NEW YORK (AP) — Preakness winner Exaggerator is the 9-5 morning-line favorite in a field of 13 entered for Saturday’s $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown.
The 3-year-old colt trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, drew the No. 11 post position on Wednesday.
Stradivari, who ran fourth in the Preakness in his stakes debut, is the surprising second choice at 5-1. Destin, sixth in the Kentucky Derby, is the third choice at 6-1. Both are trained by Todd Pletcher, a two-time Belmont winner. Preakness runner-up Cherry Wine is 8-1.
Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, who finished third in the Preakness, isn’t running in the Belmont. He was sidelined briefly by a fever after the Preakness and is back in California.
A year ago, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, sweeping the Derby, Preakness and Belmont.
Being outside should not be an obstacle for Exaggerator, one of several 3-year-olds in the field who like to run well off the lead.
“I can’t see any horse that would cross over on him,” Kent Desormeaux said. “I’d like to establish position preferably without him getting a grain of sand in his face.”
The 46-year-old rider returned to the track Tuesday after a brief stay in a drug and alcohol rehab center in Utah. A one-time regular rider at Belmont Park, he feels he might have an edge over a track that measures 1½ miles.
“I do actually,” Desormeaux said of having a home-track advantage, just like he felt he did at Pimlico, where he also used to ride on a regular basis. “I think it holds true to the Preakness, going back to that, and understanding the course.”
Cherry Wine, who came flying down the stretch to nip Nyquist for second in the Preakness, has improved his finish in each of his last three starts.
“I hope we’re sitting on a big race,” trainer Dale Romans said. “His Belmont pedigree says he’s set to go a mile-and-a-half as well as anyone else.”
Romans also sends out 20-1 long shot Brody’s Cause, the Blue Grass winner who ran seventh in the Derby. Also with two horses in the race are Steve Asmussen with 10-1 Creator and Gettysburg, the 30-1 expected pace-setter, and Dallas Stewart with 30-1 long shots Forever d’Oro and Seeking the Soul.
Desormeaux isn’t about to predict where Exaggerator will be during the race, but said “I’m going to let Exaggerator get comfortable, wherever that is it’s going to be.
“If I could have a dream run, he would be forwardly placed, and I would be able to dreamingly decide when to pull the trigger.”
The field, from the rail out: Governor Malibu (12-1, Joel Rosario), Destin (6-1, Javier Castellano), Cherry Wine (8-1, Corei Lanerie), Suddenbreakingnews (10-1, Mike Smith), Stradivari (5-1, John Velazquez), Gettysburg (30-1, Paco Lopez), Seeking the Soul (30-1, Florent Geroux), Forever d’Oro (30-1, Jose Ortiz), Trojan Nation (30-1, Aaron Gryder), Lani (20-1, Yutaka Take), Exaggerator (9-5, Kent Desormeaux), Brody’s Cause (20-1, Luis Saez) and Creator (10-1, Irad Ortiz, Jr.)