By Craig Donnelly, Inquirer Staff Writer
Big Brown will be the heavy favorite to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 when he faces 10 likely rivals in the Belmont Stakes on June 7. After his big wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the 11/2 miles at Belmont might not be the colt's biggest obstacle, however. The imposing runner missed three days of training with a quarter crack in his left front foot but returned to the track yesterday, jogging 11/2 miles.
Here is the probable Belmont Stakes field:
He is seeking to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, but his preparation was delayed by foot problem. He is untested in five career victories.
He is a half-brother to the last two Belmont Stakes winners, Rags to Riches and Jazil. Casino Drive won both of his starts by wide margins.
Tale of Ekati
A distant fourth behind Big Brown in Louisville, Tale of Ekati was perfect in two starts over Belmont Park's surface.
He closed well as runner-up in the Preakness and continues to develop a formidable closing kick. Garrett Gomez is his new jockey.
Denis of Cork
He rallied nicely in the Kentucky Derby while no threat to Big Brown. A dismal effort in the Illinois Derby is a tarnish on his resume.
He scratched from the Preakness with a bruised foot and is unlikely for the Belmont Stakes; all of his victories have been on synthetic surfaces.
He ran a creditable third in the Preakness and has fired in all five of his starts, but much improvement is necessary in a short period.
Tomcito was humbled by Casino Drive in the Peter Pan and Big Brown in the Florida Derby.
He took third in the Peter Pan and has beaten only maidens, but Pletcher won this classic last year.
He couldn't get close to Big Brown in Louisville but showed affinity for the Belmont surface in his debut last season.