NEW YORK (AP) â€” The Belmont Stakes is an Aptitude test.
The stretch-running Aptitude is the 8-5 early favorite to beat 10 other 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2 -mile classic at Belmont Park.
In the last three Belmonts, there were unsuccessful bids for the Triple Crown. Saturday, for the first time since 1970, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners won't be in the field.
Although Aptitude has won only once in six career starts, he ran third behind Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and Preakness winner Red Bullet in the Wood Memorial and was second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Derby.
``I'm not proud about who I beat,'' said Bob Frankel, Aptitude's trainer. ``If the horse to beat is not in the race, that's fine with me.''
A victory in the Belmont, regardless of the field, adds to a horse's syndication value for breeding, and the winner's share is $600,000 from a $1 million purse.
Fusaichi Pegasus, second in the Preakness, appeared headed for the Belmont, but last Saturday he gouged a piece of his right front hoof when he was startled in his stall.
Red Bullet, who did not start in the Derby, was held out of the Belmont because owner Joe Orseno and owner Frank Stronach did want the colt, who did race as a 2-year-old, to be tested at 1 1/2 miles at this time.
The only Belmont starter who will have run in all three races is Impeachment, another stretch runner, who finished third in both the 1 1-4-mile Derby and 1 3-16-mile Preakness. He was made the 9-2 second choice when the field was entered Wednesday. The co-third picks at 5-1 are Wheelaway and Unshaded, with Postponed next at 6-1.
Completing the field are Currule, Globalize, Commendable, Tahkodha Hills, Appearing Now and Hugh Hefner.
Aptitude will be racing for the first time since he finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Derby on May 6.
``Going into the Triple Crown I thought because of his breeding and style of running that if he had a chance of winning one of the three, this (the Belmont) was his best chance,'' Frankel said of the colt, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. ``I knew if I didn't win the Derby, I didn't want to jeopardize my Belmont chances by running him the Preakness.''
Other Belmont starters racing for the first time since the Derby are Wheelaway (fifth), Currule (seventh) and Commendable (17th). Another starter who raced in the Preakness is Hugh Hefner (sixth).
Making their debuts in Triple Crown competition are Postponed, Unshaded, Globalize, Tahkodha Hills and Appearing Now.
Postponed, Unshaded, Globalize and Tahkodha Hills finished first through fourth, respectively, in the 1 1-8-mile Peter Pan on May 27 at Belmont Park.
Postponed is trained by Scotty Schulhofer and owned by Jeanne Vance, who won the 1999 Belmont with Lemon Drop Kid after that colt finished third in the Peter Pan. In 1993, the Schulhofer-trained Colonial Affair prepped for a victory in the Belmont by finishing second in the Peter Pan.
Unshaded, trained by Carl Nafzger, was not nominated for the Triple Crown races and is being supplemented for $100,000 by owner James Tafel. The gelding won the 1 1-16-mile Lexington on April 22 at Keeneland before running in the Peter Pan.
Globalize, the Turfway Park Spiral winner and second in the Lexington, was entered in the Kentucky Derby, but he had to be scratched after he was kicked by a pony.
Tahkodha Hills won the Lone Star Derby and is eligible for a $1 million bonus offered by Lone Star Park to a horse who wins that race and any Triple Crown race.
Appearing Now, fifth in the Wood Memorial, finished second in 1 1-16-mile allowance race May 14 at Belmont Park.