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.
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”