The two key figures in the pace scenario for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes are Miner's Escape and Charitable Man. The former will be a longshot in the field of 10, while Charitable Man was made the 3-1 second choice behind Mine That Bird. So, let’s see how this may play out.
On paper, Miner’s Escape, despite coming off two victories racing right on the pace, does not have the speed of Charitable Man. Miner’s Escape is coming off two races in which the first three-quarters was run in 1:13 and 1:13 1/5. But those were slow tracks and trainer Nick Zito loves seeing his horses on the lead if he feels he can steal it, as he did last year with Da’ Tara. He likes it even more when he has another horse in the race who can pick up the pieces if Plan A fails.
Although Charitable Man won his career debut last year on the front end after setting a :45 2/5 half, the son of Lemon Drop Kid seems more comfortable as a stalker, and he possesses the kind of strong, steady run that often wins the Belmont. The ideal scenario would be for him to sit right behind Miner’s Escape, grind him down, and then use his stamina to outstay the others.
Of course, that was Big Brown ’s strategy last year, and as we all know, the last anyone saw of Zito’s longshot on the lead who was supposed to stop was him drawing away from everyone in the stretch.
It would be a surprise if that happened again, as this looks to be a much deeper and talented field than last year. But Miner’s Escape is an improving colt with the pedigree to get the mile and a half and has won his last two by four lengths or more, so you never know.
Miner’s Escape breaks from post 9, with Charitable Man inside him in post 6, which means Miner’s Escape needs to break sharply and try for the lead in order not to get caught wide on the first turn, which is a disaster at
So, now that we’ve got the pace scenario pretty much nailed down, the question is, what’s going top be happening behind them? Chocolate Candy drew the rail, and while that’s not what his connections would prefer, it should not pose a problem. There is not a lot of second tier speed, so if he breaks well, Garrett Gomez will have plenty of time to come off the rail and settle in third or fourth. Also, look for Flying Private, who has sprinter’s speed, to be much closer to the pace, despite being way back in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. That was by circumstance, not design. This horse has good tactical speed when he gets a clean break. Rounding out the first five should be Zito’s other horse, Brave Victory, unless Zito employs the same tactics he did in the Peter Pan and takes him farther back. But this son of Lion Heart, who drew the outside post, showed good early lick in his first three career starts and did win a six-furlong allowance race in his 3-year-old debut.
Now, we come to
The reason to think Chocolate Candy and possibly Dunkirk could be closer to the pace is that both colts are fresh, not having run since the Derby, and both were feeling good Wednesday morning, wanting to do a lot more than they did.
With the pace expected to be much slower than the Derby and especially the Preakness, Mine That Bird no doubt will be closer to the lead, but trainer Chip Woolley and jockey Calvin Borel are not going to want to alter the gelding’s running style that served him so well in those races. He’ll be back just far enough to enable him to make that big late run. The way
Then, only use his big turn of foot once you get to the five-sixteenths pole. At that point, it’s OK to fan wide, as long as you have saved ground prior to that. The last thing you want to do with him is have him wide going into the turn – horses who do that usually flatten out after turning for home. So, the key is staying in contact with the leaders without turning on the juice too early. It’s a lot harder sustaining your run at
The ideal scenario is to have everyone in a position to win at the three-sixteenths pole and let the best horse win.