2011 Belmont Stakes Field: An Early Look
by Trevor Whenham - 5/24/2011
Coming into the Triple Crown this year I was very pessimistic -- it was a class without stars. As it turns out, though, we’ve got two pretty solid races. Neither are all-time classics, but they have been interesting, surprising, and honest, and that’s all you can ask for. We’re also set up to have a pretty decent Belmont Stakes -- almost certainly a better one than I would have predicted three weeks ago. The field for the third leg of the Triple Crown will change as we get closer to June 11, but we already have a good sense of what it could look like. Here’s what we know so far about the 2011 Belmont Stakes field:
The winners - For the first time since 2005 it looks like we are going to see a grudge match between the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. Both Derby winner Animal Kingdom and surprise Preakness victor Shackleford have come out of the two races well, and both are currently being pointed at the Belmont. It’s an intriguing matchup since it was Shackleford who held on and foiled a pretty convincing late charge by Animal Kingdom in the Preakness. Despite the fact that Shackleford got the last laugh in the matchup, it seems likely that Animal Kingdom will be solidly favored in the Belmont because of his running style and his aptitude for distance.
Mucho Macho Man - The horse who finished third in the Derby and sixth in the Preakness is the only other horse from the Preakness field that is very likely to move on to the last leg of the Triple Crown. His sixth-place finish was a real disappointment given that he was the third choice in the Preakness field, but he has a decent excuse in that he lost a front shoe early in the race. That was the second time in three starts that he lost a shoe and had it affect him, so his connections need to get on top of that problem so that the horse has the chance to run his best.
Nehro - He was an impressive second in the Derby, and flirted seriously with the Preakness before holding off to head for the Belmont. He’s a classy horse, and was clearly second best in the Derby, so he will be a legitimate contender in the Belmont and will also be well liked by the bettors.
Master of Hounds - This European import is reportedly looking at making yet another appearance in the U.S. for the Belmont. He was fifth in the Derby, but he never really looked like he was a serious threat in the race. The distance will be new for him like it will be for every horse, but he is both bred and trained in ways that make it seem reasonable that he could manage the distance. He’ll be a bit less of an enigma than he was in the Derby, but I’m not convinced that the knowledge and clarity we now have about him makes him any more impressive.
Santiva, Brilliant Speed, and Stay Thirsty - Three other horses that ran in the Derby are all being pointed at the Belmont. They finished sixth, seventh, and 12th, respectively. Like so many of the horses we have seen this year, these horses all some traits that are easy to admire, and others that really, really aren’t impressive. I don’t see a Belmont winner among them.
Isn’t He Perfect - The second biggest disappointment I had in the Preakness (after Animal Kingdom not earning a shot at the Triple Crown) was that Isn’t He Perfect didn’t finish last. He is a wildly unimpressive horse that was totally outclassed, and I was certain he had it in him to trail the field. Somehow, though, he managed to stumble home a totally irrelevant ninth. Frustrating. For some totally insane reason he is apparently possibly being pointed at the Belmont. I hope it happens so I can pick him to finish last again.
New invaders - There are as many as four horses that are currently being rumored to join the Triple Crown trail on the last leg -- Alternation, Prime Cut, Awesome Patriot, and Harlan’s Hello. The first two are more likely to make the race than the latter two, and none of them are likely to be installed as low odds runners by oddsmakers, but anything can happen in the Belmont so they are still relevant.
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