Master Fencer will close Triple Crown with surprise

Rick Snider
June 06, 2019 - 12:48 pm
In Belmont Stakes, don't pass on Japan's Master Fencer.

Al Bello/Getty Images

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A forgettable Triple Crown may end with one notable winner – a Japanese entrant taking Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. 

Master Fencer (No. 3) only entered the Kentucky Derby after the top three finishers in a Japanese qualifying series declined. He finished a lackluster seventh (later moved to sixth with Maximum Security’s disqualification) at 58-1 and then skipped the Preakness Stakes to rest for the Belmont.

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But deep in that Derby chart lies the secret – he passed 12 foes in the race’s final quarter mile. The longer 1 1/2 mile Belmont gives Master Fencer even more time to run late. Given the Derby’s muddy conditions bogging down many runners, Master Fencer’s rally is worth taking him back in the Belmont at an expected 8-1.

Sure, Master Fencer’s two-of-seven career mark with two seconds isn’t exceptional, but he raced against many of Japan’s top runners. And that’s not bad competition. Certainly, the American Triple Crown hasn’t shown any dominant efforts so there’s a prime opportunity for a foreign horse to win.

New York-based Tacitus (No. 10) will be the heavy favorite. Belmont bettors always back their own, but there’s no value in a colt who may not have the late kick to rally in what could be a five-wide contest at the eighth pole. He gets a piece of the triple.

And Preakness winner War of Will (No. 9)? Everything went right in his Baltimore victory after everything went wrong to finish eighth in Louisville. Picking him third mainly comes for being the only one to enter all three Triple Crown races. It might cost him the needed kick in the stretch.

Maybe something will happen in the Belmont before saying goodbye and good grief to this Triple Crown series. Somewhere, Secretariat is weeping.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks