Todd Pletcher will trot out two horses at the 2019 Belmont Stakes: Intrepid Heart and Spinoff. He has trained Belmont champions in 2007, 2013 and 2017, but this time around, his horses are underdogs. Intrepid Heart is a 10-to-1 outsider, while Spinoff is 15-to-1 per CBS Sports.
Pletcher, who will turn 52 on June 26, has come incredibly close to being a 5-time champion at this final leg of the Triple Crown. In 2014, Pletcher’s Commissioner, a 28-1 outsider, lost a big lead to Tonalist. Two years later, his Destin fell short by a nose to Creator.
Even with the close losses, the typically unflappable Texan still waxes poetic about the Belmont.
“The Belmont is a race we really cherish,” Pletcher said Tuesday to Newsday. “It’s home for us, and I think one of the advantages is most of our horses have trained at Belmont for five weeks after the Derby. It helps, and it’s a race we really enjoy. We’ve been pretty fortunate to have had horses that have run well, and we’ve taken a couple of nasty beats, too.”
Both of his participants this year have disappointed recently. Intrepid Heart finished third at the Peter Pan Stakes on May 11 as a favorite, while Spinoff never threatened at Churchill Down, placing 18th. Pletcher appears more confident in the latter’s chances.
“Two days before the Derby, we had a sloppy track at Churchill, and it was, ‘I don’t think he likes this,’ ” Pletcher said. “I’m hoping that was the case, because he had trained as consistently as some of the horses we’ve run in the Belmont over the years that have performed well. I’m hoping he catches a fast track and gets to prove how good he is, or not.”
He told Fox 5 New York that he has prepped Spinoff on the track for the last five weeks, which he estimates will bode well.
“I think you can make that argument from the standpoint of training on a mile and a half track,” Pletcher said. “Getting accustomed to that can be helpful.”
Todd Pletcher History at Triple Crown Events
Pletcher’s previous three Belmont winners were Tapwrit (2017), Palace Malice (2013) and Rags to Riches (2007). He also is no stranger to success at Churchill Downs with a pair of Kentucky Derby wins: Always Dreaming (2017) and Super Saver (2010).
He has raked in over $375 million in career earnings, as well as $8 million this season alone.
The jockey that has brought him the most success is John Velazquez, who guided Always Dreaming and Rags to Riches to titles. He will be on Intrepid Heart this late afternoon in New York. Spinoff’s rider is Javier Castellano.
Velazquez, a native of Puerto Rico, will break the record for most starts in a Belmont Stakes at 23. Per Blood Horse:
“(Breaking the record) will absolutely be a point of pride for me, especially since New York is my home,” said Velazquez, the all-time top-money-winning jockey in North America with more than $400 million in purse earnings. Currently, Velazquez is tied at 22 rides with Hall of Famer Eddie Arcaro.
Todd Pletcher’s Belmont Stakes Horses 2019
|No. 6 Spinoff||Javier Castellano||Wertheimer and Frere|
|No. 8 Intrepid Heart||John Velazquez||Low, Lawana L. and Robert E.|