Breaking it down

A complete, horse-by-horse look at the Belmont Stakes field

Saturday is the last of the Triple Crown races for 2019 with the Belmont Stakes. There is no shot at a Triple Crown, so basically it is just another nice stakes race. Here is a look at the 10 horses in the field.

No. 1 Joevia (30-1)

Trainer: Greg Sacco

Jockey: Jose Lezcano

Why he can win: He has one weapon in his arsenal - speed. He will be the early pacesetter, and if he is not, he has no shot. The Belmont - despite being the longest of the Triple Crown races, tends to favor early foot, so he will gun and hope. Probably not good enough to hold on all the way but could hang around for a piece late.

No. 2 Everfast (12-1)

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Luis Saez

Why he can win: He did run second in the Preakness at a monster price. But horses that did not run in the Derby, then fared well in the Preakness historically struggle at Belmont. Plus he is a deep closer, and that style rarely wins here. Might clunk up for a piece late.

No. 3 Master Fencer (8-1)

Trainer: Koichi Tsunoda

Jockey: Julien Leparoux

Why he can win: Was surprisingly beaten just four lengths in the Derby and was moving well at the end. Japan based horses win a lot of races around the world and while this guy is second tier there, he should love the distance and could be a live long shot in a field lacking quality. Would not be shocked if he is in it at the end.

No. 4 Tax (15-1)

Trainer: Danny Gargan

Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.

Why he can win: He has some nice races on his resume, but was no match for Tacitus in the Wood Memorial and was no threat in the Derby. Plus he has a horrible name. Would need significant improvement in this spot, but I think we have seen his best and it does not appear to be good enough.

No. 5 Bourbon War (12-1)

Trainer: Mark Hennig

Jockey: Mike Smith

Why he can win: We loved him in the Preakness, and he simply did not fire at all. Horses skipping the Derby and doing the Preakness/Belmont double rarely do well, but he might have needed the last race off a layoff, he should handle the distance and not ready to give up on him. Will be a long shot play.

No. 6 Spinoff (15-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Why he can win: He was a strong second in the Louisiana Derby, is lightly raced and should improve. Still, he was no factor whatsoever in the Kentucky Derby and probably does not want any part of the distance here. Pass.

No. 7 Sir Winston (12-1)

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Why he can win: He doesn't very often - just twice in nine starts - but he was a good closing second in the prep for this and tends to hit the board at big prices. A classic grinder, would not be surprised if he picked up some pieces late and helped blow up the trifecta price.

No. 8 Intrepid Heart (10-1)

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Why he can win: He has only raced three times, so there is room for improvement. He finished behind Sir Winston in his first stakes try, running third. But he is bred to go farther, and they spent $750,000 on him. A big step up but won't be surprised if he is a small factor.

No. 9 War of Will (2-1)

Trainer: Mark Casse

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione

Why he can win: His Preakness was a thing of beauty after the rodeo that was the Derby. At his best, he generally stalks the pace and takes control late. Expect him to be in the front tier of horses and try to employ that strategy again. Could win, but could also find himself off the board if he throws in one of his occasional clunkers.

No. 10 Tacitus (9-5)

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Why he can win: The morning line favorite was probably the second best horse in the Derby. He hated the surface, was unsettled, and still managed to finish fourth, beaten less than four lengths. (He was placed second). He is bred to love the distance, should get a better track today and will be very tough to beat if he brings his A game.

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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