After the shock of Friday's announcement that I'll Have Another will not run in Saturday's 144th Belmont Stakes wears off, horse racing observers and fans will return to the realization that a million-dollar race will still go off early Saturday evening.
There are three horses that were expected to give I'll Have Another strong challenges and now will be looked upon as potential favorites.
Dullahan is one of the 10 remaining horses in the field. He finished third in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. After not racing in the Preakness three weeks ago, the colt is back for the mile and a half run. Dullahan will start in the No. 5 post position.
Also held out of the Preakness, Union Rags is back for another shot at a Triple Crown race victory. The 3-year-old colt finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, but was projected to give I'll Have Another a test Saturday, according to SportsNetwork.com.
Union Rags owner Phyllis Wyeth told NYRA.com they were disappointed in how things went in the Derby. However, she remains hopeful.
"But we still think he can do really, really well, and we’ve switched jockeys to Johnny [Velazquez], and he just had a really nice work,” Wyeth said Wednesday.
A big part of the Belmont story is the length of the race. At a mile and a half, it is the longest of the three Triple Crown races. The jockeys will play a large role in controlling how fast their horses run over the course of the race.
After losing to I'll Have Another in both the Derby and Preakness, former Belmont-winning trainer Bob Baffert decided not to race Bodemeister on Saturday. But he does have a horse in the fight by the name of Paynter, who will start from post position No. 9.
Owner Ahmed Zayat told NYRA.com that Baffert says Paynter is a better horse than Bodemeister.
“He’s more versatile than people think. He can probably do anything, but it looks like we have drawn a nice post. There is a lack of speed, so maybe he’ll be on the lead, but I’m not sure," Zayat said Wednesday.
On Saturday, the crowd at Belmont Park will be looking at these three horses, plus seven more, to pick up the pieces left in the wake of I'll Have Another's departure. If you love horses and competition, it still should be a good ride. NBC will televise the Belmont Stakes, scheduled to go off shortly after 6:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.