Horses That Can Win the Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/31/2011
As we get closer to the running of the final leg of the 2011 Triple Crown — a crown that yet again won’t be claimed — the Belmont Stakes field is starting to take shape. It’s not the superstar field for the Belmont Stakes that we have seen some years, but you do have to concede that the class of three year olds has turned out to be at least a little better than it seemed like it would be in April. As I look forward to the Belmont what has me excited is that there are at least eight horses being pointed to the race which, if they had their best day, could wind up winning it. Here’s a quick look at the eight horses that can win the Belmont Stakes:
Animal Kingdom - Despite the second-place finish in the Preakness he’s still the best horse in this class in my eyes, and it’s not even close. His loss in the Preakness was more situational than physical — he waited for Shackleford to falter like he was expected to, but he didn’t. He is talented, he likes distance, he can handle the dirt, and the track should suit him. Definitely the horse to beat.
Shackleford - You can’t rule out a Triple Crown race winner in any other Triple Crown race, but I am far less optimistic about Shackleford than Animal Kingdom. I’m not sure he’ll get the help with the pace that set him up so well in the Preakness, and he looked like a horse that was quite happy to see the finish line.
Nehro — He was a solid second in the Preakness, and he has rested and trained since then so he should be ready for another top showing. I like the horse, but I can’t help but think that he was clearly second best in the Derby, so he’ll have to take a step forward to win here. Still, I think he’s probably the best non-Derby winner in the field.
Mucho Macho Man - He is in danger of being the Hard Spun of this class — a very good horse that just isn’t quite good enough to climb to the top of the podium. The Preakness effort was a disappointment, but he was closing strong in the Derby so the distance could suit him. His middle-of-the-pack running style should work well for this race, and the added maturity the young horse adds with each race can only be seen as a positive.
Stay Thirsty - His 12th-place finish was a real disappointment in the Derby — especially because I bet on him. He had more traffic issues than any horse in the race, though, so it’s at least a little bit excusable. As a son of Bernardini, he has stellar breeding and should be suited to this distance nicely. A smooth trip and a very good day could be enough to get him the win. I’d like to see him ridden quite a bit more aggressively than he was at Churchill. In that race he found trouble, backed off, and never made another move. If he hadn’t been allowed to give up on that battle he might not have given up on the race like he did.
Santiva — He is experienced and has had more distance seasoning than a lot of the horses, so he’s attractive in that sense. His Derby result was only a sixth, but he was gaining down the stretch so he seemed suited to further distance. He’s a son of Giant’s Causeway — a horse that had no issue with longer distances — so he should be capable.
Brilliant Speed - It’s perhaps ironic given his name that this isn’t particularly a fast horse, but rather one with a lot of staying power. His sire, Dynaformer, produces impressive stamina horses that can run all day — like Barbaro — and his granddam is a full sister to 1997 Belmont winner Touch The Gold, so he has family credibility. He’s still primarily been at his best on synthetics and turf, but a decent seventh-place finish in the Derby which included a nice five-wide move around the final turn showed us that he is capable of handling the surface at least somewhat effectively.
Master of Hounds - This horse is a total enigma to me. He had never run on dirt, and he only came to Churchill from Europe days before the Derby. He was a solid fifth in that race and promptly headed back to Britain — never to be seen here again, I assumed; or at least not until a turf race at the Breeders’ Cup. He’s apparently coming back much sooner than that, though. He’ll still arrive close to race day and not have meaningful work on dirt before the Belmont. I’d discount the horse because of the bizarre handling and the uncertainty if he didn’t have one big thing going for him. If you watch the Derby again you’ll see how nicely he was moving at the end. He found a new gear down the stretch and looked ready to run forever. That’s obviously a very good thing for the Belmont. His sire is Kingmambo, who is also the sire of Lemon Drop Kid, the winner of the 1999 Belmont.
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