Commissioner Odds to Win the 2014 Belmont Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/27/2014
Joining the solid list of horses who have raced in one or both of the previous Triple Crown races are two fresh invaders from the Peter Pan Stakes, which was held on May 10 at Belmont Park. The winner of that race, Tonalist, will be one of the betting favorites in the Belmont, and the horse that many seem to think can upset California Chrome. Second-place finisher Commissioner is also here, but he comes with far less attention or respect. So, can Commissioner win the Belmont? And, what are Commissioner's odds to win the Belmont, and do they offer any value? Let's take a look:
Commissioner's odds to win the Belmont: Sportsbook.ag is not impressed with this horse . They have him at +3000 to win the race, which puts him in a four-way tie at the back of the pack with suddenly out of vogue Social Inclusion, who was the second choice in the Preakness, along with Kid Cruz and Matuszak. It's hard to argue that the horse is getting disrespected at that price. Given the connection to Todd Pletcher and some brilliant and very recognizable breeding for this race, though, I expect the odds to be lower at post time.
Race experience: There are two things you can certainly say about this horse - he is experienced, and he is certainly familiar with some of his opposition here. Neither is as flattering as it could be. He has seven career starts, including four in graded stakes, so he is much more prepared for the challenge of this race than some of his opponents. The problem, though, is that he doesn't have a win in those stakes races, and the closest he came was last time out in the Peter Pan where he finished second to Tonalist. However, he was way, way behind the winner. Besides being beaten soundly by Tonalist, he also lost to Derby also-ran Citu in the Sunland Derby, trailed well behind Derby disappointment Wildcat Red and Derby and Preakness entrant General A Rod in the Fountain of Youth, and he was beaten up by stablemate and Derby third-place finisher Danza and second-favorite in the Belmont Ride On Curlin in the Arkansas Derby. He has faced a lot of good horses, but just hasn't been good enough against them.
Todd Pletcher: In the Kentucky Derby it's almost too easy to criticize Todd Pletcher. His record is abysmal, and the list of horses that have reached their potential in that race for him is very short. In this race, though, he has been far more successful. He won in 2007 with Rags to Riches and again last year with Palace Malice. He has had considerably fewer starters in this race than the Derby, so his win percentage is dramatically better. He is a terrible Derby trainer and quite a good Belmont trainer. There are a few reasons for this - he shows much more patience and discrimination in choosing Belmont starters than Derby ones, he trains in New York as his home base, he is more comfortable at Belmont than Churchill Downs, the generally high caliber of horses he attracts to his stable stand out better in the brutal test of the Belmont, and so on. Whatever the reason, while Pletcher is a reason to downgrade a horse in the Derby at this point, that isn't the case here.
Breeding: There is no doubt that this hose is bred to run the distance. In fact, his breeding is definitely the easiest thing to like about the horse. His sire is the legendary A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont himself and sired countless great horses, including Belmont winner Rags to Riches. He was retired in 2011 with major infertility issues, so this is the last time we will see a son of his in this race. It's also fitting that his last son runs in a race with a Triple Crown on the line - he is the son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and the grandson on his dam side of Triple Crown winner Secretariat. Commissioner's damsire knows a thing or two about winning this race, too. He is also a horse who crushed my soul like few others have over the years. Silver Charm was, at the time, my favorite horse ever and quite possibly my favorite athlete of any species ever. It was Commissioner's sire, Touch Gold, who won the Belmont and robbed Silver Charm of his Triple Crown. When a horse is the son of a Belmont winner, out of a mare that is the daughter of a Belmont winner, you can be pretty confident that the he will be capable of getting the Belmont distance.
Jockey: Javier Castellano is a freak - a riding savant. After finishing atop the North American rider standings and winning the Eclipse Award for top jockey last year, you might have expected him to slow down slightly this year given the target on his back. Here he sits, though, atop the standings again. What's more impressive, though, is that he is winning races a 27-percent clip - well beyond what anyone else is doing at a major track, never mind with the sample size he has and in the caliber of races he rides. He is an exceptional jockey at the top of his game, and he is an asset on this horse - especially because he rides in New York and knows Belmont and her quirks as well as anyone.
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