Horse Racing

3 Dark Horse Picks for the 2024 Belmont Stakes

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
3 Dark Horse Picks for the 2024 Belmont Stakes

The 2024 Belmont Stakes is coming up on Saturday, June 8, at Saratoga Race Course. Even though it is traditionally run at 1 ½ miles at Belmont Park, the final race of the Triple Crown series was shortened to 1 ¼ miles in order to avoid putting the gate on one of the turns at Saratoga. It is still a true test of stamina, the same distance as the Kentucky Derby, and the winner will get some of the biggest spoils in horse racing: the lion’s share of a $2 million purse, the blanket of white carnations, and a place on the rolls of horse racing history.

The Belmont Stakes drew a field of 10. With no Triple Crown winner possible, it features one of the deepest fields in Belmont Stakes history. Even though there have been bigger fields in the final jewel of the Triple Crown, the recent trend in Belmont Stakes fields has involved extremely stratified fields: a few horses who look like they are excellent win candidates, more who can hit the board, and a few who would surprise everyone if they could keep up with the better runners in the final leg of the Triple Crown.

On the other hand, all of the 2024 Belmont Stakes horses have a good argument for running well in the race. Most of the attention, as usual, focuses on the top echelon: Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Grey, likely favorite Sierra Leone, as well as Mindframe, a flashy newcomer to the Triple Crown races. However, everyone comes into the race with a solid reason to be there, and plenty of upside.

These are the three top dark horse picks to help you build your exotics or go for that big Belmont Stakes score.

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1. Resilience (Belmont Stakes odds: 10-1 ML)

From a trip perspective, Resilience is a fascinating price horse in the Belmont Stakes. He drew relatively close to the inside, the 2 gate—but this is a smaller field than the 12-horse Wood Memorial, and he managed to finagle a stalking trip from the rail that day and streak to victory.

Saratoga tends to play well to horses on or near the lead, so it will be interesting to see if that pattern continues through the opening days of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival there. Especially if that pattern continues, Resilience has an excellent chance of working out the right trip in the Belmont. He is a reliable stalker, meaning he isn’t likely to be sucked into any kind of pace battle with Dornoch, The Wine Steward, and perhaps Seize the Grey or Mindframe. But, he should be right in that next echelon, in touch and ready to strike when the combination of a sharp pace and the mimile-and-a-quarteristance gets to be too much.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that John Velazquez, who rode Resilience in the Wood Memorial, does not ride him in the Belmont – Velazquez instead rides Antiquarian, which makes sense given how long Velazquez has ridden for Todd Pletcher, and Velazquez has ridden Antiquarian for every one of his career starts. But, rider Junior Alvarado gets most of Bill Mott’s big horses nowadays. If he can take advantage of a less chaotic trip (since the Belmont’s field is half the size of the Kentucky Derby), get closer up early, and time the move, right? The result could be much better than it was at Churchill Downs.

2. Honor Marie (Belmont Stakes odds: 12-1 ML)

Honor Marie had a troubled trip in the Kentucky Derby; he got roughed early and had to start from the rear of the 20-horse field. He made a middle move to make it to midfield and kept on chasing to finish eighth, though he lost some ground at the end. However, between the trip trouble and the fact that he likely moved too early, there is a lot of reason to think Honor Marie can do better in the third and final Triple Crown race.

Many of the positive points he had coming into the Kentucky Derby still stand. His pedigree for the 1 ¼-mile distance appeals strongly: he is by the A. P. Indy son Honor Code out of Dame Marie, not only a graded-stakes winner herself but also a Smart Strike half to Rule of Law, who won the St. Leger (G1), a 1 ¾-mile English classic. And, if he can bounce back from his troubled Kentucky Derby? He has mounted a better-timed closing run in all of his other races, and there is enough speed drawn into the Belmont for him to use that to good effect.

The one major positive that doesn’t transfer over from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont Stakes is Honor Marie’s affinity for Churchill Downs. However, his solid form on the Fair Grounds spur of the Kentucky Derby trail, including a quality second-place finish behind Catching Freedom in the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby (G2), suggests he can run well elsewhere, too.

Honor Marie also gets a rider change. Though Ben Curtis, his previous rider, had a strong Fair Grounds meet and has years of experience in Europe, he does not have as much American big-race experience as his new rider, Florent Geroux. Geroux has been a constant presence in the graded-stakes ranks for the last decade, ever since guiding Work All Week to Breeders’ Cup glory. That experience may help make the difference.

3. Protective (Belmont Stakes odds: 20-1 ML)

A maiden, in the Belmont Stakes?

Say what you will about running a horse who hasn’t ever won a race in the third leg of the Triple Crown, but with four Belmont Stakes winners in his history, few trainers know this race like Todd Pletcher. And, unlike stablemate Mindframe, who is 7-2 on the morning line? Protective actually has stakes experience.

Two of Protective’s four starts have come in graded company. In the Wood Memorial (G2), he overcame a rough start to make a solid late run, ultimately finishing third behind Resilience, with whom he will have a rematch in the Belmont Stakes. Next out, he raced in the Peter Pan (G3). Again he finished third, running on evenly to be beaten two lengths by stablemate and fellow Belmont entrant Antiquarian, but he did that from a tracking style. They weren’t wins, but they do prove Protective is able to run a good race from multiple running styles. The Wood, in particular, also shows he does not need things his own way to run well.

It is also a positive that Protective debuted at Saratoga. Despite going six furlongs, a distance that was almost certainly too short for him, he handled the course well. He rallied to finish second, beaten just ¾ length.

Of course, there are a few other questions about Protective beyond the fact that he has not hit the wire first yet.

First is the possibility of rain, since Protective has only ever run over a dry track. However, sire Vino Rosso’s progeny win at a respectable 16% rate in the mud, and his dam Grace Hall ran some solid efforts over dirt rated good.

He also still needs to prove himself over the distance, as he has not yet stretched out past 1 ⅛ miles and will be running against Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes horses who have gone longer already. However, Vino Rosso is a Breeders’ Cup Classic-winning son of Curlin out of a half-sister to Commissioner, who ran an excellent second for Pletcher in the 2014 Belmont Stakes. And, his dam is the Grade 1-winning Empire Maker daughter Grace Hall. Though Grace Hall’s Grade 1 came at seven furlongs as a juvenile, she trained on to be a quality two-turn dirt horse.

As the longest shot in the field, he has no shortage of upside, particularly for exotics.

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