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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Belmont Top Ten

This is the LATG Belmont Top Ten, of horses and people who I think will be in the news on or around Belmont Stakes day.

1) With past performance lines like these, Ice Box should be quite the decisive favorite, First Dude's Preakness notwithstanding. It's said that you're not supposed to bet deep closers in this race; but his past performances sure look a lot (and a lot better) than those of Summer Bird. Jazil too. And Afleet Alex was well behind early as well. So maybe that thinking needs to be updated. In my mind, these horses just aren't bred for a mile and a half anymore; I think a horse who truly is such wins the race on or close to the lead (like Rags to Riches). Now the winner is often simply the one who's the least tired at the end; it's only logical that it will be one of those who didn't run much at the beginning.

2) First Dude is eligible for an entry level allowance race; here's your second choice for this year's Test of Champions. Having said that, there's no denying his quality and class after his gritty performance in the Preakness confirmed the promise he'd shown to that point. The questions in my mind are whether he's really meant to go this far, and how he'll react to his grueling Preakness effort, his fifth race (and 4th against quality competition) in 3 1/2 months. I can be a big believer in bounces when it helps me throw out a horse that I want to bet against.

3) Riding the wave of popular discontent which carried Tea Party Senate candidate Rand Paul to his decisive primary victory in Kentucky, Republican voters there vote Super Saver out as the Derby champion. Devastated by the news, trainer Todd Pletcher retires in an uncharacteristic fit of rage and tears rather than face another round of questions about his now-revived Derby streak of futility. The Derby title is instead awarded to last-place finisher Backtalk, because his name (plus a Browning 12-gauge shotgun or two) reflects the spirit of the movement.

4) Game On Dude didn't show much in his two stakes efforts before being purchased privately and put in the care of Bob Baffert. The new trainer slapped on blinkers and got a win as the 9-5 second choice in a weak Lone Star Derby field which slowed dramatically after six furlongs. This horse came home the last 5/16ths in 33.24; that's like a 26-second quarter followed by a final sixteenth in 7 seconds plus. Son of the Breeders Cup Classic winner Awesome Again out of a mare by the Wood/Suburban/Brooklyn Handicap winner Devil His Due has little appeal beyond that on the catalog page. Figures to be overbet given his trainer, which will make him a prime candidate for total exclusion from my tickets.

5) Having failed to gain concessions from the state and with its out-of-state signals curtailed, a desperate Chairman Sandy Frucher announces that NYC OTB will perform a top kill operation in an attempt to stanch the gushing outflow of cash. OTB will attempt to plug the leakage with a combination of bricks and mortars from shuttered parlors, losing tickets, Polytrack, discarded Paterson 2010 campaign material, some heavy runoff from Belmont Park, and Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada.

6) Fly Down is Zito's other horse, but comes off an impressive win in the Dwyer, which kinda used to be the Peter Pan, which was eliminated this year. Big difference of course between a flat one-turn mile and this marathon. But if you're willing to dismiss the Louisiana Derby as a blip, this horse has a solid pattern of improvement as you might expect from a son of the late-developing Mineshaft. That race, his only disappointing effort, can be excused as a bounce following his win over First Dude in his 2010 debut. Another move forward off that career best effort four weeks ago could put this one in the winner's circle. Not thrilled about his pedigree (a borderline 4.0 dosage); but I can say that about almost every other horse in the race.

7) A crowd of 48,327 shows up for the big day, but that includes the promised "multitude of Ram Trucks", estimated at some 1,500 to 2,000. With space scarce, fans picnic in the truck beds, tellers man the cabs, and an uncomfortable Charles Hayward awards the imaginatively-named Belmont Stakes Trophy while standing on the hood of a Ram Heavy Duty.

8) Drosselmeyer was 3-5 in that Dwyer after showing decent, but not outstanding, progress as a three-year old, and finished six lengths behind. Yeah, he had excuses, but not six lengths worth; not even close in my opinion given how wide Fly Down was hung out on that sweeping turn for home. I consider him to be a bit of a disappointment thus far this year.

9) Make Music For Me, who may take some money off his pace-aided 4th in the Derby, makes news when he accompanies his trainer Alexis Barba to a photo opp on the 86th floor observatory at the Empire State Building. This delights reporters, but raises questions as to how he got past security.

10) Taking the lead from the NFL, the 2014 Breeders' Cup is awarded to the Amazon Rain Forest. BC President Greg Avioli explains: "Some of the greatest races of all time have taken place in the slop."


El Angelo said...

If you're going with the best breeding, it may be Spangled Star (Distorted Humor out of a Kris S mare) or Stately Victor (Ghostzapper out G1 winner Collect the Cash, who's out of Dynaformer). And they'll both be at least 12-1.

Remember, we've only had one favorite (Afleet Alex) win the Belmont in the last 15 years, so take the fave at your own peril.

Anonymous said...

Alan, glad to see your Top Ten back, this time for the Belmont Stakes. Your Top Tens help to highlight the absurdities we all must face and cope with in the world, whatever the domain. Who knows, Alan may become a Tea Party guy yet.

By the way, a great column by Ray Kerrison in today's NY Post reminding us why the Belmont Stakes is the grandest of the Triple Crown races, TC on the line or not. Lucky horses do not win the Belmont as they sometimes do the Derby and Preakness.

About the only thing he overlooked is the outstanding breeding records of Belmont winners over the years, more impressive than that of Derby winners I like to point out. And don't even think about reducing the mile-and-a-half distance, it is still the supreme test in American racing.

Joyous e-mails from Tom Federlin at Racing City Realty have been landing in my in box. That means one thing: Post time at the Spa is fast approaching. /S/greenmtnpunter

steve in nc said...

I haven't looked at the Belmont field yet, but i remember Stately Victor popped a big # before the Derby.

I can't speak for Alan, but I think it's high time the Tea Party lives up to its name and its rhetoric about liberty, and starts vocally supporting the people's right to smoke tea without interference from big government.

Anonymous said...

To think that once upon a time horses used to use the Peter Pan after the Preakness to tune up for the Belmont.

El Angelo said...

Lucky horses may not win the Belmont, but mediocre ones often do. Commendable, Sarava, Da'Tara and Jazil....yeah, not so much.

steve in nc said...

El Angelo's right. The times the race has sizzled were those close defeats of horses seeking the triple crown.

By the way, it was a nice top 10, and Teresa has a really nice piece in the gray lady's racing blog section. Great historical perspective.

Alan Mann said...

>>Joyous e-mails from Tom Federlin at Racing City Realty have been landing in my in box.

I know, he's delirious!

Anonymous said...

Ice Box will win. -jp

Anonymous said...

Ice Box will not win. -dirty

Teresa said...

Thanks, Steve!

Anonymous said...

Lucky horses do not win the Belmont as they sometimes do the Derby and Preakness.******

Tell that to the Birdstone naysayers.
Mike D.

Anonymous said...

Really dirty, what's the point of claiming a horse won't win, unless the animal is 2-5 or less? Make a win selection. your bud, jp.