Todd Pletcher is behind, but he could be gaining.
While James Rowe leads all trainers with eight Belmont victories from 1883-1913, followed by Sam Hildreth (seven), Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons (six including Triple Crown champions Gallant Fox and Omaha) and Woody Stephens (five straight from 1982-86), Todd Pletcher seeks become the fourth trainer to win four editions of the race.
Others who have accomplished that feat include R.W. Walden, who did so in the 1800s; Max Hirsch, whose four wins ranged from 1928 to 1954, and Pletcher's former employer, D. Wayne Lukas, whose fourth win in the Belmont came 18 years ago with Commendable.
Pletcher won his first Belmont in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches, added a second in 2013 with Palace Malice and a third last year with Tapwrit. He said he sees some similarities that might match up this year for Vino Rosso and Noble Indy.
"First of all, they both have pedigrees that fit this race," said Pletcher. "In Rags to Riches' case she was truly, truly bred for a mile and a half on the dirt. She was also a very strong-galloping horse that was very impressive to watch train on a daily basis. She had that natural stamina and ability to get into a rhythm and carry that pace over a distance of ground. Both of these horses had a pedigree to suggest they can handle it, with Noble Indy having A.P. Indy influence on the top side, and Vino Rosso being closely related to Commissioner, who was unfortunately just beaten in the Belmont, on the bottom side.
"Both of them have that training style about them where they show good stamina in their gallops, good rhythms in their gallops and also have been successful at winning races at 1 1/8 miles already."
Pletcher has long stated that Rags to Riches' heart-pounding victory over Curlin remains his favorite win for many reasons - one of which is that it was his first Classic. The trainer added the narrow losses were memorable in their own way.
"We've got some tough beats, too," he said. "Commissioner (headed by Tonalist in 2014) and Destin (second by a nose to Creator in 2016) were two of the toughest beats we've had in that period. We've had some other that weren't so close. Stay Thirsty (second to Ruler On Ice in 2011) ran too good to lose, and Dunkirk (runner-up to Summer Bird in 2009) ran great.
"It all makes you appreciate just how tough these Classics are to win."
Edited NYRA notes