoyed success at Belmont.

Of note, John Velazquez will mount National Treasure for trainer Bob Baffert. That combo made headlines in 2021 with Medina Spirit, who tested positive for a substance beyond allowable limits. That led to Baffert’s suspension, setting up his 2023 return.

The lineage

Over the past 10 years, four Belmont Stakes winners came from the sire Tapit.

This year, two will attempt to add to that run.

Tapit Shoes and Tapit Trice will fittingly start side by side on Saturday. (Fun fact: Jose Ortiz, riding Tapit Shoes, won in 2017 aboard another Tapit byproduct: Tapwrit.)

With Essential Quality’s win in 2021, Tapit tied Lexington for the most Belmont Stakes winners from the same sire. He will have two chances on Saturday to take the record for himself.

Historical data heading into 2023 Belmont Stakes

No post position has produced more Belmont Stakes winners than the No. 1 spot. That may prove fortuitous for Tapit Shoes, who has the second-longest odds to win on Saturday.

The first position has sent off 24 winners at Belmont, nine more than the next-best starting spots in No. 3 (Arcangelo on Saturday) and No. 5 (Il Miracolo).

Since 2000, here is how the starting positions have fared at the Belmont Stakes.

Post positionTotal winnersWinners since 2000
No. 124Empire Maker (2003), Justify (2018)
No. 213Tapwrit (2017) Essential Quality (2021)
No. 315Commendable (2000), Ruler on Ice (2011), Union Rags (2012)
No. 410Birdstone (2004), Summer Bird (2009)
No. 515Da' Tara (2008), American Pharoah (2015)
No. 69Mo Donegal (2022)
No. 714Rags to Riches (2007), Drosselmeyer (2010), Sir Winston (2019)
No. 87Jazil (2006), Tiz the Law (2020)
No. 94Point Given (2001), Afleet Alex (2005)

A few noteworthy coincidences dot the starting gates on Saturday.

Irad Ortiz Jr., for example, will start out of the No. 6 position aboard Forte. Last year, Ortiz guided Mo Donegal to the win out of the same position, the first time No. 6 produced a winner at the Belmont Stakes since 1989.

Similarly, Luis Saez will ride Tapit Trice out of the No. 2 spot, the same gate he started in with Essential Quality en route to the 2021 victory.

Photo by John Minchillo / AP Photo
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Grant Lucas

Grant Lucas is the managing editor for PlayNY. A longtime, award-winning sports writer, Grant has covered gambling and legal sports betting since 2018, when he got his start reporting on the New Jersey and Pennsylvania industries. He now oversees PlayNY as New York expands legalized gambling to sports betting and online casino gaming.

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