Selfishly, I hope Suddenbreakingnews doesn't win the Belmont this year. I spend a lot of time each year writing about past winners of the race, and having to write this name for years to come just gives me nightmares. I may not get my wish, though. The fifth-place finisher in the Derby had a deceptively strong outing in that race, and he is bred to run forever. Oddsmakers have responded, making him the early second choice in the Belmont - albeit miles behind favored Exaggerator. So, can he live up to his newfound hype and deliver a massive win?
Last race: The last race for this horse was the biggest race he'll ever run in - the Kentucky Derby. It went pretty well and would have gone better if he had had a more competent ride. He's a closer, so we expected him to be well off the pace. He was much further back than was ideal, though, and was actually losing ground early on. He made a nice move at the end to get to fifth and was only a couple of strides away from finishing higher, but he was so far back that he was in a big hole. Some of that was due to trouble he encountered early, but that doesn't explain it all. All in all, it was a decent effort.
Career highlights: Suddenbreakingnews spent his spring prepping in Arkansas at Oaklawn Park, and it went reasonably well for him. As with all major circuits, Oaklawn has a three-race prep schedule. He started out strong winning the Southwest Stakes. Next up was the Rebel, and that was not his day. He was forced to check his progress mid race and never recovered. He showed little late kick and finished fifth. In the Arkansas Derby he had a very strong race, closing strong to finish second despite being forced wide. The winner on that day was Creator, who is also headed to the Belmont. The Southwest was his first graded stakes victory, but in five starts at two he had three wins and two seconds in maiden races, an allowance and two lower-level stakes. Solid career.
Jockey: It was time for a change after the Derby, and he got a heck of an upgrade. Luis Quinonez had been aboard for every start, but he has been pushed aside here in favor of Mike Smith. The legendary Smith has won this race twice - with Drosselmeyer in 2010 and Palace Malice three years later. The 50 year old was based in New York earlier in his career, so he knows the surface well. He doesn't ride a full schedule anymore, but he is a very strong big-race rider - as his 22 Breeders' Cup wins demonstrate. He is a massive upgrade from Quinonez, and a big asset for a horse that could use some help in this race. I love this move.
Trainer: Donnie Von Hemel is not a household name to nationally-focused race fans, but he and his father and brother have been dominant trainers in Oklahoma and Arkansas for decades. He won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with Caleb's Posse in 2011, so he isn't entirely a stranger to high-level racing, and he has won well over 2,000 races in his career. He'll be fine here.
Pedigree: It would be tough for a horse to be better bred for this distance challenge. Sire Mineshaft was Horse of the Year in 2003 - a season in which he won multiple times at a mile and a quarter. Mineshaft is a son of A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont in 1992. That makes him a grandson of Seattle Slew, who won the Belmont in 1977 to cap his Triple Crown. Suddenbreakingnews' damsire is Afleet Alex, who won the Preakness and the Belmont in 2005. There is no reason to doubt that this horse can run a mile and a half comfortably.
Running style: Like seemingly every horse in the Belmont this year, Suddenbreakingnews is a closer. He has raced nine times and has been at or near the back of the pack early on eight times - including his last seven outings. The lack of early pace in this race - there is no clear frontrunner that will be sure to set the early pace at this point - is a concern for this horse and so many others. Smith will likely be a bit more aggressive in this race than the horse has been in the last two to attempt to get a better trip than in the Derby, but it is very unlikely that he will look to have anything to do with the early pace. His ability to run off of slower early fractions is untested.
Belmont outlook: I like a lot about this horse - the jockey change, the breeding, the late move he made in the Derby. I'm concerned by the likely race shape, though, and by the fact that he will have a lot of traffic to deal with because so many horses will be coming from the back. I don't have a real issue with him being the second choice, but I view the current odds of 6/1 as an absolute floor given the risk. At the right price, though, he's a real consideration.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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