A full field of 14 will line up for the third and final leg of Horse Racing’s Triple Crown series in the 2013 Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY on Saturday. 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb has been listed as the 3-1 morning line favorite with 2013 Preakness winner Oxbox installed as the 5-1 third choice. (Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary is the second choice at 9-2.)
The Belmont, which is scheduled to be run as race number 11 of 13 on a star studded card, has a post time of 6:36 p.m. EST with NBC coverage is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. EST.
The Belmont Stakes, at 12 furlongs, is all about stamina. These horses will run at this distance for the first, and probably, the last time in their careers. So, exactly how to you handicap a race like this when all conventional methods are almost useless?
Case in point, I went back to the year 1999 just to see if there were any patterens…any whatsoever.. but what I found was more confusion. As I was combing thru the past 10 or 12 winners I couldn’t help but to notice some of odds (or payoffs) the winners went off at….some were nothing short of staggering.
1999- Lemon Drop Kid was (almost) 31-1
2000- Commendable was (almost) 19-1
2001- Point Given was the (a little more than) even money favorite, but to me, he was a total freak and there was no way a long-shot was beating him that day
2002- Savara was 70-1 and recorded the largest payout in Belmont history.
2003- Empire Maker was about 3-1 when he spoiled Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid and he too was quite a race horse, so the odds and results were understandable.
2004 Birdstone was 36-1
2005 Afleet Alex was slightly more than even money, and was head and shoulders the best three year old that year.
2006- Jazil was 6-1
2007- Rags to Riches, a filly, was 4-1
2008- D’ Tara was 38-1
2009 Summer Bird was 13-1
2010 Drosselmeyer was 13-1
2011- Ruler On Ice was 26-1
2012- Union Rags was the about 3-1 second choice.
Just to sum it up, only three favorites have won this race in the last 14 runnings (that’s a little over 20%) with the average Belmont Stakes winner paying an eye popping 22-1 or about $46 to win.
To make matters (or the handicapping) worse, the forecast in New York for Saturday calls for a 60% chance of showers, so it’s possible we could, to some extent, have a wet track for the “Test of Champions”.
So let’s see, we’ll have 14 horses line up, over a distance none of them has ever run before, over a possible wet track in a race that only three favorites have won over the past 14 years with the average winner paying 22-1?…perhaps instead of naming it the Test of Champions for the horses?…I’m thinking maybe they should name it the Test of Champions for fans and handicappers as well
Before we dive into the Belmont, let me elaborate further on the star studded comment I made earlier. The under-card is jam packed with graded stakes races, winners and runners.
The real action starts with race six on the under-card, the $150,000 Easy Goer Stakes. It’s a mile a sixteenth test for three years olds and features west coast grade I winner (as a juvenile) Power Broker.
The Bob Baffert trainee won the Frontrunner Stakes (formerly the Norfolk, at Santa Anita Park) last year but after a fifth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the son of Pulpit was given several months off to “gain some weight and fill out”. He didn’t make his 3-year-old debut until the Santa Anita Derby (where he finished fifth). He appears to be rounding back into form after scoring an easy win in an allowance race May 10 at Churchill Downs his last time out.
Others entered in the Easy Goer include Always in a Tiz, who was Belmont Stakes bound until recently, Irsaal, who enters off a two length win in an optional claiming race May 8 at Belmont and Micromanage, who was also being considered for the Belmont Stakes until Palace Malice blew him off the racetrack in a morning work last week, and also comes off an optional claiming win May 11 at Monmouth Park for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Race seven on the card is the $400,000 True North Handicap, a six furlong sprint for three year olds and up. The aptly named Fast Bullet, Justin Phillip and the veteran Caxia Electronia head the field in that one.
Race eight is the $500,000 Grade: 1 Just a Game Stakes for three year old and up fillies and mares on the turf at one mile. Mizdirection, who is 3 for 3 this year and 10 for 15 in her career including a Breeders Cup win last year, appears to the one to beat. She will be opposed by another Breeders Cup winner in Stephanie’s Kitten as well as the Hungry Island, who has 14 on the board finishes out of 18 career starts. Dayatthespa, a winner of seven of 10 career outings, also merits respect in any betting scenario.
Race nine is the $400,000 Woody Stephens Stakes, another sprint race except this one is at seven furlongs. The race looks like it’s Declan’s Warrior’s, who is four for five in his career, to lose.
Declan’s Warrior enters this race off a gritty win in the Gygistar Stakes May 22 at Belmont, where he went five wide on the turn for home yet still blew past three horses in the final eighth of a mile for the win.
Declan’s Warrior will be opposed by impressive wire to wire winner in his last Zee Bros, speedsters Clearly Now and Merit Man along with the late running Capo Bastone.
Race 10 is the $500,000 Manhattan Handicap at 10 furlongs on the Belmont’s inner turf course. The race features turf superstar, and Orb stable-mate, Point Of Entry.
Point of Entry, who possesses an eye popping late run, scratched out of the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve due to the fact it rained close to the race and the course was less than firm.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said that Point of Entry will run in Manhattan regardless of course condition.
There is a forecast for heavy rain Friday, carrying over into Saturday morning.
“Obviously, I’m a little concerned, but he’s going to run anyway,” McGaughey said this past Wednesday.
Belmont Park – Saturday, June 8, 2013
Race 11 – 6:36 PM
Belmont Stakes (Grade I)
For Three Year Olds
One And One Half Miles
K G McPeek
J R Velazquez
T A Pletcher
E S Prado
A W Dutrow
C R McGaughey
I Ortiz, Jr.
K P McLaughlin
G L Stevens
D W Lukas
G K Gomez
T A Pletcher
T A Pletcher
Will Take Charge
J K Court
D W Lukas
J R Leparoux
R R Rodriguez
M E Smith
T A Pletcher
T A Pletcher
Analysis: (By Post Position Order)
PP#1-Frac Daddy- if you draw a line thru that late running second to Overanalyze in the Arkansas Derby, you’ll see was beaten 17 lengths by Itsmyluckyday in the Holy Bull Stakes, 18 lengths by Orb in the Florida Derby and over 24 lengths, again behind Orb, in the Kentucky Derby. How am I supposed to bet on a horse that, with the exception of one race, has been beaten a total of almost 60 lengths in his last three races? Even if you look past that, how do you explain that last work (June 5- 5F- 1:04.3) which was ranked 18th of 18 who worked that distance that day?
I guess they’ll try to impersonation Oxbow in the Preakness by listening to trainer Kenneth McPeek who said: “We’re sending from the inside, absolutely, he needs to be near the front.”…ok, I respect that, but the problem is he’ll have company on the front end for sure which, between his race record and the other speed signed up in this race, makes him an easy throw out for me.
PP#2-Freedom Child- I’ll tell you what, other than possibly Orb, no-one… and I mean no-one… has looked better in the mornings leading up to this race than this chestnut/roan ridgling by Malibu Moon.
He’s looked nothing short of sensational training over this very track all week long and, to me, stamped himself as ready when he fired a 5 furlong work in :59.4 on May 27.
The possibility of a wet track doesn’t seem like an issue either as he absolutely waltzed home in the Peter Pan Stakes (wire to wire by 13 ¼ lengths) on a sloppy track on May 11.
“We were hoping to get a little farther toward the middle, but we dealt with post 1 in the Peter Pan, so we’ll just deal with post 2 in the Belmont,” trainer Tom Albertrani said in regards to the #2 post draw. “I don’t know if he’s the kind of horse that wants to be behind horses, because he’s got free-running style. He’ll probably want to find himself clear into the first turn…. he seems on top of his game,” Albertrani added.
He certainly does Mr. Albertrani….8-1 odds seem pretty generous to me and I won’t be the least bit surprised if he runs a big race come Saturday evening.
PP#3-Overanalyze- continues the one up, one down pattern that drives me, and I’m sure his connections and betting supporters, nuts. He’ll look spectacular (Arkansas Derby) in one race, then throw a complete clunker in his next. (KentuckyDerby)
Looking back at that Arkansas Derby, he was fanned 4 or5 wide at the top of the stretch but came roaring down the stretch and by the time he hit the wire he was not only over four lengths in front, but striding out as well as any horse I’ve seen all year long.
He comes into this race with a solid work (4F- :47 flat) in tow, but the questions still remains, exactly which Overanalyze will we see? The monster we saw in Arkansas Derby or the below average horse we saw in the Kentucky Derby where he was never closer than 11 lengths to the lead?
Judging by the pattern he’s been setting through out his career, he’s due for an “up” race, but rule number 3 or 4 in my handicapping book says to throw out inconsistent horses and you can’t get much more inconsistent that this guy. I’ll pass and hope his “up” race still isn’t good enough in this race.
PP#4-Giant Finish- had a couple of close up finishes at TurfwayPark before being beaten over 13 lengths in the KentuckyDerby…. Obscurely bred chestnut colt comes into this race off a very ho-hum :49 half mile work and I just flat out don’t think he’s good enough to compete against these.
PP#5- Orb- so the (literally) million dollar question is….after being so dominant in the Florida and Kentucky Derbies, can he bounce back from that Preakness debacle where he (struggled home fourth) got a lousy post, a slow pace, was purposely boxed in during the early going, all over a surface he didn’t like?
To me, all the Preakness showed was that this good looking colt by Malibu Moon is not invincible.
“Our confidence was shaken a little bit,” trainer Shug McGaughey said this past Thursday morning, referring to the Preakness loss, “so it would be nice to see him redeem himself. I like what I see. He’s training well. I expect him to run well Saturday.”
He is back on his home track, has been training very well (4F- :48.1 last week) and to answer that million dollar question, I say…yes…he can and should.
PP#6- Incognito- carries a heavy pedigree (by A.P Indy out of Octave by Unbridled’s Song), a heavy trainer (Kiaran Mclaughlin) and a heavy owner (Godolphin Stables) but with all that, he has just a maiden win and an optional claimer win to show for it.
The one time he faced horses of this caliber, he was beaten almost 16 lengths (behind Freedom Child in the Peter Pan Stakes)
That record, combined with the fact that he looked tired and galloped out poorly after his last work (4F- :48.1 last Sunday), convinced me to throw him out completely…..next.
PP#7-Oxbow- please do NOT buy into the hoopla of this race being billed as a “rematch between Orb and Oxbow”.
I’m sorry, but by looking at the past performances, Orb is a far superior horse.
This colt by the gorgeous Awesome Again literally stole the Preakness right out from the entire field. He was allowed to lope along on an uncontested early lead over a tiring and quirky surface which in turn spelled doom for everyone else including Orb.
I invite you to watch a replay of the Preakness again and you’ll see that, even though this horse was left alone on a slow pace (6F in 1:13.1), he was completely exhausted (his stride shortens dramatically even with jockey Gary Stephens imploring him for more) in the final sixteenth of a mile or so. (And remember, he was completely spent after running the slowest Preakness in the last 30 years)
“This horse is really doing well,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas after Oxbow worked six furlongs in a pedestrian like 1:14. “I’m gonna send out a better horse for the Belmont than I did for the Preakness. We’ve made good strides on getting him to relax.”
I’m sure that’s true…but I just can’t get past the fact that if he was a very tired horse at the end of a mile and three sixteenths race, in what shape will he be in at the end after having to go 2 ½ furlongs longer?…. it just doesn’t make sense to me….you might think I’m crazy (and you won’t be the only one who does) but I’m taking a pass on him.
PP#8-Midnight Taboo- comes into this off just three career races (and one career win) which puts him up against it right off the bat.
He did, however, finish a close second to Irsaal (a nice horse) over a muddy (Belmont) track in his last on May 8.
He is another who didn’t look so good (kind of weak) after his final work for this race (4F- :47.1 out 5F in 1:00.4).
He might turn out to be a good horse, but clearly looks overmatched to me in this race.
PP#9- Revolutionary-it’s no secret I like this colt ….a lot. He’s got heart, pedigree, fearlessness and striking good looks.
After reeling off three straight impressive come from behind wins, his race in the Kentucky Derby is much better than it looks. He broke ok, but quickly found himself in 18th position and some 16 lengths behind early. From there he calmly weaved his way in and around horses, got bumped hard on the backside, and had to await room at the quarter pole (losing valuable momentum) yet still closed well to finish third beaten just 3 1/2 lengths.
He skipped the Preakness, so he should be rested and ready to fire a big race on Saturday.
PP#10- Will Take Charge- I like his breeding (Unbridled’s Song- Take Charge Lady) and the fact he’s a big, long strided horse.
What I don’t like is the fact he’s been beaten a total of 28 ½ lengths combined in the Derby and Preakness and the snail like work (6F- 1:15.3) last week….I see more of the same results in the Belmont regardless of what eternal optimist trainer D. Wayne Lukas says:
“He’s not the type of horse who can stop and start again…but when he gets a head of steam up and gets rolling, he’s dangerous.”
PP#11-Vyjack- stretch running gelding put together a very impressive winter and early spring (undefeated in four races) but hit a few speed bumps along the way (Finished third to a streaking Verrazano in the Wood Memorial, caught a lung infection soon after that, then was pulled up late in the Kentucky Derby after showing some early foot).
He obviously likes the New York circuit, so a little home cooking (sort of speak) could help his chances. So to could those last two works he rattled off (June 4- 5F- :59 and May 28 6F- 1:12).
If he is 100% again (and judging by the works, he very well could be) those 20-1 morning line odds will look like a gift
PP#12- Palace Malice- went kamikaze on the lead (:45.1, 1:09.4) in the Kentucky Derby and jockey Mike Smith said he was a bit “uncontrollable” early.
He had blinkers on in the Derby and will be removed for the Belmont and I agree with trainer Todd Pletcher when he said he “still believes this is a very good racehorse”.
He looked dynamite in his last work for this race (4F- :47.2) and if he can harness some of that early speed, he could make a little noise in this race.
Like I said, I think he’s a good horse, but that just 1 for 7 career record is a bit disturbing.
PP#13- Unlimited Budget – mammoth filly tries the boys after finishing third in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby.
She receives a five-pound weight allowance from the males, (she’ll carry 121 pounds compared to their 126) with most of that being another filly (sort of speak) in Rosie Napravnik.
The daughter of Street Sense might relish the outside post according to trainer Todd Pletcher
“If everything goes as expected, it looks like she’ll have some speed horses inside of her that she’ll be able to track as she works her way over and find a place to drop over. Unlimited Budget in particular is a horse who is comfortable racing on the outside.”
She also looked great in her last work for this (4F- :47.3 last Sunday)
Not quite sure what to make of her chances, but with her sheer size and talent she might be competitive.
PP#13- Golden Soul- broke 15th and, at one point, was some 18 lengths behind in the Derby yet came charging around the far turn and down the stretch to finish second (behind only Orb) at some 35-1.
That race would have most scratching their heads being he was just 1 for 5 (a maiden win) in his career going into that race.
But if you take a second and closer look at his pedigree, you see he has stamina inbred nine ways to Sunday.
In fact, he’s probably the best stamina bred horse in the race. That fact alone gives him a punchers chance in this spot and at this distance…..long-shot possibility?
3) Freedom Child
Honorable Mentions: Golden Soul, Vyjack, Unlimited Budget
Record: 9-28 = 32%
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Little Bets N’ Pieces
**** 1995 Whitney Handicap winner Unaccounted For, who had a successful stud career in Turkey, died last Thursday in that country due to the effects of progressive ethmoid hematoma, according to the Jockey Club of Turkey. He was 22.
Progressive ethmoid hematoma is a destructive mass of nasal passages and paranasal sinuses of uncertain origin.
According to Burak Konuk, coordinator for the Jockey Club of Turkey, Unaccounted For had been fighting the disease since May 2003.
Konuk said Unaccounted For served a limited number of (35) mares during this breeding season in order not to put too much pressure on him.
He was the leading sire in Turkey this year and topped that country’s list in 2009 and 2010. In 2011 and 2012, Unaccounted For was Turkey’s second leading sire (to Strike the Gold).
“I can sincerely say that he spent the last 12 years of his life happily, in the best conditions possible,” Konuk said. “He was one of the most popular stallions in Turkey and a very much beloved one by the breeders as well as his caretakers. He will be missed and remembered.”
Trained by Flint S. “Scotty” Schulhofer, Unaccounted For, other than the Whitney Handicap, won the 1994 Jim Dandy and his stakes placings included a second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Overall He won or placed in 12 of 17 starts and earned $998,468
After beginning his stud career at William S. Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., Unaccounted For was purchased by the Jockey Club Stud of Turkey and began standing there in 2002.
Unaccounted For was the sire of 35 stakes winners, including eight grade/group I winners, and his progeny have earned more than $19.7 million to date.
**** Two time champion Royal Delta will be trying to defend her title in the June 15 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs, her connections said last Friday.
“She’s doing well,” Besilu Stables (who own the mare) bloodstock manager Fabricio Buffolo said. “Her last work (5F- :59 flat last week at BelmontPark) was very, very good, and she’s ready to start back here.”
**** If you are going to watch the Fleur de Lis, be sure to catch the racing debut of the highly touted Mr. Besilu in a maiden special weight race on the same card.
Mr. Besilu is a 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy out of Balance (Balance is a grade:1 winning half sister to the great Zenyatta).
In 2010, Mr. Besilu was the most expensive Thoroughbred sold at public auction in North America when Benjamin Leon bought him for $4.2 million from the Mill Ridge consignment at the Keeneland September yearling sale. A soft tissue injury delayed his training, but the enormous, absolutely gorgeous colt has progressed well since arriving at Belmont from his winter base of PaysonPark at the end of April.
Mr. Besilu worked a half-mile in :47.3 at Belmont May 27 (the sixth-fastest of 89 at the distance) and five furlongs from the gate in 1:01.4 before that.
“He had a lot of time off, then went back into training,” said Besilu Stables bloodstock manager Fabricio Buffolo. “Hopefully everything goes right for the next couple weeks leading up to the 15th. The plan is to run him then at Churchill. He’s ready, he’s fit, so we just need to run.”
“He stayed at the farm for a long time and had quite a bit of work there,” Buffolo added. “When he went to (trainer) Bill (Mott) he was in good shape, but of course he needed more work at the track. He’s a very big horse. He’s doing well but he’ll need the race—I’m sure he’ll benefit a lot experience-wise, and to get out there and have competition will sharpen him up.”
The highly touted Mr. Besilu