Field set for 149th Belmont Stakes

- -

Irish War Cry inherited the role of favorite for Saturday’s 149th running of the Belmont Stakes following the defection of Classic Empire Wednesday morning prior to the post-position draw for the final jewel of the Triple Crown.

Irish War Cry was pegged as the 7/2 favorite in the field of 12 entered for the Belmont. Trained by Graham Motion, Irish War Cry will attempt to improve on his 10th-place finish five weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Rajiv Maragh gets the return call on the son of Curlin, who won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial and Grade 2 Holy Bull before his effort in Louisville.

Motion didn’t originally intend to run in the Preakness or Belmont following Irish War Cry’s effort in the Derby, but changed plans after a solid workout over the weekend at the Fair Hill Training Center.

“I can honestly say this was not my original plan,” Motion said. “After the Derby when he ran so disappointingly, I wanted to go home and just forget about the Triple Crown, which is what the Derby does to you when you don’t run well. But he had a really good couple of weeks. He breezed well last weekend, and I felt he needed to be here, especially after the result of the Preakness.”

The Belmont anchors an extremely strong card Saturday and goes off at 6:37 p.m. EDT. The Belmont, one of 10 stakes on the card, will be televised live during NBC’s broadcast from 5-7 p.m.

Classic Empire, runner-up in the Preakness and last year’s champion 2-year-old male, was expected to be the favorite but was withdrawn from the Belmont when a foot issue resurfaced Wednesday morning.

Japanese invader Epicharis, runner-up in the UAE Derby at Meydan Racecourse in March, is the 4-1 second choice on the early line. He breaks from post No. 11.

The third choice for the Belmont is Derby runner-up and Preakness fourth Lookin At Lee at 5-1. The son of Lookin At Lucky gets a new rider for the 1 ½-mile Belmont in Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Creator to victory last year and replaces Corey Laneriefor trainer Steve Asmussen.

Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit, fifth in the Blue Grass and sixth in the Kentucky Derby, is next at 6-1 for trainer Todd Pletcher. The son of Tapit will break from post No. 2 in the Belmont, just inside of 8-1 fourth choice and Santa Anita Derby winner Gormley.

Here’s the full field, with riders and morning-line odds:

1. Twisted Tom, Javier Castellano, 20-1

2. Tapwrit, Jose Ortiz, 6-1

3. Gormley, Victor Espinoza, 8-1

4. J Boys Echo, Robby Albarado, 15-1

5. Hollywood Handsome, Florent Geroux, 30-1

6. Lookin At Lee, Irad Ortiz Jr., 5-1

7. Irish War Cry, Rajiv Maragh, 7/2

8. Senior Investment, Channing Hill, 12-1

9. Meantime, Mike Smith, 15-1

10. Multiplier, Joel Rosario, 15-1

11. Epicharis, Christophe Lemaire, 4-1

12. Patch, John Velazquez, 12-1