Belmont has storylines
Is there any reason for a casual sports fan to watch the 2019 Belmont Stakes?
Might as well jump right to the elephant in this room. The Belmont always holds some fascination because it presents a unique endurance test for the top 3-yearold horses in the country. None of them has ever raced over 1 1⁄2 miles, and most of them never will again.
That’s still not much of a hook for those outside the bubble. So in the absence of a potential Triple Crown winner, is there some other narrative carryover from the Derby or Preakness?
The controversial finish to the Derby — where Country House was handed victory after Maximum Security was disqualified for swerving into the paths of other contenders — generated fierce national debate. But neither horse showed up for a rematch in Baltimore and neither will run in New York next weekend. So the intrigue and squabbling did little to build drama for the remainder of the Triple Crown series.
We saw evidence of waning interest in television ratings for the Preakness, which were down about 21% nationally compared to 2018.
The Preakness produced a worthy champion in War of Will, one of the horses impeded by Maximum Security in the Derby. But even as he received his winner’s blanket in Baltimore, viewers seemed more smitten with the riderless Bodexpress, who’d run the race after dumping jockey John Velazquez at the starting gate.
Will the Belmont offer us another dose of weird? Perhaps that’s the reason to continue watching the most askew Triple Crown series in recent memory.
Can War of Will establish himself as the king of this class?
The Mark Casse-trained colt lost his chance at a Triple Crown as soon as Maximum Security halted his momentum in the Derby. But War of Will showed no ill effects from that rugged race as he beat a large (and largely fresh) field in the Preakness.
Casse said all along that his horse should not be written off because of a dud outing in the Louisiana Derby. And War of Will made his trainer sound like a sage.
Could he follow in the hoof prints of past Preakness champions such as Point Given and Curlin, who failed to win the Derby but ran on to Hall of Fame careers? A win in the Belmont would give War of Will serious momentum.
Casse is not one to keep his horses waiting in the barn, so if War of Will has that kind of enduring talent, he’ll probably get the chance to prove it.
Can Bill Mott claim another leg of the Triple Crown with a different horse?
Exercise riders give horses a workout in preparation for the Belmont Stakes, which has its 151st running Saturday in Elmont, N.Y.