Magic Man’s preview and picks of Belmont Stakes 2019

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It has been a rough first two legs of the Triple Crown for the Magic Man as the results have not been there. The final chance remaining to salvage some pride and get a positive result comes in the 151st running of the Belmont Stakes.

On what is expected to be a scenic and beautiful day at Belmont Park, the Triple Crown finale is the centerpiece of an absolutely star-studded card including 10 stakes races. Part of the stakes buffet is the Met Mile, packed with six Grade 1 winners in a field of eight. However, I will focus on the Belmont because the Magic Man is due some good fortune here.

There are 10 entrants to contest a race on paper that it looks like a two-horse showdown. Preakness winner War of Will and morning line favorite (as well as my pick in this past Kentucky Derby) Tacitus look like they tower over this group. In that respect, what do you guys know about how I handicap? I have no fear of trying to beat favorites but the question beckons: Will I try to employ that strategy here?

To answer that question, just read on as I now present you my horse-by-horse preview along with my selections for the 2019 Belmont.

RACE 11 Belmont S. Presented by NYRA Bets (Grade I) POST TIME – 5:37 PM Central time
PP (RACE 11)
Exacta, Trifecta (.50), Super (.10), Pick 3 Races (11-13), Double Wagers
Belmont Park STAKES
Purse $1,500,000. For Three Year Olds. By subscription of $600 each, to accompany the nomination, if made on or before January 26, 2019, or $6,000, if made on or before April 1, 2019. At any time prior to the closing time of entries, horses may be nominated to The BelmontStakes upon payment of a supplementary fee of $50,000 to the New York Racing Association, Inc. $15,000 to pass the entry box and $15,000 additional to start. All entrants will be required to pay entry and starting fees; but no fees, supplemental or otherwise shall be added to the purse. The purse to be divided $800,000 to the winner, $280,000 to second, $150,000 to third, $100,000 to fourth, $60,000 to fifth, $45,000 to sixth, $35,000 to seventh and $30,000 to eighth. Colts and Geldings, 126 Lbs.; Fillies, 121 Lbs. The winning owner will be presented with the August Belmont Memorial Cup to be retained for one year as well as a trophy for permanent possession and trophies to the winning trainer and jockey. One And One Half Miles.
P# PP Horse Virtual
Stable A/S Med Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1 Joevia (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Lezcano
126 G D Sacco
2 2 Everfast (KY)
[ ] 3/C L L Saez
126 D L Romans
3 3 Master Fencer (JPN)
[ ] 3/C J R Leparoux
126 K Tsunoda
4 4 Tax (KY)
[ ] 3/G L I Ortiz, Jr.
126 D Gargan
5 5 Bourbon War (KY)
[ ] 3/C L M E Smith
126 M A Hennig
6 6 Spinoff (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Castellano
126 T A Pletcher
7 7 Sir Winston (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J Rosario
126 M E Casse
8 8 Intrepid Heart (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J R Velazquez
126 T A Pletcher
9 9 War of Will (KY)
[ ] 3/C L T Gaffalione
126 M E Casse
10 10 Tacitus (KY)
[ ] 3/C L J L Ortiz
126 W I Mott
Owners: 1 – Fazio, Michael and Fazio, Jeff ; 2 – Calumet Farm ; 3 – Yoshizawa, Katsumi ; 4 – R. A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Lynch, Hugh and Corms Racing Stable ; 5 – Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable ; 6 – Wertheimer and Frere ; 7 – Farmer, Tracy ; 8 – Low, Lawana L. and Robert E. ; 9 – Barber, Gary ; 10 – Juddmonte Farms, Inc.
Breeders: 1 – Ikhana Farm; 2 – Extern Developments; 3 – Katsumi Yoshizawa; 4 – Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider; 5 – Conquest Stables, LLC; 6 – Wertheimer et Frere; 7 – Tracy Farmer; 8 – WinStar Farm, LLC & WinchellThoroughbreds, LLC; 9 – Flaxman Holdings Limited; 10 – Juddmonte Farms Inc.
Pedigrees (Sire – Dam, by Dam Sire): 1 – Shanghai Bobby – Peace Process , by War Front ; 2 – Take Charge Indy – Awesome Surprise , by Awesome Again ; 3 – Just a Way (JPN) – Sexy Zamurai , by Deputy Minister ; 4 – Arch – Toll , by Giant’s Causeway ; 5 – Tapit – My Conquestadory , by Artie Schiller; 6 – Hard Spun – Zaftig , by Gone West ; 7 – Awesome Again – La Gran Bailadora , by Afleet Alex ; 8 – Tapit – Flaming Heart , by Touch Gold ; 9 – War Front – Visions of Clarity (IRE) , by Sadler’s Wells ; 10 – Tapit – Close Hatches , by First Defence ;
Sire of Spinoff standing at Darley

Equipment Changes: 5 – Bourbon War – Blinkers off;8 – Intrepid Heart – Blinkers On


Bounced back off a terrible performance in the Wood Memorial with a wire-to-wire score in the Long Branch at Monmouth in his last start. When I assess his chances, I’ll simply say he does not have any chance. He, if anything, will be a part of the early pace, especially having to break from the rail. I just cannot fathom him hanging around when the real running starts. An easy toss for me here.


The horse who ruined my Preakness exacta box by running second behind War of Will is going to try and improve off that effort. My reasoning in not using him on Preakness day still applies here. I respect Dale Romans immensely but Preakness horses have not had much success in the Belmont ,save for the last two Triple Crown winners. I will let this guy try and beat me again but this time I am more confident that he fails.

3-Master Fencer

Ran a deceptively good race in the Kentucky Derby after I eviscerated him in my Derby preview. I surely thought he would run way back but to his credit he ran a solid race over a boggy track at Churchill. You would think that the gap of five weeks between efforts helps here but he has had an adventurous past couple of weeks in preparation for the Belmont. I usually do not like horses that have had issues in preparation but there really isn’t a lot of depth to this Belmont. If he moves forward off his Derby effort, I would think he can at the least be in the exacta or trifecta. This horse is a tough one to read for me in here.


Prior to the Kentucky Derby, there were those who gave this horse a puncher’s chance but that disappeared at the break and his dislike for the slop finished him off. In theory a return to his home base of Belmont plus the five weeks between races gives him an opportunity to bounce back. That said his connections were on the fence about running up until very early this week. He does attract Irad Ortiz to ride so that will garner him some love at the betting windows. He is another on the fence as it relates to whether I will use him in the exotics.

5-Bourbon War

This was my top choice to win the Preakness 3 weeks ago and he mystified me with his surprisingly dull effort. There was enough pace for him to close into but he just ran dull. His connections were non committal about going to the Belmont but this horse has been working sharp and they decide to take the blinkers off and they get Mike Smith to ride for the Belmont. On the surface his Preakness was too bad to be believed and that’s because his work tab coming into the Belmont has been sharp. I feel like he deserves another chance and his odds are at 12-1. It’s not the worst stab in the world if you are still a believer. He is under consideration for my exotics.


After he ran a bad race in the Kentucky Derby, he was been rested for this contest. His trainer Todd Pletcher has multiple chances to upset this Belmont but this guy to me is not one I feel comes through. He showed good form prior to the Derby, and it makes sense to throw his effort out but he was one of the bigger longshots that day for a reason. He does attract Javier Castellano to ride but Spinoff just does not seem nearly good enough. I will toss him with confidence.

7-Sir Winston

This guy closed like a freight train to run second in the Peter Pan over this strip. One of the two runners for Preakness-winning trainer Mark Casse, who will also saddle War of Will, will take more support than he is should. I see him as a candidate to bounce off of such a big effort. He will be closing from the back and it appears that the pace flow could help but I will not use him because he is going to have to show me another good effort before I expect it at a mile and a half.

8-Intrepid Heart

The second of the Todd Pletcher’s runners had a tough trip to third in the Peter Pan, stumbling at the start before he managed to end up in the money. Two positives about him here include the addition of blinkers and a work tab going into the race that is really sharp. He will be making only his fourth lifetime start but I expect he can move forward. Everything points to him as one of those worthy of consideration for exotics.

9-War of Will

Rebounded off a disastrous trip in the Kentucky Derby to post a resolute win in the Preakness. He has been training solidly and has not really shown the wear-and-tear that a Triple Crown campaign can exact upon most horses. He absolutely has a good chance to repeat his Preakness effort but there are concerns. First off, after winning the Preakness, why would Mark Casse enter a second contender (Sir Winston)? I get that it’s for different owners but if you feel that you have the best horse, don’t you think you go all-in for a second straight win in a Triple Crown race? Also, let us remember that his rider Tyler Gaffalione is a Belmont rookie who may not have the course down pat for this endurance test. Yes, he is a talented rider but 1.5 mile race is a whole different ballgame on a totally different track than Pimlico. Maybe I am just nitpicking since he has to be in the mix for it all.


My selection to win the Kentucky Derby had a tough trip that day. He looked to be spinning his wheels trying to acclimate over the sloppy ground at Chiurchill Downs but once he got his bearings came roaring home late. I feel that, had the track been fast, he would have won the Derby Tacitus was tabbed the deserving morning line favorite based on the freshness angle and great training reports coming into this race. I had every confidence in his winning the Derby so what has really changed for me five weeks later? Nothing at all.

My Selections

1-Tacitus: He should be very tough to handle with all things being equal. A return to his home base and a dry track equals validation of his talent.

2-Intrepid Heart: Putting him second is not an indictment against War of Will. I’m just trying to hunt a legit long shot to make the exacta pay well. His potential for a big step forward is enticing enough.

3- War of Will: I would be a complete fool to completely toss him out, and making him my choice to fall short is not an indictment. I am just price hunting.

4-Bourbon War: Getting Mike Smith aboard probably drives his odds lower than his morning line but the second choice in the Preakness has every right to bounce back so I will put him in my exacta box.

That does it for my look at the 2019 Belmont, set to run on an expected superb day weather-wise. The card as a whole offers great chances to make big scores.

I will have a full recap of the 2019 Triple Crown races next week so stay tuned for that. Plus, I will be back on the Three Tailgators with Ken Trahan and Ed Daniels on Belmont Day to preview the race on WGSO 990 AM New Orleans around 11:45 a.m.

Until then as always may your winners be plentiful and your wallets be fat.

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George Pepis

George Pepis

Horse Racing Analyst

George Pepis provides racing analysis during each Fair Grounds racing season. He also shares commentary and selections for major stakes events and prep races around the country. In the past, George has hosted sports talk programming on WGSO 990am in New Orleans. He has served as both play-by-play and color analyst on Louisiana high school football radio and internet broadcasts.

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