Eight will get in gate for Belmont Stakes without Trainer Bob Baffert

Belmont Park horse racingTrainer Doug O’Neill knows this isn’t horse racing’s shining moment. Medina Spirit, who won the Kentucky Derby only to fail a drug test, won’t line up at the starting gate at the Belmont States on Saturday. And Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, the sport’s biggest name, won’t have a horse in the race, since he’s temporarily suspended from New York racetracks.

There’s just no escaping any of that — Baffert has even been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” — but there is, at least, a chance to course correct. O’Neill, whose horse, Hot Rod Charlie, is the third betting choice in a field of eight at 7-2 morning line odds and drew the No. 4 post position at the Belmont Stakes draw on Tuesday morning, could be one of the keys to a changing script. Well, at least for a day.

“I do think this sport could use some more stories of the connections between horse and human and how, like in the Derby, there were like 250 people there all because of Charlie,” O’Neill said. “Charlie brought all these people together, so you know horses are amazing. They’re mirrors of us and we said it all the time, if you give them love, they gave it right back to you. I think these are the stories that we don’t really talk about a lot.”

The 2-1 favorite, Essential Quality, got the second post position, and…

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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