by Eddie Olczyk
June 6, 2019
Tacitus, Bourbon War Stand Out in Belmont Stakes
By Eddie Olczyk, NBC Sports
We have a good field for this year’s Belmont Stakes, but not a great lineup by any stretch of the imagination. You can eliminate 4-5 horses right off the top and go from there. TACITUS is the slight morning line favorite, but don’t be surprised if the public settles on Preakness winner WAR OF WILL. They will be close in the wagering, but I solidly prefer TACITUS of the leading pair.
As for WAR OF WILL, it’s his third race in five weeks and he appears the more vulnerable of the two favorites. The way the track was playing at Pimlico, he was the horse whom you had to change your pick to that day as post-time approached. Everything played out perfectly for him. As for TACITUS, I love the run he made in the Kentucky Derby and I don’t think he liked the off track. He’s trained very well since then and is fresher than WAR OF WILL. I’m not thrilled about post position 10 for TACITUS, but it’s a mile and one-half and there’s plenty of time to get position and make his run. There’s some speed in the Belmont that will try to get free and they could go a little quick for the distance. That’s good news for TACITUS and his rally, and I’m hoping to get somewhere right around 2-1.
The other finisher to watch will be BOURBON WAR. I liked him in the Preakness, but did not care for the ride Irad Ortiz, Jr. gave him in Baltimore. He had a chance to get to the best part of the track and didn’t. The move to Mike Smith and blinkers off could really change the outlook for BOURBON WAR. I will be using him up and down my tickets. He should be a pretty decent price and I’d take 8-1 as fair odds.
The wise guy horse in the Belmont might be MASTER FENCER, who could take more money than perhaps he should. His huge rally at Churchill Downs was enhanced by being on the perfect part of the track when flying up the rail to post the fastest final quarter-mile in the Derby.
I’ll be playing exactas and trifectas in the Belmont, focused heavily on TACITUS and BOURBON WAR. That’s where I stand right now. Be sure to tune into the NBC Sports telecast where I’ll have my final thoughts after seeing how the track plays throughout the outstanding card of racing on Saturday. Making race-day adjustments is an important element of my handicapping.
2. Bourbon War