June 7 (UPI) -- With no Triple Crown on the line, Saturday's $1.5 million Belmont Stakes can be appreciated for the fascinating race it is in its own right -- starting with the two favorites, Tacitus and War of Will, who drew the outside gates in a field of 10 for the 1 1/2-miles journey.
War of Will, a War Front colt trained by Mark Casse, was the victim of the interference that continues to roil the running of the Derby. He finished eighth in Louisville after avoiding what could have been a disastrous pileup when Maximum Security shifted right in front of him.
He came back, though, to win the Preakness Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths and is the only horse to contest all three legs of this year's Triple Crown.
Casse said the word he uses about getting War of Will to the Belmont is "satisfaction," adding there is no sense of revenge for the interference that might have cost him the Derby.
"I just wanted him to have a fair chance. That's all I wanted and I thought he got it [in the Preakness], and he responded and did well with it," Casse said.
Tacitus, a Tapit colt trained by Bill Mott, has the outside slot. He won the Tampa Bay Derby and the Wood Memorial before finishing fourth, placed third, in the Kentucky Derby.
Mott got the win at Churchill Downs when Maximum Security was disqualified and Country House inherited the win. Country House was 65-1 that day; Tacitus, just under 6-1. Mott wouldn't quite say Tacitus didn't really have a fair chance in the Derby -- not because of the interference but because of the traffic -- but it clearly was on his mind at the Belmont post-position draw.
"He was quite a ways back in the field and had to come through a lot of traffic," Mott said. "But, you know, we offer no big excuses, other than, you know, he didn't -- it wasn't the cleanest trip, but you know, I can't give him a lot of excuses off of that. He was -- he was moving very well at the end of the race."
The other eight in the Belmont are tough to figure, especially since the 12 furlongs is new to all of them. The Japanese horse, Master Fencer, was closing like a runaway train in the Derby, eventually finishing seventh but beaten only 4 lengths after trailing the field for the first half of the race. The same description fits the Dale Romans-trained Everfast's effort in the Preakness, where he finished second.
Will the pace scenario at Belmont help them repeat those performances and will the additional 2 furlongs give them time to seal the deal? That's why betting on these things is so challenging -- and so much fun.
On paper, it looks as if the others are hoping something good will happen. And, of course, it could. The Belmont sometimes is called "The Test of the Champion." Which of these looks like a fit for that description?