Ranking Belmont Stakes Field Entries by Breeding Pedigree
The Belmont Stakes is the longest and toughest challenge that any horse in this race will face in his career. It's a full quarter mile further than the Derby, and even more of a step up from any other race these horses would have run in. And it's a distance beyond what horses in North America are typically bred for. We favor speed over stamina here. So, the breeding of these horses is as important as any factor when it comes to picking a winner in this race.
To help us get ready for the challenge of picking a winner, here is the ranking of all 10 likely entrants by the quality of their breeding for this task. In general terms, though we have a clear No. 1, the gap between the top four isn't large. And though the last three or four on the list aren't ideal, there aren't any massive alarms that suggest that a horse has no chance. Joevia's breeding is a concern as we'll see, but it's far from the only reason to doubt his competitiveness here.
1. Intrepid Heart: His sire is Tapit, who has sired three Belmont winners since 2014. His grandsire is the great A.P. Indy, who won this race himself and is the most important sire of his generation. A.P. Indy is a son of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, and Triple Crown winner and Belmont stakes record winner Secretariat is his damsire. And Tapit's damsire, Unbridled, won the Derby, and he sired Belmont winner Empire Maker. Empire Maker is the grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. Unbridled also has Belmont winners Birdstone and Summer Bird in his direct line. I could go on, but you get the point - Tapit's breeding is basically perfect for this race, and he has proven it multiple times. Intrepid Heart's breeding strength doesn't end there, though - his damsire, Touch Gold, is also a Belmont winner.
2. Tacitus: The likely Belmont favorite is another son of Tapit, and as we know that's a very good thing. Tacitus is a step behind Intrepid Heart by this measure, though, because damsire First Defence brings little of note. He's standing in Saudi Arabia now, which is a clear sign that his fortunes here had faded. By far his biggest success at stud was siring champion Close Hatches, the mother of Tacitus.
3. Everfast: The Preakness runner-up is a son of Take Charge Indy, who is a young sire himself, but is a son of A.P. Indy. That means that the great champion's blood runs thicker in his veins than in Tapit's. There is more potential than accomplishment, though. Everfast's damsire is Awesome Again, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic, and sired Classic winner Ghostzapper.
4. Bourbon War: This is the third and final son of Tapit in the field. He falls this low because his damsire, Artie Schiller, isn't an asset here. He won the Breeders' Cup Mile but never showed any stamina. And as a stallion he has struggled, winding up in Australia.
5. Sir Winston: This is a son of Awesome Again, Everfast's damsire. He had strong stamina and showed he could pass it along. His sire was Deputy Minister, who sired Belmont winner Touch Gold - the damsire of Intrepid Heart. Sir Winston's damsire is Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, who unfortunately hasn't turned into a great sire.
6. Spinoff: This is a son of Hard Spun, who ran competitively in all three Triple Crown races but didn't quite handle this race. And as a sire he hasn't quite taken off. Hard Spun's sire, Danzig, was a great sire, but he never had an impact on this race. Spinoff's damsire is Gone West, who sired Belmont winner Commendable and is the grandsire of Smarty Jones. Gone West's damsire is Secretariat.
7. Tax: He is a son of Arch, who sired Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame, and he has Derby winners Nyquist and I'll Have Another in his line as a damsire. Damsire Giant's Causeway is a European legend who was more successful as a turf sire than on dirt. He is the damsire of the great Gun Runner, though.
8. War of Will: The Preakness winner is a son of War Front. This colt is by far War Front's most successful offspring. War Front is a son of Danzig. Damsire Sadler's Wells is another great European stallion who has had little direct impact on this race.
9. Master Fencer: This Japanese colt is a son of Just A Way. He was named World's Best Racehorse in 2014, but he ran his best on turf and at shorter distances. He's a new sire, so we don't have a large sample size for expectations here. Just A Way's grandsire, Sunday Silence, won the Derby and Preakness, then was soundly beaten in the second-fastest Belmont ever. Master Fencer's damsire, Deputy Minister, sired Awesome Again and Touch Gold, who both have multiple influences on this race this year.
10. Joevia: The easiest decision on this list was putting Intrepid Heart first. The second easiest decision was putting Joevia last. This breeding isn't ideal. Sire Shanghai Bobby was two-year-old champion, but in his two prep races at three before he was injured, he faded in the stretch. Stamina is a concern. His sire, Harlan's Holiday, sired Belmont runner-up Denis of Cork. Joevia's damsire is War Front, the largely unproven sire of War of Will.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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