TRIPLE CROWN TRAIL

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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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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