Thursday, June 4, 2009

Belmont Stakes: A Look At The Field

Chocolate Candy

This was the wise guy horse in the Derby, being bet down to 10-1 after only a G3 win. He never factored, but he stayed on better than most finishing a well-beaten 5th. This colt has ability and some class, but what worries me is his lack of speed. His peak figure of 95 won’t hit the frame here and you have to wonder about a horse needing to improve drastically in a 12-furlong race. I’m inclined to believe his best chance is if the race falls apart and several contenders don’t fire. Could factor in the exotics.


The Pletcher wonder horse under whelmed in the Derby at a short price of 5-1. He didn’t have the seasoning to be attractive in that race and he has plenty of questions here as well. Despite popular belief, horses have not fared well by being freshened for the Belmont by skipping the Preakness. Statistically you have a better chance of winning the Belmont by running in both of the legs of the Triple Crown, rather than skipping the middle jewel. There is also the problem that he has yet to win a stakes race. He put up a fine display running second to Quality Road in the G1 Florida Derby, but he was soundly turned away at the end of that race and never ran a lick in the Derby. With that said, he is perhaps the most promising horse in the field and is the only horse besides Mine That Bird that is fully capable of running unquestionably fast. The smaller field should help him get the trip and if he gets the pace to run into, watch out. He’s boom or bust. Major Player.

Mr. Hot Stuff

The best thing about his prospects is his pedigree. He is a full brother to G1 winner Colonel John and being by Tiznow means he’ll get the distance. The downside is he is only a maiden winner and he has been a primarily synthetic horse for most of his career. He’ll have to improve his career best Beyer by about 5-6 to compete and there are too many question marks to consider that a likely scenario. He’ll try to close from mid pack but I can’t see him out kicking a field full of legit closers. Deep cover in the exotics? Prefer others.

Summer Bird

This horse showed a great deal of heart and mental toughness running as well as he did in the Derby with only three starts in his career. He was a well-beaten sixth, but he did improve nine spots in the final three-quarters of a mile. Like others he is touch light in the speed department but he was close to eclipsing the century mark in the Arkansas Derby. His sire won this event, but the concern is that his deep closing style might be blunted in a field predominately made up of other closers. I can’t say I support him for the win, but he is eligible to factor underneath if he keeps progressing. Mixed feelings.

Luv Gov

This horse took ten tries to break his maiden and Dwayne Lukas wheeled him back two weeks later in the Preakness where he finished eighth, beaten some 9 lengths. He could have done much worse, but it still wasn’t enough to warrant any real confidence here. His sire is a pure influence of stamina and his trainer has won the race a handful of times, but he doesn’t look very logical here. Prefer others.

Charitable Man

This horse will vie for favoritism and there is a lot to like. For one he is undefeated in New York, with two of those wins over the Belmont track. Second, he is the only legit speed in the race. Another common misconception about the Belmont is that because the race is a mile and a half, with stamina coming into question, that the race favors deep closers. In reality the race has traditionally been dominated by horses with tactical speed that either set the pace or stalk it. The only hesitation I have with this horse is the fact that his last effort has been entirely overrated and he’ll be over bet as a result. His score in the Peter Pan was really by default. He sat a distant second while Hello Broadway (His top concern in the race) set wild fractions of 22 and 44. It was really one of the most puzzling races of the year with Broadway running about as rank as possible. Charitable Man’s win was never in doubt and the only somewhat surprising aspect of the race was the distinctly average final time and Beyer it received after he got the ideal trip while closing into a brutal pace. With that said he is sitting third off the layoff and is by a sire that won this race. Dangerous.

Mine That Bird

This is the first race of the Bird’s career where the expectation is to win. He came out of nowhere to win the Derby and nobody legitimately expected him to beat the buzz saw that is Rachel Alexandra. Here on the other hand he is only facing one major Derby player and one talented newcomer of questionable upside. His sire won this race and the prospect of rain certainly doesn’t hurt him either. The horse has been a freakish closer, not just visually where the quality can be deceiving, but his fractions have really been otherworldly. His closing fractions were second only to the great Secretariat in the Derby. He displayed similar times in the Preakness despite not hugging the rail like at Churchill. Borel gets the mount back here and that’s great news for the horse as well. The concern here, like for many others, is the lack of pace. They won’t get the lively pace the Derby and Preakness demand, and one of his chief threats will be controlling the race up front. This race is won with tactical speed and he might need to use a touch of it here to not fall back into a different area code. Otherwise, he might be too far removed to catch Charitable Man. With that said, he is the best horse in the race. He’s the most proven horse, he’s the fastest horse, and after a triple crown of uncertainty I’m going with the most logical horse. If he gets a clear run on the field, he’ll be more than most of these can handle. The Pick.

Flying Private

Another long shot from the Dwayne Lukas barn. Flying Private was drubbed in the Derby and shocked most by running a decent fourth in the Preakness, beaten 4 lengths. His Preakness figure was very solid and is a better peak figure than everyone minus Mine That Bird and Dunkirk. Again, the trainer is pretty dangerous in this race historically, but it’s hard to support a horse that’s still eligible for N1X conditions. While I can’t see him winning, it’s not out of the question that he could mimic his Preakness effort and factor somewhere in a tri or super. Eligible for a minor share.

Miner’s Escape

Interesting horse. After a dominant display breaking his maiden at Gulfstream he wheeled back in the Fredrico Tesio and ran them off the track. It appears the horse finally “got it” over the winter. His sire was the Horse of the Year and had a field day at Belmont Park, drubbing almost everything that faced him at the track. He’s staring up at a massive class jump though and of the horses with questionable speed figures he leads the pack. If you buy into Beyer’s he’s going to need to improve by about 16-18 points to win this race unless it turns into a free for all late. He does, however, posses tactical speed and will likely be no further back then second for a majority of the early running. His trainer also knows a thing or two about pulling off an upset in this race. Deep cover in the exotics.

Brave Victory

This is an ambitious spot for this horse. He is only an allowance winner and his only experience at 9-furlongs was around one turn. His sire (Lion Heart) was a dominant miler who was not at his best beyond 9-furlongs. That combination doesn’t seem to bode well here. The best finish of his career, a third place finish in the Peter Pan, is deceptively average unless you watched the race. (As I discussed for Charitable Man above) He closed into a brutal pace but still was beaten by the only real horses he needed to compete with. With all of this said, Nick Zito is the upset king in the Belmont. Smarty Jones and Big Brown were considered by many to be mortal locks for the Triple Crown and Zito stole both races with Birdstone and Da’tara. (The latter being the real upset) So while I can’t bring myself to bet this horse in any way, shape or form, I do this acknowledging that betting Zito horses consistently in the Belmont has made a few people a small fortune. Prefer others.


Anonymous said...

Love that Rail Tout !

Anonymous said...

Rail Tout could be the Mozart of the Sport of kings. He is a little wordy but as Amadeus asked the Emperor which notes would you have me take out ? He's got the Belmont pegged. Barring a catastrophy, " the Bird" steals it.