Belmont Stakes Contenders: Who Is Leading The Odds?

Belmont Stakes Contenders: Who Is Leading The Odds?
Belmont Stakes Contenders: Who Is Leading The Odds? Photo credit: Rebecca Shear

Author: Lindsay Griffin

The first two legs of the 2023 Triple Crown are now in the history books.

National Treasure’s defeat of Kentucky Derby winner Mage means that there is no chance for a Triple Crown champion to ascend this year, which admittedly takes some of the excitement away from the Belmont Stakes, at least to the lay fan. This was exacerbated by Gustavo Delgado’s announcement that Mage would skip the Test of the Champion in order to rest up for the summer Saratoga meet.

However, a number of top choices from the Kentucky Derby are returning for this year’s edition of the Belmont, and the race appears on paper to be highly competitive. Let’s take a look at the current Belmont Stakes morning line odds for the 2023 Belmont Stakes.

National Treasure

At the time of this writing, trainer Bob Baffert had indicated that his Preakness winner was likely to contest the Belmont, but that the final decision had not yet been made. Reportedly, National Treasure came out of the Preakness no worse for wear and with an abundance of energy.

Prior to winning the Preakness, National Treasure had run fourth in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby in Tim Yakteen’s name, his only chance at earning points toward the Kentucky Derby. He had previously run third in the Grade III Sham Stakes, but was ineligible for Derby points at that time because he was trained by Bob Baffert. A son of Quality Road out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, National Treasure was second in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two-year-old.


The decisive winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and clear choice for Eclipse Champion Two-Year-Old Male last year was Forte. Big things were expected out of the Todd Pletcher trainee at three, and he delivered on his earlier promise, winning the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Grade I Florida Derby in preparation for the Kentucky Derby. He drew post 15 and was installed as the 3-1 morning line favorite.

However, that is where the luck seemingly ended for the son of Violence and the Blame mare Queen Caroline. Churchill Downs veterinarians detected unsoundness in the colt’s right foreleg and ordered him scratched from the Kentucky Derby. They put him on the vet’s list for 14 days, meaning that he would also be forced out of the Preakness. Pletcher, though unhappy with the turn of events, has remained positive and believes his charge will finally get to strut his stuff in the Belmont.


Pletcher also trains Kingsbarns, who was undefeated coming into the Kentucky Derby. He won his debut at Gulfstream Park in January and took an allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs in February. From there, he vaulted into graded stakes competition and dominated the Grade II Louisiana Derby. That earned him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, where he dueled with Verifying before weakening to finish fourteenth.

While the early pace in the Belmont looks to be much stronger than it was in the Preakness, it will likely not be as hot as it was in the Derby. The Louisiana Derby is the same distance as the Preakness, showing that while Kingsbarns likes to get to the lead quickly, he is no mere sprinter. His sire, Uncle Mo, is not normally known for throwing offspring who like ten furlongs or more, but Kingsbarns’ claim to stamina is bolstered by his broodmare sire, Tapit.

Angel of Empire

The leading Brad Cox sophomore trainee, Angel of Empire had a bit of a slow start to his career. He won his debut at Horseshoe Indianapolis, a track not known for producing Triple Crown contestants. From there, he went to Kentucky Downs, another lower-tier track, and finished sixth in an allowance race. He returned to Horseshoe to win an allowance race there, and then made his stakes debut on the first day of 2023 in the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He failed to catch stablemate Victory Formation that day, but turned the tables in February with a win in the Grade II Risen Star Stakes. Dismissed as the third choice in the Grade I Arkansas Derby, he asserted his dominance with a 4 ¼ length win.

Angel of Empire inherited Kentucky Derby favoritism upon the scratch of Forte, and while he didn’t win, he hardly embarrassed himself. Indeed, the son of Classic Empire out of Armony’s Angel, by To Honor and Serve, was finishing fastest of all and earned a respectable third place. Brad Cox has always been optimistic about his colt’s chances at longer distances, and has indicated that the Belmont Stakes might be a chance for Angel of Empire to shine.

Tapit Trice

The third of Todd Pletcher’s strong first string of three-year-olds is Tapit Trice. Tapit Trice faltered in his debut last November, but then proceeded to win four races in a row. He is also very well traveled: he broke his maiden at Aqueduct, won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park, took the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, and then had his final Derby prep in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. A notoriously bad breaker who comes from the clouds at the end of his races, Tapit Trice was sluggish in the initial stages of the Derby, and a bad bump with Mandarin Hero slowed both horses’ progress. Tapit Trice eventually finished seventh.

The Belmont Stakes is a natural next step for Tapit Trice, however. The added distance of the race will give him ample time to get himself into position before unleashing his powerful charge to the front. His sire is Tapit, who has produced four Belmont Stakes winners, and his broodmare sire, Dunkirk, finished second in the 2009 Belmont. Should Tapit Trice run well, he would simply be carrying on the family tradition.