Patch captured the hearts of the general public in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby because he has only one eye. That was obviously presented in tear-jerking and inspiring fashion leading up to the race, and people were hooked. But then he didn't run much of a race. The same story will likely be told leading up to this race. Can Patch do a better job of representing the hopes and financial dreams of his backers this time around?
Last race: I obviously couldn't be anything but impressed by stablemate Always Dreaming in the Derby, but I absolutely hated the race this horse ran. His one eye drew a lot of public betting money, and he just wasted it with a very flat effort. He sat mid-pack early, found some contact around the last turn, totally quit at the first sign of that adversity, and basically just loped down the stretch. He finished 14th but only because horses who were even worse on the day passed him going backwards. I have watched the replay of the race countless times and have yet to find a single positive thing to say about what Patch did.
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Prior experience: I was obviously very negative about the performance the horse gave in the Derby, but I should also mention that I had no reason to expect anything else. He had run only three times in his career before that and had only debuted in January, so there was no reason to believe that he was ready for the insanity that is the Derby. He'd never handled real adversity - beyond losing an eye, of course - so it was hard to believe he would be able to. And he wasn't. He debuted on Jan. 15, finishing second, and won a maiden race on Feb. 18. Then he went to the Louisiana Derby - a race that has not been flattered by passing time - and finished second behind Girvin - the horse that he had contact with in the Derby. That is a long way from an ideal path to the Derby, and that plus a lousy Derby showing is not a perfect path to the Belmont.
Trainer: Todd Pletcher can win Triple Crown races, as he obviously proved just a few weeks ago by winning the Kentucky Derby for the second time. He's also won this race twice - with Rags to Riches in 2007 and Palace Malice in 2013, and he has a much better win percentage here than in the Derby. He has been named the nation's top trainer seven times and has many meet titles in New York, where he is based. He's obviously more than capable of shining in this spot.
Jockey: John Velazquez is positioned to get the call since he is the first-call rider for Pletcher but doesn't ride Tapwrit. Tyler Gaffalione has been on board for the last two rides, but while he is a rider on the rise he's not in the same stratosphere as Velazquez, and he didn't do much to earn another shot with that ride in the Derby. Velazquez, of course, just won the Derby on Always Dreaming, so he is obviously capable at this level. He also has won this race twice - for Pletcher with Rags to Riches in 2007 and five years later aboard Union Rags, the sire of Patch. Velazquez has been riding the horse in the morning, which is almost always a giveaway - he doesn't need to ride horses just to earn a few extra bucks, so if he's riding a horse in the morning he's riding it in the afternoon, too. He would be a big asset for this colt.
Breeding: This is another horse that is definitely bred well for this challenge. He is a son of Union Rags, who won this race in 2012. Union Rags is a son of Dixie Union, who won the Haskell Invitational, a top summer race for three year olds. And Patch's damsire is A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont in 1992 and has gone on to be one of the great stamina influences of all time. It's no fluke that A.P. Indy was so potent in this race - he is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and Secretariat, perhaps the greatest of all Triple Crown winners, is his damsire. A.P. Indy sired Belmont winner Rags to Riches and is the grandsire of two other Belmont winners.
Odds: Bovada doesn't really like the chances of the one-eyed wonder. At +1800, only three other horses have longer odds in the prospective 14-horse field. I would find it hard to argue with that, though in relative terms at least you could suggest that his breeding could mean that there is some value to be had here.
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