The US Triple Crown season winds to a close with the Belmont Stakes, one of the highlights of the calendar for the horse racing bookmakers. This year it will be run on Saturday, 11th June.
By the time that we get round to the final classic of the season, there could be horse in training racing to join legends such as American Pharoah and Justify and become a Triple Crown winner.
However, with five months to go before the final race of the series at Belmont Park, which horses could be in the mix to win the famous race in June?
There isn’t much secret that Belmont form could go a long way in deciding the winner of the Belmont Stakes. Should that be a contributing factor by the time we get to June, then Jack Christopher could be one of the most exciting horses in the field.
The three-year-old broke his maiden on debut at Saratoga, as he won by a dominant eight and three-quarter lengths from Hoist the Gold. However, his star performance to date came at Belmont, as he won the G1 Champagne Stakes by two and three-quarter lengths from Commandperformance.
That stunning display immediately saw him move to the top of the betting for the Kentucky Derby, before he was later replaced by Corniche. However, his form around Belmont looked excellent on that occasion, which means should he get back to that standard following injury, then he will be the one to beat.
Bob Baffert has only trained the winner of the Belmont Stakes on two occasions since 2002, and it’s fair to say that both winners were extremely exciting. American Pharoah and Justify both rounded off their Triple Crown efforts with victories at Belmont Park, but this race could take on extra significance for Baffert this season.
The American trainer is unable to enter horses at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby at present due to a failed drug test for betametasone posted by Medina Spirit last year. That means Baffert will be looking to win one of the other two huge Triple Crown races to make a statement. Baffert is currently fighting a ban by NYRA which would preclude him from running in the Belmont Stakes. If he runs Corniche looks to be his outstanding contender throughout this season after winning the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and the conditions at Belmont should suit the three-year-old.
If there could be a potential dark horse that could surprise people over the course of the Triple Crown season, then it may be Smile Happy. The three-year-old is trained by Kenneth McPeek, who last won the Belmont Stakes in 2002 with Sarava. His only other Triple Crown success came in the Preakness Stakes in 2020.
However, he is one of the most respected trainer in the United States and could have a number of very interesting contenders in the fields of the Triple Crown races in 2022.
Tiz The Bomb is one of the more interesting, as he could yet look to see how the three-year-old performs on the dirt after a successful run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Rattle N Roll is also an interesting contender. However, Smile Happy could be the one that is overlooked by many, and could be his outstanding chance for the Belmont Stakes.
His running style will certainly suit the final Triple Crown race of the season, and he has done nothing wrong on the track so far. He won his maiden at Keeneland in October, before progressing nicely on his second career start to land a first graded victory in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. It will be very interesting to watch Smile Happy throughout the 2022 season, and could be one to take note of.