Belmont Stakes Profile: Brave Victory
by Trevor Whenham - 05/27/2009
Last race: Brave Victory was third in the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont last time out. That race, which took place the weekend after the Kentucky Derby, was won by Charitable Man, another Belmont entrant. He settled in the middle of the pack and then launched a late bid for the lead. That bid was limited somewhat because his jockey lost his whip with 3/16 mile left to run, so he didn't get the encouragement to run that he looked like he needed.
Career highlights: It took Brave Victory three tries to break his maiden, but he was impressive when he did it, winning by almost eight lengths at Belmont. He has just one more career win - a narrow victory in an allowance race in his season debut at Gulfstream. Of the prospective Belmont entrants only Rachel Alexandra has been in more graded stakes than Brave Victory's five. The problem is that he has never finished better than third, and has only figured into the superfecta twice.
Jockey: Rajiv Maragh. Maragh is just 23, and is early in his career. This will be his first Triple Crown race. He took over the ride of this horse for the Peter Pan and was strong enough to keep it. That's impressive given the list of other guys that have ridden this horse before him - Edgar Prado, Corey Nakatani, Kent Desormeaux, Julien Leparoux, and John Velazquez among them. Maragh is inexperienced, but he rides in New York so he knows the track, and he is very studious so he will be prepared for this big chance.
Trainer: Nick Zito. Zito has made the Belmont his personal playground for unlikely horses in recent years. He won with longshot Birdstone, the sire of both Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, in 2004 to end Smarty Jones' Triple Crown hopes. He smashed the Crown again last year when Da' Tara came from nowhere to win when Big Brown faltered badly. Beyond the two wins, he has been second six times and third three times in 20 tries at the race.
Pedigree: Brave Victory doesn't have a pedigree that jumps off the paper like other horses in this race. His sire, Lion Heart, is young - Brave Victory is part of his first crop of three year olds. He was a Grade 1 winner, and he has already sired three graded stakes winners, so early results are promising. Lion Heart was sired by Tale of the Cat. Lion Heart is his most successful son, and his progeny also includes Tale of Ekati, who was fourth in the Derby and sixth in the Belmont last year.
Racing style: It's hard to say what his preferred style is - he won from the front the first time, and as a stalker in his second win. He seems to prefer running from the middle of the pack. With so much room at Belmont he should be able to stay out of trouble and give himself the best chance he can.
Belmont prognosis: On paper there isn't much to like about this horse. Frankly, he looks outclassed. So did Birdstone and Da' tara, though, and Zito managed to find a way to get both of them to the line first. Lightning struck in those races, but I'm willing to bet that it won't strike again here. It's very unlikely that Brave Victory will show up anywhere on my betting tickets.