Epicharis fails exam, scratched from Belmont Stakes

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The National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top Three-Year-Old Poll lists Lookin At Lee as the best horse in the remaining field of 11, and his 5-to-1 odds, now second best, seem to reaffirm his favorite status.

Per AP, Epicharis will sit out after treatment for "lameness in his right front hoof" failed to meet sufficient standards three days after a veterinarian treated the colt. Classic Empire, the expected favourite, dropped out on Wednesday with a foot abscess.

Kentucky Derby victor Always Dreaming and Preakness victor Cloud Computing skipped the Belmont. Favorite Irish War Cry came into the race at 5-2, a hair better than Tapwrit at 4-1. But there's still plenty to watch for Saturday in NY.

Kiyoshi Hagiwara, the trainer, speaking through interpreter Soshi Inoue of the Japan Racing Assn., described the problem as a "minor issue".

After the race, the mega-trainer said, "It's our home base and I think that's always an advantage". We were hoping he had enough when it came to crunch time.

Belmont Park's deep, sandy track and sweeping turns can wipe out a tiring horse and benefit a closer able to negotiate the long stretch.

The sun shined and the alcohol flowed on a warm and breezy early spring Saturday at Belmont Park, and the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes kicked off at 6:38 p.m.

Cali-based trainer Bob Baffert won the Easy Goer with a horse named - wait for it - West Coast, then went on a scorched-earth rampage across the grounds, going 4-for-4, all in graded stakes, by a combined 14 1/4 lengths and racking up nearly $1.4 million in purse money in the process. The winner's share of the purse is $800,000 (88,236,744 yen).

"This might be my Derby horse", Ortiz said at the time. While there may be no#Triple Crown at stake this year, the hype for one of the biggest thoroughbred races in the U.S.is still at a fever pitch.

Always Dreaming won on Saturday, May 6, at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. He is reunited with Albarado, who has gone 2 for 5 aboard the colt but could not ride him in the Derby because of an injury.

That leaves Lookin At Lee, the only entry in all three Triple Crown races this year, as the third choice. They are both trained by Todd Pletcher who has had success in the Belmont over the last decade.

Finally, there is Hollywood Handsome, trained by Dallas Stewart, who has made even more of a living than McPeek off horses in big races that were overlooked by bettors.

Hoppert: The fourth-place Preakness finisher is lightly raced and heading in the right direction. "He should stay the trip".

The Belmont run fit with Irish War Cry's up-and-down form cycle. This was the third Belmont attempt for Jose Ortiz, who finished sixth with Samraat in 2014 and last with Forever d'Oro past year. He cleared quarantine last weekend.

Years ago, West Coast racing was for those afraid to compete with the superior trainers and horses in NY.