We the People installed as Belmont favorite

A field of eight will contest Saturday’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in racing’s Triple Crown. And there’s a good chance it will mark the fourth consecutive season with three different winners of the three Crown races.

Though the field does include Rich Strike, the upset winner of the May 7 Kentucky Derby, favoritism falls instead to We the People. Trained by Rodolphe Brisset, We the People is 2-1 on the morning line and enters with three wins in four career starts.

We the People, a Constitution colt owned by WinStar Farm LLC, CMNWLTH, and Siena Farm, stubbed his toe when seventh in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. But he made amends in his most recent start with a front-running, 10-length score in the Grade 3 Peter Pan, the traditional New York prep for the 12-furlong Belmont, for three-year-olds.

“The way he has been acting is what you want to see,” said Brisset, who will be saddling his first Belmont Stakes contender. “The way he has changed is really good. When you let him breeze and he breezes that good, it’s all a good sign.”

Flavien Prat will ride, and We the People, possibly the controlling speed, will leave from the inner post.

Wood Memorial winner Mo Donegal, fifth in the Kentucky Derby, will race at Belmont Park for the first time since breaking his maiden last fall. Trained by Todd Pletcher for Donegal Racing and Repole Stable, Mo Donegal ran down Early Voting in the late stages to win the Wood. While Mo Donegal tried his luck in Louisville, trainer Chad Brown held Early Voting out until the Preakness, a move that proved prescient when he held off Epicenter to win the Middle Jewel.

Mo Donegal, who also won the Grade 3 Remsen at Aqueduct, has won three of six in his young career.

Pletcher will saddle a pair of runners in the Belmont, with Mo Donegal joined by the filly Nest, most recently second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. In a potential oddity, Nest is a daughter of Curlin, who himself was upset in the Belmont by a filly.

“They’ve both trained super,” Pletcher said. “Both have trained here and breezed together all three times and I’m really excited about the way they’re coming into it and the way they came out of their last breezes.”

Irad Ortiz will ride Mo Donegal, the 5-2 second choice on the morning line, while Jose Ortiz has the call on Nest (8-1).

The Derby winner, Rich Strike, is 7-2 on the morning line and will have regular pilot Sonny Leon up as he leaves from post number four.

Rich Strike, a Keen Ice colt, pulled an 80-1 shocker in the Kentucky Derby when he rallied from well back to win by three parts of a length over Epicenter, the post time favorite who returned to be second again as the favorite in the Preakness.

Trained by Eric Reed for RED-TR Racing, Rich Strike, who has two wins from eight starts, then bypassed the Preakness to await his date in New York. He arrived at Belmont Park last Wednesday, giving him a full week-and-a-half to acclimate to new surroundings.

“If you break his schedule, he’s not happy, and we had to change it a little bit coming here by going out a little bit later, but he likes that,” Reed said. “He takes a nap every day between 6:30 and 7:30 while we get ready for him to go out to the track and then he’s all business. When he comes back, he’ll eat a little bit and then lay down for another hour and a half.”

Two horses who ran in the 147th Preakness Stakes May 21 are headed to the Belmont. They are Preakness show horse Creative Minister (6-1) and fifth-place finisher Skippylongstocking (20-1).

The Belmont Stakes field:

  1. We the People (2-1): Trainer Rodolphe Brisset/Jockey Flavien Prat
  2. Skippylongstocking (20-1): Saffie Joseph/Manny Franco
  3. Nest (8-1): Todd Pletcher/Jose Ortiz
  4. Rich Strike (7-2): Eric Reed/Sonny Leon
  5. Creative Minister (6-1): Ken McPeek/Brian Hernandez, Jr.
  6. Mo Donegal (5-2): Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz, Jr.
  7. Golden Glider (20-1): Mark Casse/Dylan Davis
  8. Barber Road (10-1): John Ortiz/Joel Rosario