Could the third race be the charm? The Belmont Stakes, the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, is set for Saturday in Elmont, New York. And Pennsylvania-bred Angel of Empire enters as the third favorite when looking at the Belmont odds.
Angel of Empire, which was born and raised on Pine Grove’s Blackstone Farm in Schuylkill County, finished third in the Kentucky Derby, then skipped the Preakness Stakes to rest. It’s believed the longer race at Belmont Park (1.5 miles) will suit the horse well.
If Angel of Empire (currently listed at 7-2 to win) can emerge with a victory on Saturday, he would be the first Pennsylvania horse to win the Belmont Stakes since Saunterer in 1881. Some PA horses have come close and others fared well in the early Triple Crown races before fizzling out in New York.
Let’s take a look at some memorable Pennsylvania horse racing competitors and how they fared at the Belmont Stakes.
Noteworthy Pennsylvania horses and their Belmont performances
Many horses choose not to run in the Preakness to focus on the Belmont. We’ll see if this pays off for PA’s Angel of Empire this weekend.
“Pimlico (home of the Preakness Stakes) is a shorter track that favors speed. Angel needs to get up a head of steam and give a final kick,“ Doug Black, co-owner of the Blackstone Farm where Angel of Empire was raised, said in a recent article for the Pottsville Republican and Herald. “He’ll have five weeks rest and he’ll do his thing at the Belmont.”
A victory would be massive and place the horse among some of the top competitors to represent the Keystone State, along with those on this list.
Any serious list of famous Pennsylvania race horses usually starts with Smarty Jones. The PA-bred horse (from Someday Farm in New Hope, PA) won the 2004 Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness to have a shot at horse racing’s storied Triple Crown.
Alas, Smarty Jones led part of the Belmont Stakes, but lost out to Birdstone, leaving his legacy as a memorable one, just not a legendary one.
This horse, which was foaled near Malvern and owned by Fox Hill Farms, had an impressive run during the Triple Crown races in 2007. Hard Spun finished second in the Kentucky Derby that year, third in the Preakness Stakes and fourth in the Belmont Stakes.
In total, Hard Spun had career earnings of over $2.5 million.
Lil E. Tee
The horse from Pin Oak Lane Farm in southern Pennsylvania joins Smarty Jones as Pennsylvania’s only other Kentucky Derby winner. Lil E. Tee finished second in the Arkansas Derby and then captured the Kentucky Derby at 16-1 odds in 1992, giving jockey Pat Day his only Derby win.
Lil E. Tee finished fifth at the Preakness and eventually missed the Belmont Stakes with an illness.
You have to go back almost 150 years, but the PA-bred horse did win at the Belmont and another Triple Crown race in 1881.
Saunterer, who was bred by Aristides Welch, finished first in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. No Pennsylvania horse has won the Belmont since.
Go for Wand
This Unionville, PA-bred horse was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1996 after a standout career that included 10 wins in her first 12 starts.
Unfortunately, a serious injury at Belmont Park in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Distaff ended her career prematurely, but not before signature wins in the Ashland Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, among others.
Angel of Empire looks to build on third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby
Angel of Empire is perhaps Pennsylvania’s most promising racehorse since Smarty Jones. The horse was among the favorites for the Kentucky Derby, but started at post No. 14 and fell toward the back of the pack early in the race. However, Angel of Empire unleashed a furious kick that resulted in a third-place finish.
Mage won the Kentucky Derby in what was a sizable upset (15-1 odds), while Two Phils finished second. Neither of those horses are in the Belmont Stakes field on Saturday. Forte, which was a Kentucky Derby favorite before being a late scratch, is back for Saturday’s race and has been installed as the favorite at 5-2.
Tapit Trice, which drew the No. 6 post, is the second favorite (3-1) after finishing seventh in the Kentucky Derby.
And then there’s Angel of Empire, the third favorite at 7-2, starting from the No. 8 position. The horse is trained by Brad H. Cox, who won the Belmont Stakes in 2021 with Essential Quality.
Jockey Flavien Prat brings a solid resume to the Belmont Stakes
Angel of Empire will be manned by jockey Flavien Prat on Saturday. Prat has raced in the Belmont Stakes twice before, highlighted by a second-place finish with Hot Rod Charlie in 2021.
He also held the lead for most of last year’s race with We The People before finishing fourth. Prat has previous Triple Crown wins at the Kentucky Derby in 2019 and the Preakness Stakes in 2021.
2023 Belmont Stakes post positions and opening odds
The post time for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is set for 6:57 p.m., with television coverage airing on Fox Sports.
Other notable entrants in the race include National Treasure (5-1), a horse trained by Bob Bafftert in the No. 4 post. Meanwhile, Arcangelo (8-1) is racing for history, hoping to make trainer Jena Antonucci become the first woman to win the Belmont Stakes.
The complete lineup for Saturday’s race (with post positions and opening odds) is as follows:
|1||Tapit Shoes||20-1||Brad Cox||Jose Ortiz|
|2||Tapit Trice||3-1||Todd Pletcher||Luis Saez|
|3||Arcangelo||8-1||Jena Antonucci||Javier Castellano|
|4||National Treasure||5-1||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez|
|5||Il Miracolo||30-1||Antonio Sano||Marcos Menesses|
|6||Forte||5-2||Todd Pletcher||Irad Ortiz Jr.|
|7||Hit Show||10-1||Brad Cox||Manny Franco|
|8||Angel of Empire||7-2||Brad Cox||Flavien Prat|
|9||Red Route One||15-1||Steve Asmussen||Joel Rosario|