Expected favorite Classic Empire is out of the Saturday's 149th running of the Belmont Stakes due a recurrence of an abscess in his right front hoof, making Irish War Cry the early-line horse to beat after Wednesday's draw.
Classic Empire flew to New York from Kentucky on Tuesday, but trainer Mark Casse said Wednesday morning at Belmont Park that the bay colt "wouldn't put the foot down."
"This morning his foot was really bugging him," Casse told reporters. "When we came in, he could hardly get around. He'll be better as soon as it busts open. He'll have instant relief, but he can't run. He's been too good to us.
"He's such a tough horse, he doesn't really let you know until it's really painful to him. If he hadn't, he would have run in the race and probably not run as well, and then have it flare up. I'm looking toward it as a bright spot, that he showed it three days out and not the day after."
Classic Empire was fourth in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Preakness in his last two starts.
The right front is the same foot that had an abscess after Classic Empire finished third in the Holy Bull Stakes in his first start of the year on Feb. 4 at Gulfstream Park. He did not race again until April 15, when he won the Arkansas Derby before the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Casse announced the 2016 2-year-old champion's withdrawal four hours before Irish War Cry drew the No. 7 post in a field of 12 and was made the 7-2 favorite for the 1 1/2-mile, $1.5 million race.
Irish War Cry finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby and skipped the Preakness. Trainer Graham Motion did not commit his colt to the Belmont until Sunday.
"I can honestly say that this was not my original plan," Motion said after the draw at Rockefeller Center. "When he ran so badly in the Derby, I just wanted to go home and forget about the Triple Crown. That's what the Derby does to you when you don't win it."
Japan-based Epicharis (No. 11 post) is the 4-1 second choice, followed by Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee (No. 6 post, 5-1), who will be the only horse to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.
Belmont Stakes post positions and odds for Saturday's 6:37 p.m. ET race on NBC:
1. Twisted Tom, 20-1
2. Tapwrit, 6-1
3. Gormley, 8-1
4. J Boys Echo, 15-1
5. Hollywood Handsome, 30-1
6. Lookin At Lee, 5-1
7. Irish War Cry, 7-2
8. Senior Investment, 12-1
9. Meantime, 15-1
10. Multiplier, 15-1
11. Epicharis, 4-1
12. Patch, 12-1.