For those unacquainted, the Belmont Stakes is the last leg of the holy Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing. The biggest story of the year, of course, is I'll Have Another, the winner of both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.
While many have come before I'll Have Another, this year's upstart horse looks to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978's Affirmed. With only two days until the Belmont, I'll Have Another's Triple Crown looks eminent.
The difference between the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes is the length of the track. The length grows between races, with the Preakness serving as the shortest at 1.91km or one-and-three-sixteenths miles. After 1992's A.P. Indy, the bar has been set at 2:26:13. Can I'll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez beat the record?
History says not, but why would someone watch sporting events if they absolutely knew the outcome. Was the "Miracle on Ice" team supposed to win? How about the "Miracle Mets?" Miraculous could be added onto I'll Have Another's name if he can pull off the Triple Crown.
Per the official BelmontStakes.com, 11 horses will be competing in the Stakes, with only one horse having odds better than 5-1. This horse, naturally, is I'll Have Another. The horse looks to continue its streak, while the others are overcast by history.
Will it be the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years? We'll all find out in two days, but the following horses could serve to ruin that feat and win their own race.
Dullahan, ridden by Javier Castellano, has the best odds of beating the incumbent. At 5-1, and having placed third in the Kentucky Derby, Dullahan has been relatively close to I’ll Have Another.
To anyone that watched the Derby, Dullahan started out slowly, reaching the quarter pole at 11th place, but as the race wore on, Dullahan picked it up. Down the stretch, Dullahan gave Bodemeister and I’ll Have Another a run for their money, and it looked as if he could have come back if given a longer track. If Dullahan can start out faster and finish stronger on this longer track, he should be taken as a serious contender.
If not Dullahan, Union Rags looks to have the best shot.
Although his 7th place in the Kentucky Derby looks subpar, his 6-1 odds still place him as a serious contender for the Belmont. In a pre-race video of the Kentucky Derby, trainer Michael Matz was very positive about his horse.
Union Rags may have to worry about his No. 3 post position because of his pace coming out of the gate. Union Rags is not one to impress someone with his speed out of the gates, and this deficit may come back to haunt the horse. He was slow out of the gate in the Kentucky Derby, and cornered and pushed near the back.
A possible strategy for new jockey John Velasquez would be not to originally push towards the inside, but start on a straight line. A different vector may lengthen the race for Union Rags, but will save him from becoming cornered.
A dark horse for the Belmont Stakes would have to be Bodemeister's stablemate, Paynter. Although he may not have won a major race, his last allowance race at Pimlico resulted in a win. At 8-1 odds, he is favored for 4th, but a quick start may lead to Paynter's win.