The Belmont Stakes is June 8
With the dust barely settling from the Preakness Stakes and the disappointment sinking in that horse racing will once again go without a Triple Crown winner, the gaze now switches to the Belmont Stakes.
The Belmont Stakes on June 8 is truly the test of champions. At a grueling 1 1/2 miles, it is farther than any of these horses have ever run in a race and longer than most will ever compete in again. After Oxbow turned in an upset performance in the Preakness Stakes, the Triple Crown is no longer a possibility for Orb.
Here are some early predictions about what to expect three weeks from now in the Belmont Stakes.
Will Oxbow go to the Belmont?
The Belmont Stakes has a history of favoring fresh horses.
Just last year, after a horrendous trip cost Union Rags all chance in the Derby, he sat out the Preakness and instead pointed to New York. That choice paid off handsomely, and he defeated Paynter in a thrilling stretch run.
At this point, some of the Kentucky Derby also-rans that are pointing toward the Belmont include Overanalyze, Revolutionary, Palace Malice (notice a Todd Pletcher-themed trend?) and runner-up Golden Soul.
This year, the advantage will go to those who come in fresh. If Oxbow, the Preakness champion, goes to the Belmont Stakes, he will have had an incredibly tough Triple Crown stretch.
After saddling five horses in the Kentucky Derby and finishing no better than third, top trainer Todd Pletcher opted to skip a trip to Maryland and focus on the Belmont Stakes instead. He could be just as loaded in the Belmont.
You can rest assured he will be back with a vengeance in the third jewel of the Triple Crown. His likely contender from the Kentucky Derby is Revolutionary, the game closer who has yet to run a bad race. In addition, he may have a new shooter or two from his arsenal of fillies.
Yes, he may send a girl to tackle the boys in the Belmont Stakes.
In 2007, Rags to Riches gave him his first-ever victory in a Triple Crown race when she defeated male rivals in the Belmont. He may have a filly or two to try to fill her horse shoes in Dreaming of Julia and Princess of Sylmar.
Revolutionary comes in fresh after skipping the Preakness
In the Belmont Stakes, the distance of 1 1/2 miles can be a daunting, physically demanding test for any horse.
To succeed in the Belmont Stakes, a horse needs more than just talent to win. This race has been the undoing for many a great horse because of the distance. The horses that do the best are the ones with true stamina in their pedigrees.
Some horses that are pointing toward the Belmont Stakes that are bred to truly excel at the distance are Revolutionary, the filly Dreaming of Julia and, of course, Orb. The question remains whether or not Orb will go on to try to redeem his Preakness performance in the Belmont, but he has the pedigree to do so.
Though Preakness victor Oxbow has a stamina-infused pedigree, he has shown in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness that it may be asking a bit much to stretch his speed to 1 1/2 miles.
D. Wayne Lukas
D. Wayne Lukas proved all of his doubters wrong in the Preakness Stakes when he teamed up with veteran jockey Gary Stevens to steal the Preakness Stakes with Oxbow. It was the sixth time Lukas had taken the Preakness in his storied, Hall of Fame career.
He saddled three horses in the Preakness, and while it remains to be seen whether or not any of the three will go on to the Belmont Stakes, we do know that Lukas does not like to sit out of a big race.
He has won the Belmont Stakes twice. His last victory came in 2000 with long shot Commendable, who rebounded in a big way in the Belmont after finishing 17th in the Derby that year.
Gary Stevens and Oxbow win the Preakness
The Belmont Stakes, because of the formidable distance, can turn into a truly strategic jockey's race.
With every rider wanting to conserve every ounce of their horse's energy for Belmont Park's notoriously long stretch, position and pace become crucial.
In the Preakness, Gary Stevens put his decades of experience to use and took advantage of becoming the lone speed, stealing the race. If Oxbow does go on to the Belmont Stakes, he and Stevens will be unlikely to get away with the pedestrian fractions that earned them their Preakness triumph.
However, never count out Stevens. He came out of retirement with one thing in mind: To add another tremendous chapter to his already legendary personal history book.
Orb may move on to the Belmont Stakes
Immediately after the Preakness Stakes, trainer Shug McGaughey confirmed that if his colt came out of the Preakness in good health, they would go on to the Belmont Stakes.
In the Preakness, Kentucky Derby champion Orb had no apparent excuses. He got stuck inside of horses, and that was too much for him to overcome. While he was making up ground at the end, it was not nearly enough to have an impact.
McGaughey has trained a horse to successfully compete in all three legs before. In 1989, Easy Goer won the Belmont Stakes after finishing second to Sunday Silence in the Derby and Preakness that year. Belmont is McGaughey's home track, and Orb is as comfortable with that long stretch as anyone.
He is a better horse than the Preakness may indicate, and hopefully he gets another chance to prove it.