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Not Justified: A Preview Of The 2018 Belmont Stakes

Not Justified: A Preview Of The 2018 Belmont Stakes

Does a Super Bowl trophy glow as brightly when the victory is against a second-string defense? What if the seventh game of the World Series was only seven innings long?Unfortunately, we're about to view a Belmont Stakes with a watered down field.

Monopolies in the business world are frowned upon and actions are taken to prevent them. Monopolies in sports are non-existent, as franchises in the major sports teams have unique owners who strive for their respective titles. In thoroughbred horse racing, that isn't necessarily the case.

What Happened

The issue is being brought to forefront by the decision by WinStar Farms not to enter Audible in the Belmont Stakes. On the surface, it's no big deal. Audible’s trainer Todd Pletcher said the colt has a minor injury and should be rested for a strong summer campaign.

In reality, WinStar Farms may be doing everything it can to enhance ownership's stake in Justify, as WinStar Farms also happens to be the majority owner of Audible. If this three-year-old had his own representation, he'd sue on grounds of conflict of interest.

It was reported last month that Justify’s breeding rights were sold for $60 million to Ireland’s Coolmore Stud, but that deal has not yet been consummated.

While it may seem like an outrageous sum, if Justify wins the Triple Crown, he could command $150,000 per foal. Since winning the Triple Crown in 2015, American Pharoah has fathered 163 foals, so the math speaks for itself.

Related Link: What The Supreme Court's Sports Betting Ruling Means For States, Leagues And Online Sportsbooks

Why It’s Important

Audible was primed to win the Belmont Stakes. On top of his impressive come-from-behind victory in the Florida Derby, the horse finished a strong third place in the Kentucky Derby despite a poor start. The horse didn’t compete in the Preakness Stakes and would’ve been well-rested for the grueling 1 1/2-mile Triple Crown finale.

Instead, the field has been narrowed to just 10 horses, which includes Bravazzo, who challenged Justify in the Preakness. Many handicappers expect Hofburg to significantly improve upon his 7th place performance in the Kentucky Derby, especially since he was rested for the second leg. Good Magic, who was second in the Kentucky Derby, won’t be in the race after fading in the Preakness.

Everyone would love to witness another Triple Crown winner, marking the second one in the last four years after nearly 40 years without one. It seems hard to believe there were three such champions in the 1970s.

A Triple Crown might not be be as meaningful as in the past, since the deck has been stacked in Justify’s favor.

Now What?

With Audible — my top choice to thwart Justify’s attempt to win the Triple Crown — standing idle in the barn, who has best chance to pull the upset, and therefore preserve the integrity of the Triple Crown?

It's a longshot, but my choice is Blended Citizen.

Blended Citizen is well-rested after skipping the first two legs of the Triple Crown. He posted an impressive win May 12 in the Peter Pan Stakes, which was run at Belmont Park. Keep in mind the horse is trained by veteran Doug O’Neill, who may have some payback on his mind.

O’Neill’s colt California Chrome was denied the Triple Crown in 2014 when the Peter Pan Stakes winner Tonalist dusted the field in the Belmont Stakes and went on to have a distinguished career.

If Blended Citizen doesn’t win the race but finishes second to Justify, it may yield an exacta payout that far exceeds that of a win bet on Justify.

Bet on whichever horse you like, but if Justify does complete the Triple Crown sweep, it will be tarnished in the eyes of one long-time horse racing fan.

Posted-In: Audible Belmont Stakes JustifyPreviews Sports Opinion Trading Ideas General Best of Benzinga


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