On June 11, 2011 12 horses will pursue a $1 million purse ($600,000 goes to the winner) in the Belmont Stakes with post time scheduled for 6:35 p.m. The Belmont (Elmont, New York) is the third leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown and also the most grueling of the three races as it is a mile and-a half long.
Although there will be no Triple Crown winner (the last Triple Crown winner was Seattle Slew in 1977), there is still a lot intrigue in the 142nd of the Belmont Stakes. Of the 12 horses entered into the race nine raced in either the Derby or Preakness while only Animal Kingdom and Shackleford raced in both. The biggest story line of the race will be who will win the rubber match between Shackleford (winner of the Preakness) and Animal Kingdom (Kentucky Derby Champion).
PP 1: Master of the Hounds Record: 8; 1-3-1 $520,878 Opening Odds: 10-1 Trainer: Aidan P. O’Brien Jockey: Garrett Gomez
Master of the Hounds is an Irish based horse who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
What’s to like: In the Derby,Master of the Hounds worked through traffic to come from back of the the pack (15th position) to nose out Brilliant Speed and Santiva for fifth place. Master of the Hounds last two races were run at 1 mile and 3/16ths and 1 and ¼ (finished second and fifth respetively). Master of the Hounds should be well rested since he hasn’t raced since the Derby.
What’s not to like: The Belmont is just Master of the Houndssecond career race on dirt and he has just one career victory. In addition after the Kentucky Derby, Master of the Hounds was shipped back to Ireland (therefore he made had to make two more Trans-Atlantic flights). Master of the Hounds is still eligible for an entry level allowance race which means he hasn’t raced in that many big races.
PP 2: Stay Thirsty Record: 7; 2-2-0 $300,000 Opening Odds: 20-1 Trainer: Todd Pletcher Jockey: Javier Castellano
Stay Thirsty finished in 12th position in the Kentucky Derby.
What’s to like: Stay Thirsty, who is experienced at Belmont having raced their once before, has some natural speed. In addition, Stay Thirsty has a graded stakes victory (Gotham which is a grade III race) and has had a string of good training sessions. Stay Thirsty’s sire Bernadini was the 2006 Champion for three-year olds. Also, Pletcher won the Belmont Stakes in 2007.
What’s not to like: Unfortunately, there is a lot not to like about Stay Thirsty. First, Stay Thirsty hasn’t run well in three of his past four races including the Derby where Stay Thirsty was done after reaching the mid-point of race. In addition, in three of those four races (all graded stakes) Stay Thirsty finished at least 10 lengths back of the winner.
PP 3: Ruler on Ice Record: 6; 2-2-1 $166,500 Opening odds: 20-1 Trainer: Kelly J. Breen Jockey: Jose Valdivia Jr.
Ruler on Ice is one of the three horses entered in the Belmont that didn’t race in either the Preakness or the Derby.
What’s to like: Ruler on Ice has been extremely consistent in his last five races grabbing two second place finishes and a third place finish to go along with two victories. In addition, Ruler on Ice has gained ground late in his last three racesand his past three races have been over a mile long. Ruler on Ice last race was May 7th where he finished second in the Federico Tesio.
What’s not to like: Ruler on Ice doesn’t have a stakes race victory and will face his stiffest competition in Saturday’s Belmont.
PP 4: Santiva Record: 7; 1-3-1 $257,597 Opening Odds: 15-1 Trainer: Eddie Kenneally Jockey: Shaun Bridgmohan
Santiva, who finished a solid sixth in the Kentucky Derby, fell just a nose short of overtaking Master of the Hounds for fifth.
What to like: When Santiva hit the wire at the Derby, he was still gaining ground on the leaders of the race. Santiva has won a G2 race (Kentucky Jockey Club) and finished second in (G2) Risen Star and (G1) Breeders Futility. Six of Santiva’s seven previous races has been at least a mile long.
What’s not to like: Santiva only has one victory and he finished sixth and ninth in his last two races.
PP 5: Brilliant Speed Record: 9; 2-2-2 $515,750 Opening odds: 15-1 Trainer: Thomas Albertroni Jockey: Joel Rosario
Brilliant Speed, who probably ran the worst race out of the three horses vying for fifth in the Derby, ended up settling for seventh. Overall, Brilliant Speed did run a decent race as he battled traffic problems throughout.
What to like: Brilliant Speed, who was considered to be a bit too slow for the Derby, used a late bid to finish seventh. Prior to the Kentucky Derby, Brilliant Speed did pick up a Grade I victory in the Blue Grass stakes where he won by a nose. In addition, Brilliant Speed has some pedigree to fall back on with his sire being Dynaformer.
What not to like: The biggest question about Brilliant Speed is can he race on dirt? In Brilliant Speed’s three races on dirt he’s been well beaten finishing 7th, 4th and 7th.
PP 6: Nehro Record: 6; 1-3-0 $825,140 Opening odds: 4-1 Trainer: Steven M. Asmussen Jockey: Corey Nakatani
Nehro, who didn’t run in the Preakness, had to hold on for second after running a fantastic race in the Derby.
What to like: The first thing to like about Nehro is that he ran well in the Kentucky Derby. The second thing to like is that Nehro has three consecutive second place finishes. Nehro also has good lineage as his sire Minesaft was Horse of the Year in 2003.
What not to like: Nehro only has one career victory.
PP 7: Monzon Record: 8; 3-0-1 $96,944 Opening odds: 30-1 Trainer: I. Correas IV Jockey: Jose Lezcano
Monzon, who didn’t partake in either the Derby or Preakness, finished in sixth placein the Peter Pan Classic (G2) his last race. The Peter Pan race was Monzon’s first race in three months.
What to like: Monzon is the son of Thunder Gulch, who won the Belmont in 1995 so the pedigree is there. Also, Monzon had a solid run in the Count Fleet when he defeated two good horses Pants on Fire and Arthur’s Tale. Monzon is well tested at the distance as seven of his eight races have been at least a mile. Monzon has experience at Belmont having just run in the Peter Pan and also participating in the Gnomes Gold (third place finish).
What not to like: In three graded stakes Monzon finished fifth (twice) and sixth (once). Monzon was never a factor in any of those three races.
PP 8: Prime Cut Record: 7; 2-2-2$123,685 Opening odds: 15-1 Trainer: Neil J. Howard Jockey: Edgar Prado
Prime Cut finished third in the Peter Pan, Belmont’s local prep race, his last time out.
What to like: Prime Cut has been very consistent hitting the board in each of his past six races. Prime Cut, who had a decent performance his last time out, ran the fastest one mile and seventy-yards during of any 2010-2011 Fair Grounds race when he beat Bind. In addition, Prime Cut has shown some tactical speed.
What not to like: Despite running a sound race, Prime Cut did fade at the end of the Peter Pan race.
PP 9: Animal Kingdom Record: 6; 3-3-0 $1.9 million Opening odds: 2-1 Trainer: H. Graham Motion Jockey: John Velazquez
After a surprising Kentucky Derby win, Animal Kingdom gamely finished a closing second at the Preakness.
What to like: Wow!!! What is there not to like about a horse that has finished in the top two in every race. This also should take into account that Animal Kingdom raced against some of the best three-years old in the world. In addition, Animal Kingdom posted a 103 Beyer Figure (speed ratings) in both the Preakness and Derby. Animal Kingdom’s trainer Graham Motion and Jockey John Velazquez , who won the Belmont in 2007, are among the best in their professions. Animal Kingdom also has strong pedigree as Leiroidesanimaux, Animal Kingdom’s sire, was the 2005 male turf champion.
What not to like: The only potential pitfall for Animal Kingdom is if the early pace is set too fast, Animal Kingdom might not be able to catch up. Another thing to consider is this will be Animal Kingdom’s third race in about a month’s time (will it be too much?). Only four horses in the history of the Belmont have won from the nine hole.
PP 10: Mucho Macho Man Record: 10; 2-3-3 $610,643 Opening odds: 10-1 Trainer: Katherine Ritvo Jockey: Ramon Dominguez
Mucho Macho Man ran in both the Derby and Preakness finishing third and sixth, respectively.
What to like: Mucho Macho Man, who is has placed in the top three in 8 of 10 career races, ran an excellent Kentucky as he moved up from sixth at the midway point to finish a game third. After finishing a disappointing sixth (Mucho Macho Man was stuck in traffic), Eclipse winner Ramon Dominguez replaces Rajiv Maragh. Mucho Macho Man’s sire Mucho Uno was the two -year champion in 2000.
What not to like: Although Mucho Macho Man has run in eight straight races over a mile long, the Belmont’s mile and a-half distance might be a little too much.
PP 11: Isn’t He Perfect Record: 13; 2-0-1 $90,222 Opening odds: 30-1 Trainer: Doodnauth Shivmangal Jockey: Rajiv Maragh
Isn’t He Perfect was a non-factor after a bobbled start in the Preakness finishing a well beaten ninth.
What to like: Isn’t He Perfect has been far from his namesake during his races, however Isn’t He Perfect has improved his Beyer Speed figures in every race (topped out at 87). Pleasantly Perfect and Reciclada, Isn’t He Perfect’s sire and dam, were route racers (long-distance) throughout their racing careers.
What not to like: Isn’t He Perfect has hit the board in only three of his thirteen career races and he hasn’t finished higher than fifth in his four graded stakes races.
PP 12: Shackleford Record: 7; 3-0-1$1.4 million Opening odds: 9-2 Trainer: Dale Romans Jockey: Jose Castanon
Shackleford won the Preakness in his last race holding off a charging Animal Kingdom at the wire.
What to like: Shackleford cruised to his win in the Preakness after doing the same for most of the Derby (Shackleford led the entire race before being caught the last quarter by Animal Kingdom, etc; Shackleford finished in fourth). Shackleford, who has consistently improved his Beyer Speed figures topping out at 103 in the Preakness, has run in four straight graded races (including three straight GI) finishing in fifth, second, fourth and first place respectively. In addition, Shackleford has good lineage but the distance of the Belmont could push his capabilities to the limit.
What not to like: No horse has ever won post #12 in the history of the Belmont.
1.There have been 11 previous horses to win both the Derby and Belmont (Animal Kingdom will attempt to be the 12th).
2. There have 21 previous horses to win the Preakness-Belmont double (Shackleford will attempt to be 22nd).
3. In the past 12 Belmont races, the favorite has only won three times while in seven of those races the winner odds were 10-to-1 or worse.
Predictions and analysis will be forthcoming soon.