Looking at the Varied Paths to the Belmont

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Just breaking from the gate as planned in the June 8 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) at Belmont Park will separate War of Will from this year's other 3-year-olds as the Preakness Stakes (G1) winner is expected to be the lone horse to start in all three legs of this year's Triple Crown.

Starting in the first two classics has proven a successful route in recent years, thanks to Triple Crown winners Justify last year and American Pharoah in 2015.

A look at this year's Belmont hopefuls shows the most popular route to the season's final classic is to start in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), skip the Preakness, then race in the 1 1/2-mile classic. That's the path of Tacitus, third in the Derby; Master Fencer (JPN), sixth in the Derby; Tax, 14th in the Derby; and Spinoff, 18th in the Derby.

Of the past 10 Belmont winners, five raced in the Derby and then skipped the Preakness, a route most recently successfully completed by Tapwrit in 2017. Tapwrit finished sixth in the Derby before posting a two-length Belmont score.

Everfast and Bourbon War have started in one classic this year, but their Triple Crown debuts came in the Preakness, where Everfast rallied from 11th to finish second but Bourbon War finished eighth. In the past 10 years, no horse has skipped the Derby, started in the Preakness, and won the Belmont. The last horse to do that was Touch Gold in 1997. Touch Gold finished fourth in the Preakness--just 1 1/2 lengths back--before winning the Belmont by three-quarters of a length, spoiling Silver Charm's Triple Crown bid.

A look at the list of Belmont probables (as of June 2) also includes a pair of new Triple Crown shooters in Sir Winston and Intrepid Heart, the respective second- and third-place finishers in the May 11 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) at Belmont. Three of the past 10 Belmont winners have taken this route, most recently Tonalist, who prepped with a four-length score in the Peter Pan ahead of his narrow victory in the Belmont.

Race Before Belmont Stakes for Past 10 Belmont Stakes Winners
Year    Horse                       Race                      Finish

2018    Justify                       Preakness             Won
2017    Tapwrit                      Kentucky Derby    6th
2016    Creator                     Kentucky Derby     13th
2015    American Pharoah   Preakness              Won
2014    Tonalist                    Peter Pan               Won
2013    Palace Malice          Kentucky Derby     12th
2012    Union Rags              Kentucky Derby     7th
2011    Ruler On Ice            Federico Tesio       2nd
2010    Drosselmeyer          Dwyer                     2nd
2009    Summer Bird           Kentucky Derby      6th

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