Early Look at 2010 Belmont Stakes Contenders
by Trevor Whenham - 5/18/2010
This is not shaping up to be a dream Belmont Stakes. Neither Super Saver, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, nor Lookin at Lucky, the Preakness winner, will be making the trip to New York. A Belmont without a Triple Crown race winner is neither common nor attractive, but it does happen. The quality of the races it produces is inconsistent as well - Jazil was impressive win winning the 2006 Belmont, but Commendable's win in 2000 was a perfect cure for insomnia. Storylines aren't going to jump off the page for this year's edition, but they are there and interesting if you look for them. In fact, it's shaping up to be a pretty interesting race. Here's an early look at the Belmont Stakes contenders that are currently being pointed at the race:
Dublin - And then there was one. This D. Wayne Lukas trainee is the only horse this year with a chance to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown. In each of the first two races Dublin settled well off the pace, made a late move, but didn't have the stamina or turn of foot to hit the board. His fifth-place finish in the Preakness was a two-spot improvement over the Derby. He's listed as possible for the Belmont at this point, though I would bet that Lukas will be unable to resist the temptation. Lukas was the trainer of Commendable when he stole the star-free 2000 Belmont.
Ice Box - This Nick Zito horse is quite likely to be the favorite in the Belmont. People aren't easily going to forget the late charge that he made in the Kentucky Derby. Given the revealed mortality of Super Saver it seems very likely that Ice Box would have won the Derby if he hadn't encountered so much trouble down the stretch. He's bred to handle the Belmont distance, and appears to be the clear class of this field.
First Dude - Lookin at Lucky got the headlines at the Preakness, but this horse was the biggest surprise. He set the pace throughout but was still able to hold on when Super Saver and others faded, and fought the winner every stride before finishing second. It was a fantastic race, and a sign that there could be much more to come. He's all but certain to give it a try again in the Belmont, and he's bred well for the challenge. He could be the biggest challenge for Ice Box.
Game On Dude - Bob Baffert isn't bringing back his Preakness winner, but he'll still be represented here. On the weekend between the Derby and the Preakness Baffert and Preakness winning jockey Martin Garcia combined to win the Lone Star Derby aboard this horse. It was an impressive win. He likes to settle just off the pace, and should be able to run his race here.
Fly Down - This is Nick Zito's second horse in the field. He ran his last race, the Dwyer, at Belmont the week before the Preakness, and he won it in ridiculously easy fashion. He obviously likes the course and he's well bred for the challenge. He'll have to deal with a jockey change here, though - John Velazquez gets the mount because usual jockey Jose Lezcano is also the first-call rider for Ice Box.
Drosselmeyer - He was a distant second to Fly Down in the Dwyer last time out. He hasn't won a stakes race in three tries, but trainer Bill Mott's horses tend to mature later than other trainers, so he could be a factor here.
Stately Victor - The Derby was a disappointment, but he won the Blue Grass Stakes in the race before Kentucky. His breeding is solid, but he hasn't impressed on dirt, and it takes a leap of faith to really like him here.
Make Music for Me - This is another Derby runner who took a break to get ready for this race. His fourth-place finish in the Derby was impressive - especially because he was stuck at the very back of the field for the first half of the race. That race was his dirt debut, so it's possible that the surface works well for him.
Yawanna Twist - After a solid second in the Illinois Derby he was a nice fourth in the Preakness, though he hung up in the stretch in the latter race when he had a chance at doing better. He could be a factor, but not a major one.
Stay Put - After two straight underwhelming starts in prep races, this colt had a very impressive outing on the Derby undercard. That showed what he is capable of, but it seems doubtful that he can improve enough again to win here.
Uptowncharlybrown - Kiaran McLaughlin is the new trainer for this colt. He must be impressed with him because he is immediately putting him in a spot here that doesn't seem like a perfect fit. A trainer switch - especially to a trainer as good as McLaughlin - can give a horse a big boost in his next start.
Devil May Care - This filly is the only Todd Pletcher horse under consideration for this race, but she's more likely to run in the Mother Goose. Only one filly - Rags to Riches - has won the Belmont, and Devil May Care is far from the quality of that filly.
Setsuko - He was second in the Santa Anita Derby - a race that was a disaster for the Preakness winner. He benefited from that chaos to finish second there. He tried the turf at Churchill on Kentucky Oaks day. That didn't work out particularly well, so he is being pointed to the dirt for the first time here.
New Madrid - Trainer Tim Ice won the Belmont last year with Summer Bird. Unfortunately he has been ice cold (pardon the pun) since, and had Summer Bird and 24 other horses taken away from him for mismanagement. This horse was lousy in the Arkansas Derby in his only stakes outing, so it's hard to imagine him being ready here.
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