Do Tapit Trice, Forte Have Required Endurance to Win the Belmont Stakes?

Sometimes when you read or hear about bloodlines or pedigree in horse racing, your eyes glaze over. You didn’t sign up for this to endure a constant genetics lesson in this sire or this dam or this grandsire and what that means for the horse you like in a particular race.

The Belmont Stakes is here to remind you that who’s your daddy is important. Very important. That whole “Test of a Champion” thing you keep hearing when discussing the third and final jewel of the American Triple Crown exists to remind you that running 1 ½ miles around a huge, sweeping, soft-soiled track is not for every equine. So much so that this will be the one and only time the nine horses you see for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes will run 12 furlongs.

After all, they’re American horses. And American dirt runners don’t run 1 ½ miles.

Which is why—of all the Triple Crown races—the Belmont puts prime importance on bloodlines and pedigree. When you look at the pedigrees of recent Belmont Stakes winners, you see 14 of the last 16 came from a sire who won a Grade 1 race of 1 1/8 miles or farther. One of the two exceptions came last year, when Mo Donegal—son of Uncle Mo—prevailed as the 5-2 favorite. Uncle Mo never won a Grade 1 race longer than 1 1/16 miles.

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Tapit Well Represented

Which brings us to your go-to Belmont sire—Tapit. He’s sired four Belmont Stakes winners, the last being Essential Quality two years ago. Tapit offspring eat up distance like Greek yogurt, which—in turn—brings us to two Tapit progeny in the Belmont Stakes field: Tapit Trice (3-1) and Tapit Shoes (20-1).

We’ll dispose of Tapit Shoes by telling you that while his speed figures have increased every race, he’s still not in the class of several of his Belmont Stakes counterparts. Put him on your underneath (trifecta and superfecta) wagers and move on.

Moving to the “other” Tapit—Tapit Trice. When we last saw this Tapit progeny, he went from last place to seventh in the Kentucky Derby five weeks ago at 9-2. That was a product of Tapit Trice’s penchant for slow starts.

The $1.3 million product of the 2021 Keeneland September Yearling Sale is one of four Grade 1 winners in the field, courtesy of his neck victory over Verifying in the Blue Grass Stakes. Like the other two Derby ex-pats in the field: Angel of Empire (third) and Hit Show (fifth), Tapit Trice skipped the Preakness Stakes.

Does Forte have Strength to Win?

 Then there’s Tapit Trice’s stablemate Forte, who morning-line author David Aragona likes enough to make the 5-2 favorite. Winner of six of his seven career races and more than $2.4 million, Forte was the prohibitive Kentucky Derby favorite until a state veterinarian scratched him the morning of the race. He hasn’t run since winning the Florida Derby April 1.

On paper, Forte is the best horse in the field. But three trends provide Forte with some Belmont headwinds. The first is that favorite status. While five favorites in the last eight years prevailed—including the last three—four times in the last decade the winning horse came in at 10-1 or greater odds. A fifth (Tonalist in 2014) was 9-1. Only five favorites in the last 16 years ran to their odds.

The second trend kicking dirt in Forte’s face? He’s a closer. It sounds counterintuitive, given the 12-furlong distance, and stop us if you’ve heard this before, but the Belmont Stakes isn’t friendly to closers. Mo Donegal last year and Creator in 2016 were the only two closers in the last 10 years to pass the “Test of the Champion.” According to Equibase, 14 of the last 16 Belmont Stakes winners—including Mo Donegal—were within 4 ½ lengths of the leader after the first half mile.

And then, there’s that pedigree. Forte’s sire is Violence, who won three of his four career races, but none over 1 1/16 miles.

Other Contenders to Consider

Who else merits attention? Well, there’s Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire (7-2), who rallied to hit the Derby board as the 4-1 favorite, falling only 1 ½ lengths behind winner Mage. Trainer Brad Cox said the son of 2017 Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire loves the extra distance awaiting him.

There’s Preakness winner National Treasure (5-1), who figures once again to be the front-end speed in what figures to be a modest pace. Should jockey John Velazquez be able to set the rhythm like he did at Pimlico, we could have only the fourth Preakness-Belmont winner this century, joining Afleet Alex (2005) and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). But that’s countered by the fact National Treasure has to carry that speed 2 ½ furlongs further than he’s ever gone.

One longshot for your tickets is Arcangelo (8-1). The son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Travers Stakes record holder Arrogate certainly has the pedigree to go 1 ½ miles, especially with a female side featuring 2007 Belmont Stakes winning filly Rags to Riches. He has a victory at Belmont Park on the CV, capturing the 1 1/8-mile Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes by a head over a very good Bishops Bay. Going from a one-turn race to beating this group in a 12-furlong test is probably a bridge or two too far. But the fact Arcangelo’s speed figures have increased every race mandate putting him somewhere on your tickets.

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