Horses That Can Win the Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 6/1/2010
It looks like we are going to have a 12-horse field for the Belmont Stakes. It's not a big-name field, and it has the unfortunate and rare distinction of not featuring the winner of the Kentucky Derby or Preakness, or even a single horse that has run in both of those races. Still, it's an extremely interesting race, and it has a good chance of launching a young horse into stardom. Just last year Summer Bird was lightly raced and lightly regarded heading into the Belmont, but a win catapulted him into a huge summer and champion three year old honors.
Of the 12 horses that are likely to enter the starting gate in the Belmont there are very few that are easy to dismiss right out. There are obviously some that are stronger than others, though. There are a group of seven horses in the field that are the real strength, and if the winner doesn't emerge from this group then I will be surprised. These are, in my eyes, the horses that can win the Belmont:
Ice Box - He's the likely favorite in the Belmont, and he is certainly deserving. He came into the Kentucky Derby as the somewhat surprising winner of the Florida Derby, and he almost left Louisville wearing roses. He ran into an impossible amount of traffic, but was finally able to find running room late in the stretch and was chewing up the ground between him and Super Saver with every stride. Super Saver got very lucky that the wire was where it was.
He would have stood a good chance of being favored, or at least highly regarded, in the Preakness, but trainer Nick Zito chose to rest him for this race instead. He has gotten better in each of his three stakes starts, and has trained well up to this race. The distance is always a question for horses coming into this race because it is new and so grueling, but Ice Box is a grandson of the great Belmont winner A.P. Indy, and that horse has appeared in the pedigree of other winners, so there is a good chance that this horse will be fine.
He's in good hands with Zito as well - the trainer led both Birdstone and Da' Tara to wins that ended the Triple Crown dreams of Smarty Jones and Big Brown.
Fly Down - Zito is not a one trick pony this time around. Fly Down was never seriously considered for the Kentucky Derby after a disastrous showing in the Louisiana Derby. Instead, he was pointed at the Dwyer - a Belmont prep on the same surface as this race - the week after the Derby. He won it in eye-opening fashion, making a move around the final turn and opening up daylight by the wire.
That was only his second stakes start, but it was against a decent field, and it clearly showed that he has a affinity for the track. He's also a grandson of A.P. Indy, so he likely won't mind being stretched out, either. He'll need to improve significantly to win this one, but the difference between the Louisiana Derby and the Dwyer was incredible, so he has the capability to get better here.
First Dude - In the Derby trainer Dale Romans was third with Paddy O'Prado. He was second in the Preakness with this horse. There's only one podium spot left for him.
First Dude set the pace at Pimlico, and then showed incredible toughness not only in hanging on for second, but in repeatedly launching attacks at Lookin at Lucky down the stretch. He's certainly game, and he'll likely be able to set the pace in the Belmont again if he chooses to.
Winning from the front in the Belmont is a very tough task, though, and it takes a very special horse to do so. This horse is improving rapidly, but he's still very inexperienced, and it's hard to know if he is horse enough here. He's yet another grandson of A.P. Indy, so the breeding is good.
Game On Dude - Bob Baffert won the Preakness with Lookin at Lucky. Though that horses is resting for the summer season, Baffert is back with this horse and it certainly is an interesting situation.
Baffert has only had this horse in his stable for his last two races. The first race, the Derby Trial, wasn't particularly inspiring. He finished fifth, faded down the stretch, and was never really a factor. The next race was a totally different story. Baffert switched to Preakness-winning jockey Martin Garcia, and horse and rider had obvious chemistry. Despite facing some issues in the race Game On Dude was a convincing winner. If he can build on that experience then he is certainly a factor.
Baffert is about die for another Belmont winner - just one of his nine Triple Crown wins has come in New York.
Interactif - After winning the Derby with Super Saver it looked like Todd Pletcher was going to skip this race. Early this week, though,he made the surprise announcement that Interactif was being aimed for this race.
The horse hasn't run sine early April, and was pulled from Derby consideration because his training wasn't satisfactory. His recent works have been impressive, though, and Pletcher is going to give him a shot. He's perhaps the classiest horse in the field, but he never seems to be quite good enough when it matters.
Make Music For Me - I couldn't have been more impressed with this horse in the Derby - even if he only finished fourth. He found himself way, way off the pace and in dead last for the first half of the race. He encountered traffic and was forced eight wide, but was able to move all the way form the back to fourth, and he had more in him at the finish. That was a very tough track to move on, so this horse was clearly in good form.
He has no real stakes success on his record beyond that, but that effort showed he can't be counted out, and he's going to go off at a big price in this one.
Uptowncharlybrown - This horse has shown more promise than performance, but an unfortunate tragedy makes him an intriguing horse. He was trained by Alan Seewald, who died suddenly in April. The horse raced in his next race, the Lexington, for assistant Linda White. Despite putting up a good performance in that race the horse was moved to Kiaran McLaughlin before this race.
McLaughlin won this race with Jazil, so he knows what it takes. Horses often experience a bump in performance in their first race for a new trainer, and when the new trainer is of this caliber it's certainly interesting.
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