Unwrapping the Belmont Stakes Pace Puzzle

Belmont Park photo by Josh Chicorelli

By Jarrod Horak

I took a look at the Preakness pace scenario prior to the second jewel of the Triple Crown, and this time I will see if I can unwrap the puzzling Belmont Stakes race shape. 

In the Kentucky Derby, the pace was sizzling and Mage rumbled home from the back of the pack. The Preakness featured a crawling pace and National Treasure stole the show. The Belmont race flow looks to be on the slow side, and let’s see if we can figure out where the nine runners will be positioned in the early going. 

Today’s Racing Digest Pace Ratings (2023 Stakes Races) – Most Representative Line

National Treasure – 143 (SA Derby)

Il Miracolo – 134 (Florida Derby)

Forte – 134 (Fountain of Youth)

Tapit Shoes – 128 (Bath House Row)

Angel of Empire – 128 (Risen Star)

Hit Show – 122 (Wood Memorial)

Tapit Trice – 120 (Blue Grass)

Arcangelo – 101 (Peter Pan)

Red Route One – 93 (Preakness)

The early lead in the Belmont is up for grabs and National Treasure will probably try to make the front. I would expect longshot Il Miracolo to be sent out of there. He wired the field in both of his wins and he is firing bullets for this engagement. Brad Cox has stated that he would like to see Tapit Shoes forwardly placed and he should attend the pace from the inside post. 

Forte could find himself in the garden spot in fourth. Can he overcome the 10 week layoff and have enough stamina to see out the mile and a half trip? That is the big question. 

Angel of Empire is adding blinkers and they would like him to stay closer to the pace this time. He rallied from the back of the pack to pick up the show in the Kentucky Derby, but the pace was very fast that day and the strong fractions forced him to fall too far behind in the early going. Even without blinkers he figured to be much closer to the pace in the Belmont. 

Hit Show was rather close to a fast pace in the Derby and I can see him jockeying for decent early position in the Belmont. He could easily swap places with Forte and sit right behind the expected three early runners. 

Tapit Trice’s placement is probably just about right. I expect him to be seventh early. His rider Luis Saez will probably try to move him outside on the backstretch, and they may be looking to duplicate his Blue Grass trip. He broke from the inside post that day. He eased out, made an early move, and used his stamina to outfinish Verifying. 

Arcangelo will probably be patiently handled under Javier Castellano. He has never been too far back in any of his races and probably has a touch more positional speed. He might try to save ground and could be fourth or fifth early if need be. 

There is little doubt that Red Route One will be the early back marker. He was taken out of his game in the Preakness. He is best as a late runner and they will probably be content to sit back and try to get involved in the stretch. 

The Belmont pace is important but probably not as much as the Preakness. The Test of the Champion is an endurance test and the battle will be won by the fittest competitor. The winner will likely stay within hailing distance of the early leaders and grind out a victory. 

Belmont Stakes Field


1 – Tapit Shoes / Jose Ortiz / Brad Cox / 20-1

2 – Tapit Trice / Luis Saez / Todd Pletcher / 3-1

3 – Arcangelo / Javier Castellano / Jena Antonucci / 8-1

4 – National Treasure / John Velazquez / Bob Baffert / 5-1

5 – Il Miracolo / Marcos Meneses / Antonio Sano / 30-1

6 – Forte / Irad Ortiz, Jr. / Todd Pletcher / 5-2

7 – Hit Show / Manny Franco / Brad Cox / 10-1

8 – Angel of Empire / Flavien Prat / Brad Cox / 7-2 (blinkers on)

9 – Red Route One / Joel Rosario / Steve Asmussen / 15-1

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