Belmont: Why They Can Win, Why They Can't
By Frank Angst and Claire Novak
Here's a rundown of the field in post position order for the $1 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to be run at Belmont Park June 8, with reasons each contender could get the money...and why they might not. For more analysis, watch That Handicapping Show and read Unlocking Winners.
Pros: Second to Overanalyze in Arkansas Derby (gr. I) after going four wide at quarter pole and closing late. As 2-year-old fought gamely through stretch of Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Has had two sharp works leading up to this event.
Cons: Has yet to win graded stakes. Ran 16th in Derby, seventh by 18 lengths behind Orb in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I), and sixth in the Holy Bull (gr. III) in which he grabbed a quarter. Pedigree is also a question beyond nine furlongs.
Pros: Freaked in slop May 11 when he won Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park by 13 1/4 lengths, likely to catch another off track. Toss Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), when left in hands of assistant starter, and Malibu Moon colt enters off wins by combined 18 1/2 lengths. Fresh after not racing in either of first two Triple Crown races.
Cons: Other than Peter Pan, only has one win to his credit, a 1 1/8-mile maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park in March. Lack of grade I experience may prove difficult in 1 1/2-mile race.
Pros: Horse seems to win on an every-other-race schedule, and after finishing 11th in Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher is looking for another victory out of this Arkansas Derby (gr. I) victor from two starts back. An erratic trip to an 11th-place Derby finish looks better on race replay than on paper.
Cons: Inconsistent running pattern. One start in the slop resulted in his worst finish yet, although Pletcher is attributing that more to trip than surface.
Pros: Exceeded even trainer Anthony Dutrow's expectations when he ran 10th in Derby, finishing better than fellow Belmont contenders Overanalyze, Frac Daddy, Vyjack, and Palace Malice in huge step up in company.
Cons: Only wins came in state-restricted maiden special weight and allowance races at Aqueduct Racetrack. Best stakes efforts, a second in the John Battaglia Memorial and third in Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III), came on Polytrack at Turfway Park.
Pros: Kentucky Derby winner won five straight including Florida Derby and Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), has pedigree to go distance (dam Lady Liberty won going 1 1/2 miles on Keeneland turf), ran well in Louisville over an off track.
Cons: Uncharacteristically poor effort in May 18 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), resulting in fourth-place finish nine lengths behind Oxbow. Appeared to not like racing inside of rivals.
Pros: Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin says colt by Belmont winner A.P. Indy out of grade I winner Octave can run all day. Octave won the 1 1/4-mile Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I).
Cons: Just hasn't had a chance to prove it yet, finishing fifth in the slop in the Peter Pan on his first stretchout. Has only two wins at Aqueduct going a mile.
Pros: Upset the Preakness in wire-to-wire fashion. Getting the 1 3/16-mile distance proved no issue, as he won by 1 3/4 lengths. Strong distance pedigree. Could run Belmont similar to last year's Paynter , another son of Awesome Again who nearly won the Belmont on front end before being passed by Union Rags .
Cons: Freedom Child is an added strong early runner who didn't contest Preakness. If late closers like Orb and Golden Soul have him in their sights turning for home, he could prove vulnerable.
Pros: He was left out of the NBC.com press release regarding television coverage, which said Mike Repole owned two horses in the Belmont instead of three. Therefore, Murphy's Law indicates he will win.
Cons: Only three career starts under his girth and no experience going two turns.
Pros: Ultra-consistent colt is dead game and has never finished off board in seven starts. Third in Derby. Dam Runup the Colors won 1 1/4-mile Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Gets his usual rest off Derby effort.
Cons: Inside trip may have helped him earn Derby placing.
Pros: Of all the Triple Crown races, his long-striding, grinding running style seems to fit best here.
Cons: If he gets stopped as he has in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, his chances are over. Needs to get out in the clear and come with his run.
Pros: Aside from finishing 18th in Derby, this horse has a third in Wood Memorial (gr. I) and four straight wins to his credit including Gotham (gr. III) and Jerome (gr. II).
Cons: Some distance concerns based on pedigree and previous performance.
Pros: Strong effort finishing second in Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on Polytrack. Has run well on sloppy track and breeding suggests he will handle distance and off track.
Cons: Faded to 12th in Derby after setting a quick pace with first time blinkers. Will have to be more relaxed Saturday.
Pros: She's a big, strong filly who fits well with these colts from a physical standpoint, and she was undefeated prior to her third in Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Has faced fillies that owner believes are as good as this year's 3-year-old males.
Cons: Should have outclassed Princess of Sylmar in Oaks. Previously untested against the boys, she'll have to run huge to swim in the deep end. Pedigree doesn't suggest 1 1/2 miles optimum distance.
Pros: Closest to Orb in Kentucky, this son of Perfect Soul finished just 2 1/2 lengths behind with a strong closing run. Handled slop in the Derby, and has distance pedigree.
Cons: Trainer Dallas Stewart said colt didn't quite eat up for a few days following the Derby, missed training. Far outside post could be bit of challenge.
Complete Belmont advance here.
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