2013 Belmont Stakes Trainers
by Trevor Whenham - 6/4/2013
The Belmont Stakes this year provides us with some very interesting storylines among the trainers:
You obviously can’t talk about the Belmont Stakes this year without talking about Pletcher. As it sits the day before entries are officially due, Pletcher is expected to enter five horses. That is fully a third of the field. He won’t have the favorite, though Revolutionary is likely to go off as the second choice.
There is a little bit of everything among his group. Revolutionary was third in the Derby and is talented and highly-regarded. Overanalyze laid an egg in the Derby but should be much improved. Palace Malice ran away from jockey Mike Smith in that race and was solely responsible for the ridiculous early fractions that killed the chances of any horse with speed. Midnight Taboo seems to be outclassed and out of place, but horses like that can win here — as Da’Tara regrettably proved. Unlimited Budget is the first filly to contest the race since Rags To Riches beat Curlin in 2007 — also for Pletcher.
While Pletcher certainly has the advantage of numbers, that doesn’t usually help him in the Triple Crown races. You only have to look back to the Derby to see the last time he had five in a race, and the third by Revolutionary was his only solid result. The one big difference here, though, is that Overanalyze, Unlimited Budget and Midnight Taboo are all owned by Mike Repole. That certainly opens up the possibility for more aggressive race tactics.
D. Wayne Lukas
Lukas is far behind Pletcher, but for the third straight Triple Crown race this year he will be entering the same two horses — Oxbow and Will Take Charge. While he can’t match Pletcher in volume, he does have Oxbow’s impressive Preakness victory to show for his efforts.
Lukas is such an interesting story at this point in his career. He essentially invented the high-volume stable that was intensely focused on the Triple Crown — like Pletcher, a former Lukas assistant, runs now. A few years ago it seemed like his career was sadly going to fade away. He has rediscovered his mojo now, though, and at 77 is training as well as he has in years — though with a much smaller stable than in his prime.
His two horses are ready and intriguing here, and no trainer in history has won more Triple Crown races. He’s a real contender. In fact, I would probably be quite happy taking Lukas and his two entrants over Pletcher’s five this year.
McGaughey’s win in the Derby with Orb was a spectacular story. He’s an all-time legend of the sport, but he hasn’t consistently focused on three-year-old males, so his Derby shots have been few and far between. His win capped a great career and ignited Triple Crown fever. The underwhelming performance in the Preakness threw water on those dreams, but McGaughey isn’t giving up yet.
His horse is tight and ready to go, and he is back at his home base at Belmont, so he is comfortable and ready.
This is neither the first nor the last time you will hear this about a trainer in this race — Stewart was a long-time assistant for Lukas before going out on his own. He has not won a Triple Crown race and hasn’t had a lot of shots, though his second-place finish in the Derby this year with Golden Soul was as impressive as it was surprising.
He has had his share of big wins, though, including a massive upset in the 2006 Kentucky Oaks with Lemons Forever.
Rodriguez, a former jockey, has a better sense of exactly how well his horse Vyjack is working in the mornings than most trainers because he also serves as exercise rider. Unfortunately, the trainer attracts more than his share of controversy.
He served a 20-day suspension for positive drug tests in his horses early in the year, and is facing two more pending cases right now. He had to fight to get a license in Kentucky for the Derby as a result.
He is also at the heart of a strange story. Last week he says he sent Vyjack out to work at Aqueduct, but the track clocker did not see or record the work. It has officially been recorded as a 1:12.11 work for six furlongs, but there are still doubters.
In 2007, Rodriguez, who was working for Rick Dutrow, an impossibly slimy trainer who is serving a 10-year suspension, was suspended and fined for hiding the workout of Wild Desert.
Stop me if you have heard this before — McLaughlin is a former Lukas assistant. Since being on his own he has had a long and fruitful relationship training for the royal family of Dubai, and he won the 2006 Belmont for them with Jazil.
His horse here, Incognito, seems hopelessly out of place. So high is my respect for McLaughlin, though, that his involvement at least forces me to consider the possibility that he belongs.
Like McLaughlin, Albertrani has had a long and fruitful relationship with the royal family of Dubai, and he won the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini. He’s also a very easy guy to respect, though his success hasn’t been quite as striking as McLaughlin’s.
His entrant, Freedom Child, is coming off a win in the Peter Pan here at Belmont the week before the Preakness. That ensures he’ll get respect from bettors — more than he deserves, likely.
Tony is the older brother of the highly-controversial Rick. He’s not nearly as controversial, though he isn’t shy to test the limits of the sport at times.
His Giant Finish didn’t make much sense as a Derby entrant and doesn’t make much more sense in this spot.
McPeek is another trainer with a horse, Frac Daddy, that wasn’t great in the Derby and is hard to get excited about here. After 2002, though, I will never rule out a McPeek horse in this race. That year the biggest crowd in Belmont history came to witness War Emblem win the Triple Crown and instead watched McPeek’s Sarava win the race at 70/1.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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