Hollywood Handsome was ruled out of Belmont Stakes not too long after the Preakness, but with the defections of Irap and Conquest Mo Money from the prospective field trainer Dallas Stewart felt that there was an opportunity again. Combine that with how well he has been training, and it seemed worth a shot. On paper it isn't entirely obvious why the connections would feel that way, but then we aren't around the horse all the time and they are. He will go off as a big race time long shot - he's the longest shot on the board at this point. Our job, then, is to figure out if he is the kind of long shot that is useful or the kind that burns the money of dreamers.
Last race: Hollywood Handsome celebrated Mother's Day by winning a six-horse allowance race at Churchill Downs. He sat fourth through the first half mile of the mile and a sixteenth race behind fairly casual fractions. He started moving forward into the final turn, but his move was far more grinding one than explosive. He never quit advancing, though, and under very enthusiastic encouragement from jockey Florent Geroux he wound up catching the leader just before the wire and winning by a neck. He was the even-money favorite in the race, so the result doesn't come as much of a surprise. There wasn't anything in particular to hate about the race, and you could see him moving forward from it, but it is tougher to believe that he will move forward into a spot like this. This is a huge step up in class.
Prior experience: Prior to the allowance win Hollywood Handsome had run eight times and won just once. He tried to break his maiden four times as a two year old without much success - his best showings were a pair of fourth-place finishes. The fifth time was a charm, though, because on Jan. 21 he broke his maiden Fair Grounds at just over a mile. Most striking in that two-length victory was that Multiplier, who is also heading to the Belmont, was third in the same race. A month later it was an allowance race at Fair Grounds. He was a totally irrelevant third, and it was hard to be too impressed, yet the connections decided it was time to jump to stakes races. First was the Louisiana Derby. He was last in the nine-horse field much of the way and moved up to fourth at the end. Some more familiar faces were in the field that he will meet again at Belmont - Patch was second, and Senior Investment was sixth. That was the end of his Derby dreams, but he headed next to the Illinois Derby. He was again at the back of the field early on but lacked a serious rally and got up for only fifth in the seven-horse field. Multiplier was the winner in that one, so that horse seems to have improved more than this one.
Trainer: Dallas Stewart started his career as an assistant for the legendary D. Wayne Lukas. Most notably during those high-powered years, Stewart was responsible for three horses that won five straight Triple Crown races, including two Belmonts, starting with the 1994 Preakness - Tabasco Cat, Thunder Gulch and Timber Country. On his own since 1997, Stewart has won plenty of big races. What he is best known for, though, is delivering with real long shots in big races - which is why this horse is getting the attention he is. He won the 2006 Kentucky Oaks with the longest shot ever to win the race - 47/1 Lemons Forever. When Orb won the Kentucky Derby in 2013, Stewart was second with Golden Soul at 50/1 to cap a massive exacta. The next year he was again second with 37/1 Commanding Curve. So, it's tough to love this horse, but we don't need to be scared off because of the odds with Stewart at the helm.
Jockey: Florent Geroux rode the horse last time out and is back again for this race. Geroux, who was born in France, had his breakthrough season last year when he wound up fifth in the country in earnings. He's again in the Top 10 this year. He doesn't have a Triple Crown race win, but he will before he is done. He already has three Breeders' Cup wins, and though he doesn't ride in New York regularly he has won big races on this track so he is familiar with the unique layout. Geroux is by far the easiest thing to like about this horse.
Breeding: Hollywood Handsome is a son of Tapizar. Tapizar was a Breeders' Cup winner, but that came in the Dirt Mile, so it isn't hugely helpful to his son in this challenge. Tapizar is a son of Tapit, though, and that stud has sired two of the last three Belmont winners - Tonalist and Creator. Hollywood Handsome's damsire is another celebrated miler, Forestry. Forestry is best known as the sire of Preakness winner Shackleford, who is the sire of Meantime who is also pointed at the Belmont this year. The overall breeding for Hollywood Handsome is far from ideal for this marathon challenge.
Odds: MyBookie has the colt at 40/1 to win the Belmont Stakes. That makes him the longest shot in the field, which is pretty much exactly what he should be viewed as. You can't rule him out because of Geroux and Stewart, but you also can't get too excited about his chances.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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