TRIPLE CROWN TRAIL

Fred Faour: A horse-by-horse look at the Belmont Stakes field

Fred Faour: A horse-by-horse look at the Belmont Stakes field
Justify is a win away from the Triple Crown. Santaanita.com

Justify will attempt to become the 13th Triple Crown winner when he faces nine other horses at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Here is a horse by horse look at the field:

1. JUSTIFY

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Mike Smith

Record: 5-5-0-0

Earnings: $2,998,000

Odds: 4-5

He will beat Justify if...Well, he IS Justify. He was tested for the first time in the Preakness and he regressed, but still won. He should be lone speed, which gives him a huge tactical edge, but does he have enough left in the tank? Does he even want to go this far? Legitimate questions. Could easily win, but little value in him and worth playing against.

2. FREE DROP BILLY

Trainer: Dale Romans

Jockey: Robby Albarado

Record: 9-2-3-2

Earnings: $625,220

Odds: 30-1

He will beat Justify if...Pigs can fly. And hey, maybe this pig can. He was a damned good 2-year-old, but has regressed at 3 and a big effort would come out of nowhere. Should be able to get the distance, and we have seen bigger upsets, but would need a career race.

3. BRAVAZO

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Jockey: Luis Saez

Record: 10-3-2-1

Earnings: $736,528

Odds: 8-1

He will beat Justify if...He continues to improve. While it looked like he was closing in the Preakness, he really was just grinding while Justify was backing up. His running style should be perfect for the Belmont, and he should grind his way to another solid finish. Last two have been good and Lukas horses tend to keep improving with lots of racing, so he should be sitting on his best effort yet.

4. HOFBURG

Trainer: Bill Mott

Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.

Record: 4-1-1-0

Earnings: $227,950

Odds: 9-2

He will beat Justify if... He has a great shot to do just that. Love this horse. His Derby was not bad despite trouble (he finished 7th), he is well rested, he is bred to run all day and his trainer does not run horses that do not belong in a race. He has had only four races, but should continue to improve and will be shocked if he is not a part of it at the end. Hoping to get 5 or 6-1.

5. RESTORING HOPE

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Florent Geroux

Record: 5-1-1-2

Earnings: $149,880

Odds: 30-1

He will beat Justify if... Justify falls down. Not sure what this horse is doing here. Baffert is high on him, but he has only a win against Cal-bred maidens on his resume and his only stakes efforts were a non-threatening third in the Wood Memorial and a 12th-place finish out of 14 in the Pat Day Mile on Derby Day. Bred to go this far, but if he isn’t any good, does that matter? Would be a surprise.

6. GRONKOWSKI

Trainer: Chad Brown

Jockey: Jose Ortiz

Record: 6-4-1-0

Earnings: $135,644

Odds: 12-1

He will beat Justify if... His synthetic form in England converts to traditional dirt. And he runs his best race. He will take money because of his name and the fact that Chad Brown is a wizard as a trainer. But he has never run beyond a mile and was facing questionable company overseas. Might use on the bottom of exotics but unless Brown works his magic, this guy is overmatched.

7. TENFOLD

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Jockey: Ricardo Santana

Record: 4-2-0-1

Earnings: $289,200

Odds: 12-1

He will beat Justify if... He improves significantly. He took a big jump forward in the Preakness, but flattened a little late and let Bravazo run by him and was never getting past Justify. He has every right to improve, and is bred to get the distance, but could also see a serious regression in this spot. A wild card.

8. VINO ROSSO

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: John Velazquez

Record: 6-3-0-1

Earnings: $620,500

Odds: 8-1

He will beat Justify if... He flashes back to his impressive Wood win. He is bred to love the distance. He did not really threaten in the Derby, but was not awful, either. Pletcher horses do very well in this race. Has a decent shot to be a factor.

9. NOBLE INDY

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Record: 5-3-0-1

Earnings: $691,600

Odds: 30-1

He will beat Justify if...Justify fails to break, and he finds himself on an easy lead. He cratered in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Louisiana Derby. He will probably be the horse that tries to pressure Justify, and that will likely cook him off. If Justify does not show and he winds up on the lead, he might last for a piece. Otherwise it is hard to see him having an impact at the end.

10. BLENDED CITIZEN

Trainer: Doug O’Neill

Jockey: Kyle Frey

Record: 10-3-0-2

Earnings: $406,854

Odds: 15-1

He will beat Justify if... The Peter Pan Stakes was better than the Preakness. He does have a win at Belmont in the aforementioned Pan Stakes, but most of his efforts have been nibbles against lesser. Not really bred to get this far but might have enough to clunk up for a minor award.

 

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These uniforms have to go. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Major League Baseball will consider going back to having players wear their team uniforms for the All-Star Game.

Club uniforms were used by the American League from 1933-2019 and by the National League from 1934-2019. When the game resumed in 2021 following the pandemic-related cancellation in 2020, MLB had started a uniform contract with Nike and Fanatics, and All-Stars were outfitted in specially designed league uniforms that drew criticism from traditionalists.

Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images.

This year's AL uniforms had a sandy base with red sleeves and lettering and the NL had a navy base with light blue sleeves and lettering.

“I’m aware of the sentiment on this issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday. "I think where my head is on it, it’s something we’re going to have a conversation about coming out of the All-Star Game. We've got a lot of uniform things going on. And, obviously, the conversations have to involve the players first and foremost but Nike, some of our partners. But I am aware of the sentiment, and I do know why people kind of like that tradition."

MLB and Nike were criticized for club uniforms this year and said in May that 2025 club outfits will have larger lettering on the back of jerseys and individual pant customization. Players complained this year that white pants worn by some teams are see-through enough to show tucked-in jersey tops.

Regional sports networks

Manfred said a national steaming package of local television broadcasts is a future possibility.

“I could see a situation where we grow into a 30-club model. It might start on the digital side, where you have 14 or 15 clubs, and, you start with a digital product there as your first alternative,” he said.

“I was in Sun Valley last week and I did the whole speed-dating thing with everybody who’s ever streamed anything. When you talk to people in the streaming business, they’re not really interested in buying the state of Wisconsin and two counties in Michigan," Manfred added. "They want to be able to stream quite frankly, all over the U.S. and Canada but more broadly internationally. So I think those conversations are a product of owners saying, holy cow, the RSN business is really deteriorating. We know the future’s going to be streaming. What we’re hearing from the streamers is they want a more national product, and we need to be responsive to what people want to buy.”

MLB took over production of Arizona and San Diego local television broadcasts last year following the bankruptcy of Diamond Sports’ Bally networks and said MLB will be available as an option for teams looking for new deals. He said Padres game are approaching 40,000 subscribers, which he called a good figure.

“Having said that, from a revenue perspective it is not generating what the RSNs did," Manfred said. "The RSNs were a great business. Lots of people paid for programing they didn’t necessarily want. And it’s hard to replicate that kind of revenue absent that kind of bundling concept.”

Offense

While offense is near half-century lows, it has picked up from early in the season.

“The decline in offense is something that we’re paying a lot of attention to and we’ll continue to monitor to make a decision as to whether we think we need to do something. You do hear a lot of chatter about the dominance of pitching in the game. That’s absolutely true.”

Birmingham

After the success of the June 20 game between San Francisco and St. Louis at Rickwood Field, Manfred said MLB will return to the ballpark in Birmingham, Alabama, but the “exact form” had not been determined.

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