I'm no science major, so I don't remember if it was Boyle's Law or the Doppler Effect or the Theory of Relativity that posits "for every action, there is a reaction." I do know it was Shakespeare who wrote "what's in a name," so whoever the author of this scientific formula was, it certainly fits the field as it came together for the 139th running of the Belmont Stakes this Saturday.
Many horsemen decided to have seats on the fence while waiting for word as to whether Kentucky Derby Sponsored by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Street Sense would contest the 12-furlong Belmont. When he was declared out of the race last week, leaving two main protagonists, Hard Spun and Preakness (gr. I) victor Curlin, the actions and reactions started in earnest.
Last weekend here came Digger, with two wins from eight starts, being talked off as a Belmont starter by his new owner, Larry Roman. Citing Digger's lack of credentials for such a contest, some may have been wondering what Romans, a plumbing company owner, had in his pipes. But he was adamant that Digger would not only compete, but set the pace and control the race.
Next in was Time Squared, who is used to being entered in big spots on short notice. Just eight days after breaking his maiden in April, trainer Patrick Biancone and owners Fab Oak Stable, Richard Giacopelli, Lewis Lakin, and Martin Schwartz decided to run the son of Fusaichi Pegasus in the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. He ran sixth, then came back to take an optional claiming test before being talked up for the Belmont.
On Tuesday, however, here came trainer Todd Pletcher with his decision to run Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor's brilliant filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont. The Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner has proven best in four races in a row, three of them grade I stakes. The daughter of A.P. Indy had many wondering, after her Oaks tour de force, if she would have fit better in the following day's Derby. That will be answered in New York on Saturday.
Following Rags to Riches into the pool Tuesday was Robert LaPenta's C P West, whose most recent effort was a solid fourth in the Preakness, in which the son of Came Home had trouble when he was struck by Street Sense's jockey Calvin Borel's whip at the head of the stretch. LaPenta has been high on this one since buying him back for $750,000 at the Keeneland 2-year-old sale last year. C P West is trained by Nick Zito, who took the Belmont with Birdstone in 2004.
Apparently, the presence of Rags to Riches and C P West was enough to convince the connections of Digger and Time Squared that the Belmont might not be the best test for them after all. Neither of the two was entered when post positions were drawn Wednesday.
When the bagels were all eaten and announcer Tom Durkin had cracked his final joke, a total of seven horses comprised the Belmont line-up, and all appeared to belong. Cases could be made for the longest shots in the field--I'mawildandcrazyguy (fourth in the Derby after finding his best stride down the lane) and Slew's Tizzy, winner of the Lexington Stakes (gr. II) and the Lone Star Derby (gr. III). Both were listed at 20-1 on the morning line for the Belmont.
We can only hope we get as much action during the race as we have in the week leading up to it.