The Belmont wouldn't be the Belmont if it didn't have a horse or two completely out of left field entered. Of course, after the shocking win by Da' Tara in 2008 at massive odds we know we can't rule out any horse here. The grueling distance, and the fact that the favorites are often running for the third time in five weeks, means that anything can and often does happen here. But let's be clear - Da' Tara makes Governor Malibu look like American Pharoah in comparison.
There are some things to like about this serious long shot. But is he good enough to be any kind of factor here in the Belmont Stakes?
Last race: If nothing else, his last race showed us that he likes this Belmont track. Running in the Peter Pan the week before the Preakness, he closed strong to finish a solid second behind the undefeated Unified, who many expected to see here in this race - but he likely won't run. He was much further off the pace than he typically is in this one, but he handled it well, and it was a decent effort. The race was only a mile and an eighth, and that is the furthest he has run. So that's a concern. It was a professional race on this surface, though, and it showed that there is room for this horse to grow.
Career highlights: The race before the Peter Pan was a win (sort of). He was the first horse across the line in the Federico Tesio, which is the major local prep race for the Preakness. Things got physical in the stretch, though, and he was disqualified and placed second in favor of Awesome Speed, who went on to be an also-ran in the Preakness. It was a solid effort despite the setback - albeit not in a graded stakes race. As a two year old he broke his maiden in his fourth try, though he did throw in a stakes race - at Belmont - in which finished third among the maiden races. He also finished second in a maiden race at Belmont, so he clearly likes the track. He made his three year old debut in a stakes race at Aqueduct and got a win there. All in all it has been a solid career, but he is taking a massive step up in class here.
Jockey: Joel Rosario has been aboard for four of the six starts for the horse, and he is scheduled to be back again here. Rosario perennially finishes in the Top 5 in earnings nationally, though he is off to a slower start this year. He won this race in 2014 with Tonalist, and he has finished second once and third twice as well. He also has a Derby win, a Dubai World Cup win and four Breeders' Cup victories. He knows how to handle big race pressure. He's capable of getting a good run out of this horse and is yet another addition in what is a phenomenally strong jockey lineup here.
Trainer: Christophe Clement is a man of the world. He was born in France and was the son of a horse trainer. He also worked as an assistant both here and in England before returning to New York to start his own stable in 1991. He has won nearly 1,700 races and well over $100 million in purses. He knows his stuff. He also won this race two years ago with Tonalist. Like Governor Malibu, Tonalist was not ready for the major Derby preps, and instead used the Peter Pan - which he won - as a stepping stone for the Belmont. Clement hopes that history repeats itself.
Pedigree: Governor Malibu is a son of Malibu Moon, who also sired Orb - who won the Kentucky Derby with Rosario aboard. Malibu Moon is son of Belmont winner A.P. Indy and a grandson of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Needless to say, there is some stamina coming from Governor Malibu's sire side. His damsire is Langfuhr, who was a top sprinter in his day. He has passed stamina on to his offspring, though. Notably, son Wando won the Canadian Triple Crown. The breeding here is quite solid.
Running style: In two of his three races at Belmont he has looked like a classic closer, settling well off the pace early before uncorking a late move. More often, though, he has looked to press the pace early on, never leading, but often sitting in the top two or three horses through the early fractions. The versatility will prove useful here. No obvious early speed has emerged so far, so his ability to be closer to the lead than much of the field could serve him well in this race. I suspect Rosario will look to have him well forward in the early stages here.
Belmont outlook: He hasn't run the distance, and he hasn't faced this class of horses. Those are big concerns. His trainer has done well in his race, though, and his jockey is up to the challenge. The breeding is fine, and he likes this track. I was willing to write him off early, but I have warmed up to the possibility of using him in my exotics as the race has neared.
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