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Belmont Stakes 2017 contenders: Irish War Cry leads the 11-horse field

However, Japanese star Epicharis was scratched Saturday morning

143rd Kentucky Derby - Previews Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Cross Always Dreaming off your list. Then Cloud Computing. And now Classic Empire. The Kentucky Derby winner, Preakness winner, and top 2-year-old will not be competing at this 2017 Belmont Stakes.

In their place will be a 11-horse field featuring a set of colts who have been just a cut below the ones who draw the brightest spotlights, as well as a hot “newcomer” threatening to fly in from overseas and win the third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

So while the star power appears to be lacking, the $1.5 million, 1-1/2-mile Belmont still has a few storylines worth watching and a field that will make handicapping the race difficult. That should make for a pretty fun Saturday in New York.

You can watch the Belmont Stakes on NBC with coverage before the race beginning at 5 p.m. ET. Post time for the 149th Belmont Stakes is scheduled for approximately 6:37 p.m. has the online stream.

Here’s a look at the contenders for the Belmont Stakes (morning line odds listed):

Belmont Stakes favorites

Irish War Cry (7/2)

Irish War Cry finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby after receiving some acclaim as a possible upset horse behind the two stars of the show. Trainer Graham Motion, following that loss, decided he’d rather take the rest of the Triple Crown trail off. But after Cloud Computing won the Preakness, he started to revisit the idea.

"He's had a good couple of weeks and I can honestly say this was not my original plan," Motion said, via Blood Horse. "When he ran so disappointingly in the Derby, I wanted to go home and just forget about the rest of 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 results of the Preakness."

With some decent speed and a start from the seventh post, the Belmont favorite makes some good sense.

Epicharis (SCRATCHED)

Update: Battling lameness, Epicharis was scratched Saturday morning.

Epicharis has come all the way from Japan in a bid to become the first Japanese winner of the Belmont Stakes. He is a beautiful horse who won handily in Japan — taking victories by six, seven, and 12 lengths in his first three races, according to America’s Best Racing. (You can read a nice analysis on him there.) Winning the Japanese Hyacinth Stakes last year guaranteed him a spot in the Kentucky Derby, but his connections decided not to make the trip for that race. Epicharis’ only loss came at the UAE Derby, in March, which was also his last race.

Epicharis might be an interesting pick that many make to win. However news Thursday that the colt was treated for lameness of his left front leg might put a bit of a damper on that hype. Trainer Kiyoshi Hagiwara is hopeful he will be able to get to the track on Friday after a plan to take Thursday off. That is worth following closely in the lead up to the Belmont. He’ll start from the 11th gate.

Lookin at Lee (5/1)

With Classic Empire pulling out with an abscess on his hoof, Lookin At Lee is the only horse to run in all three of the Triple Crown races. Despite the favorable odds and second-place finish at Churchill Downs the first Saturday in May, history is against him. Eight of the last 17 winners of the Belmont skipped the Preakness. Lookin At Lee followed up his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby with a fourth-place spot at the Preakness. The Steve Asmussen-trained horse will start in the sixth spot, just inside of Irish War Cry.

Tapwrit (6/1)

The Todd Pletcher-trained horse won twice as a 2-year-old and once as a 3-year-old, the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby in March. He finished second at the Grade 3 Sam Davis a month prior. Tapwrit also finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby. He’ll start from the second spot.

Gormley (8/1)

At the start of the week we didn’t even know whether the Santa Anita Derby winner would make a run at the Belmont. The John Sherriffs-trained colt will start from the third gate and likely run near the front. Whether he’ll be able to pull away in the end is the question that has to be asked.

Here is the entire Belmont field:

Belmont Stakes 2017 post positions and morning line odds

Post Horse Jockey Trainer Morning line odds
Post Horse Jockey Trainer Morning line odds
1 Twisted Tom Javier Castellano Chad Brown 20/1
2 Tapwrit Jose Ortiz Todd Pletcher 6/1
3 Gormley Victor Espinoza John Shirreffs 8/1
4 J Boys Echo Robby Albarado Dale Romans 15/1
5 Hollywood Handsome Florent Geroux Dallas Stewart 30/1
6 Lookin at Lee Irad Ortiz Jr. Steve Asmussen 5/1
7 Irish War Cry Rajiv Maragh Graham Motion 7/2
8 Senior Investement Channing Hill Ken McPeek 12/1
9 Meantime Mike Smith Brian Lynch 15/1
10 Multiplier Joel Rosario Brendan Walsh 15/1
11 Epicharis Christophe Lemaire Kiyoshi Hagiwara 4/1
12 Patch John Velazquez Todd Pletcher 12/1