Dullahan was a solid third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby last time out. It was a much better result than he should have had given his race. He bumped Union Rags hard out of the gate—a collision that derailed the other horse. He was forced seven-wide around the final turn, as well, in a fight for position heading into the crucial stretch drive. He didn’t have much room to operate in the first turn as he was pressed into the rail.
Despite all that, though, he moved forward very nicely and rallied from 13th after ¾ of a mile to third at the wire. With another few strides he would have caught the fading Bodemeister for second as well.
The result is somewhat flattering in that he was no threat at all to I’ll Have Another; but it was a solid, professional race on a day when many horses that should have been better really weren’t.
The horse has had two very big days in his life. Last October he won the Breeders Futurity and in April he won the Blue Grass Stakes. Both are Grade 1 races, and winning two of those in a career is far from a common feat.
The asterisk, though, is that both came at Keeneland, so both were run on a synthetic surface. On dirt he hasn’t been quite as impressive, with both the Derby and a fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as potential proof that he’s not quite the same horse off the rubber.
Jockey: Javier Castellano
Castellano is a top-level jockey best known for winning the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic on Ghostzapper and the 2006 Preakness on Bernardini.
He is based in New York and has been among the top jockeys there for a decade as he has amassed more than 3,000 career wins. He knows the Belmont track very well and that will be an asset in this race.
It will be his first time on the horse, though, so chemistry is an unknown.
Kent Desormeaux has been the regular rider, but a failed alcohol test just before he was about to ride in the day’s races cost him a Preakness mount, the mount here and much more. It’s the latest sad twist in his downward spiral.
Trainer: Dale Romans
Romans is best known for winning the Dubai World Cup in 2005 with Roses in May and last year’s Preakness with Shackleford.
He is based in Kentucky, and he is consistently among the top trainers there.
Romans deserves tremendous credit for the managing of this horse. After the solid Derby showing, virtually every trainer would have pointed the horse at the Preakness if he came out of the Derby sound—which Dullahan did. Romans liked the Belmont spot better, though, and had the patience to wait and bring a fresh horse to New York.
It’s a move that could easily backfire, but it could also make him look like a genius.
The biggest factor in the Belmont is to look for indications that the horse can handle the grueling challenge of the mile-and-a-half race—by far the longest any of these horses have been asked to race, and more than most horses are really capable of.
The pedigree could certainly be worse on that front.
Grandsire Unbridled’s Song has developed a reputation for siring wildly-impressive but fragile horses. His offspring have not yet won a classic, though Dunkirk came close when he was second in the Belmont in 2009.
Unbridled’s Song is, logically, a son of Unbridled. That stud has the rare distinction of siring a winner of each of the three Triple Crown races, so obviously stamina isn’t an issue in his progeny.
Dullahan’s damsire is Smart Strike. He’s a legendary sire of great horses, including two-time Horse of the Year and Preakness winner Curlin, 2010 Preakness winner Lookin at Lucky, and turf superstar and stamina superfreak English Channel. He is also the damsire of 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird, and 2010 third place finisher at the Belmont, First Dude.
There is no shortage of stamina influence here, so there isn’t a reason to doubt Dullahan’s ability to get the distance—especially since he was moving forward at the end of the Derby.
At his best he is a mid-to-deep closer who likes to settle well-off the pace before getting wound up for his one move starting on the final turn. He doesn’t like to get totally out of contact with the field, though, and can’t afford to here if I’ll Have Another can get the race he wants.
2012 Belmont Stakes handicapping for Dullahan
I expect him to go off as the third betting choice, though there is a chance that he’ll get bet on more than Union Rags does.
He’ll obviously be well behind I’ll Have Another in the betting attention, though. That could lead to some intriguing value.
I’ll Have Another is clearly best in the field, but you could make a strong case that this horse is second best, and that he could be poised to pick up the pieces if the race falls apart for the favorite.
I like the jockey change, I respect the trainer and I love the breeding, so he is a real factor here. I think he has the second-best chance of winning the race, and will be a big part of my exotic action.