Todd Pletcher had a massively disappointing Kentucky Derby - yet again. His Preakness didn't turn out like he hoped, either. Now he's on to the Belmont - with one horse from the Derby and one from the Preakness if all goes to plans. That's good news for him - this is a track he has dominated and the Triple Crown race he has done best in. Destin is hugely-talented, but the concern going into the Derby was that he was too rested and too inexperienced. Now he's a bit more experienced and well-rested again. So, can he be a big factor in this Belmont?
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Last race: All in all it was a pretty forgettable day for Destin in the Derby. He was bumped out of the gate and took a while to get comfortable again. Then he was forced wide while moving mid-pack. He mounted a bit of a charge around the final turn and was sitting as high as fourth, but he ran out of gas and wound up sixth. The early contact out of the gate was entirely his fault as he moved sharply out of his line - a risk of a raw horse. Ultimately, it just wasn't his day - though that proves more that the Derby is a tough race than that he doesn't necessarily measure up.
Career highlights: After breaking his maiden on the first try and then finishing second in an allowance at two, Destin ran in three stakes races prior to the Derby. He was fourth in the LeComte at Fair Grounds behind Mo Tom and Tom's Ready, who he also faced in the Derby. After that he moved to Tampa Bay Downs and dominated the prep schedule there, winning both the Sam F. Davis and the Tampa Bay Derby. The latter race was on March 12, so he was off for nearly two months before the Derby - too long as it turned out.
Jockey: Javier Castellano has been aboard for four of six starts, including the last two, so he will be aboard again here. It's a no-brainer - even if he wasn't a primary rider for Pletcher. Castellano has led the nation in earnings the last three years and has done so while being based in New York. He knows this track as well as anyone and obviously knows the horse as well. Having Castellano aboard in this spot is a big advantage for this horse.
Trainer: Pletcher gets a lot of criticism - from me as much as anyone - about his Derby performance. It just stinks. He is much better in the Belmont, though. He has won the race twice - in 2007 with Rags to Riches and 2013 with Palace Malice. He also has four second-place finishes. All of that comes with just 20 career starts in the race. It only makes sense. He often ignores the Preakness so he can bring horses from Kentucky back to his New York base, and he can work them for five weeks to get them sharp for the Belmont. Having Pletcher as a trainer is a serious knock in the Derby but a boost here.
Pedigree: Destin is a son of Giant's Causeway, the 2000 European Horse of the Year who won multiple times at a mile and a quarter. He hasn't turned into a great sire, but he is a decent stamina influence here. He is doing all the heavy lifting in this pedigree, though. Damsire Siberian Summer was an undistinguished California sire who doesn't bring much to the table in terms of handling the Belmont distance. This pedigree isn't a disaster for this race, but it's far from the best in the race.
Running style: Unlike most horses in this race that seem to like to sit well off the pace and close late, Destin is more of a mid-pack horse who likes to push the pace from closer before making his move. Because there is so little early speed in this race at this point, it's quite possible that he will find himself closer to the lead than normal early on - or perhaps even on the lead. His ability to adapt to that will dictate his success on the day. On the plus side, he won't have to deal with the inevitable traffic jam behind him as all the closers look for room to move.
Belmont outlook: Bovada currently has Destin listed as the 10/1 fifth choice in the field. That's a fair spot for him to be. I don't like that he has raced just twice in more than three months, and I am not in love with his breeding. He has shown some real class in his wins, though, and being ahead of all the closers could be an advantage to him. I struggle to imagine him winning the race, but he stands a good chance of being in the exotics mix.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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