There is no Triple Crown to shoot for this year, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winners are skipping the Belmont Stakes and the presumptive favorite has been scratched.
If that’s not enough to make Belmont organizers apoplectic, the 4-1 second choice, Japanese colt Epicharis, did not train Thursday and is being treated with an anti-inflammatory for lameness in his right front hoof.
It’s unsure if the horse will be fit to run on Saturday, which is too bad for his connections, who would earn a $1 million bonus, in addition to the $800K winner’s share, if Epicharis wins the Belmont.
Even with problems piling up, the third and longest — and oldest — of horse racing’s Triple Crown series remains an intriguing contest at 1 1/2 miles. Saturday’s race will field a competitive lineup of up to a dozen 3-year-olds vying for the $1.5 million purse, led by the new favorite, Irish War Cry, who sits at 7-2. Lookin at Lee, the only horse to run in all three Triple Crown races, is the third choice at 5-1.
Post time for the 149th running of the Belmont is 6:37 p.m. ET (NBC).
The Belmont loses its luster, its buzz and its crowd whenever there is no chance of a Triple Crown winner, and that has been the case half of the time over the last 20 years. Two years ago, American Pharoah ended a 37-year drought with his scintillating Triple Crown victory, but it’s been a tough two years since for the Belmont.
Derby winner Always Dreaming and Preakness champ Cloud Computing will skip the grueling race known as the “Test of the Champion,” meaning there will be a different champion for each of the Triple Crown races for the second year in a row.
Classic Empire, the top-ranked 3-year-old in the National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll this week and the early Belmont favorite who finished fourth in the Derby and second by a nose in the Preakness, was scratched Wednesday…