The absence of I'll Have Another probably drops the Belmont Stakes' television rating down a few points. It probably curbs merchandise sales at the track and wagers on the race. However, the Belmont is such a drama-filled race that fans shouldn't turn the dial just yet. Here are some reasons why:
While there are still at least two favorites in the race in Dullahan and Union Rags, it is the long shots whose chances got better. Horses like Paynter (4-1), Street Life (6-1), Atigun (15-1), and Unstoppable U (20-1) are great underdog colts to root for. Betting on them is a whole lot of fun and should they win, they'll provide a storyline that could overshadow IHA's retirement.
As you are likely aware, the Belmont Stakes is the longest race most of these horses will ever run. At 1 1/2 miles, the track is as unforgiving as it is expansive. Fans should keep in mind that these horses are running at scorching speeds for an enormous amount of time; this, in itself, is unbelievable. One of the more interesting things to see in the Belmont is how far away the horses get. Fans at the track could actually lose sight of horses going down the backstretch. The race is one of the most interesting in the world, and simply witnessing it is entertaining enough.
Let's remember that horse racing is a gambler's sport. Understanding how to handicap and making picks is part of the fun at any horse race. With new technology like off-site betting and wagering sites online, a casual fan could increase his or her interest by making a pick and betting a few dollars.
Here are some great storylines to follow come race time:
Union Rags is looking to not disappoint for the first time this year. His owner Phyllis Wyeth bought the colt back at a loss after selling him at auction earlier in his career. Michael Matz is looking to avenge his Triple Crown past after the Barbaro tragedy in 2006. Rags is a sentimental favorite and is an interesting horse to follow.
Ken McPeek enters Atigun and Unstoppable U in thes year's Belmont Stakes. The trainer saw his 70-1 longshot ride to an upset victory in 2002, and will hope to repeat history this year.
Chad Brown, trainer of Street Life, is only 33 years old. His biggest win has come in the Breeders Cup Juvenile Filly Turf in 2008. He will look to follow in the footsteps of his mentor, hall of fame trainer Robert Frankel, with a big win.
No horse has won the Belmont Stakes during the current Triple Crown drought by being farther than 4th place at the head of the stretch. In fact, only one horse has won since being outside of third place in the past 33 years. Why is this interesting? Dullahan has only run third or higher at that position in two races in his career. He loves to battle back from 4th or 5th place, but that might not work on the Belmont track.
D Wayne Lukas got kicked in the head by a horse last week. This really isn't too interesting, but in case you were wondering why he had a huge scar on his head...that's why.