By the time the Belmont Stakes comes around, even casual thoroughbred racing fans have a pretty good idea of what to expect from some of the field’s top competitors.
Orb and Oxbow have appeared in each of the first two legs of the Triple Crown, the former winning the Garland of Roses at the Kentucky Derby and the latter earning the Black-Eyed Susan Blanket at the Preakness Stakes. Both should be present at Belmont on June 8 in pursuit of a second Triple Crown victory in 2013.
But Belmont will also boast several more horses that competed in at least one of those races—thoroughbreds like Will Take Charge and Revolutionary included. With a larger sample size from which to draw information, we have a much better idea of what to expect from those horses at Belmont.
The New Shooters at the Preakness failed to turn in a good performance (all three finishing outside the top five of the nine-horse field), but none of the three will be running in the final leg on June 8. Instead, the Belmont field could feature as many as seven first-time Triple Crown competitors in search of their piece of the pie.
With a field of 14 set to run at the Belmont Stakes, picking a winner isn’t quite as difficult as it was at the Derby, but not quite as simple as selecting from the nine-horse field at the Preakness. Several challengers will give Oxbow and Orb a run for their money in defense of their titles.
Let’s take a look at projections for the field of 14 and highlight a few horses not worth a place, show or finish wager at Belmont.
|Always in a Tiz||Dominick Schettino||David Cohen|
|Code West||Bob Baffert||Rosie Napravnik|
|Freedom Child||Tom Albertrani||Luis Saez|
|Giant Finish||Tony Dutrow||Undecided|
|Golden Soul||Dallas Stewart||Robby Albarado|
|Midnight Taboo||Todd Pletcher||Undecided|
|Orb||Shug McGaughey||Joel Rosario|
|Oxbow||D. Wayne Lukas||Gary Stevens|
|Palace Malice||Todd Pletcher||Mike Smith|
|Revolutionary||Todd Pletcher||Javier Castellano|
|Unlimited Budget||Todd Pletcher||Undecided|
|Will Take Charge||D. Wayne Lukas||Jon Court|
*Field information acquired from DRF.com.
Palace Malice was a popular sleeper pick to perform well at the Derby, but a 12th-place finish didn’t meet those expectations.
The Todd Pletcher-trained thoroughbred hasn’t run since that race, and didn’t secure a first-place finish on any track a mile or longer leading up to the Derby.
A second-place finish at Bluegrass and a third at Risen Star were enough to get the colt into the race at Churchill Downs, though neither is enough indication he can compete on the 1 1/2-mile track at Belmont.
Palace Malice’s running style may make that task extremely difficult on the long track as well. A horse that loves to race just off the pace in a stalking position, Palace Malice’s endurance will be tested, especially down the stretch when he may potentially have to overcome tremendous sprinters in Orb and Oxbow.
It would have taken a giant finish for Giant Finish to turn in a good performance on Churchill Downs’ sloppy track May 4. Jockey Jose Espinoza never got that extra boost, and his horse found himself in 10th place at the finish line.
The Tony Dutrow-trained colt is a pace-setting horse who loves to be out in front of the group. On Belmont’s long track, that won’t be an enviable position for any challenger, especially one that seemed to have lost steam on longer tracks in his 2013 competitions.
Giant Finish ran his first mile-long race in December and finished fifth, following that up with a first-place finish in January on a similar track. But since that race, the colt has finished second, third and 10th, all of those performances coming on tracks 1 1/16 miles or longer.
It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Giant Finish turn in a good performance at Belmont, but there’s nothing on his resume to suggest he’s worth a wager ahead of potential favorites like Oxbow, Orb, Golden Soul, Revolutionary and Will Take Charge. Unless you’re getting tremendous bang for your buck, keep Giant Finish off your ticket.
Always in a Tiz
Like Giant Finish, Always in a Tiz hasn’t fared as well on longer tracks in his three-year-old season. The Dominick Schettino-trained colt finished ninth at the Wood Memorial on a 1 1/8-mile track and fifth in the 1 1/16-mile Southwest Stakes—neither nearly as long as Belmont’s 1 1/2-mile dirt track.
Given his recent lack of success (and a Wood Memorial race that saw him finish nearly 15 lengths behind the winner), there’s no reason to believe Always in a Tiz has the chops to compete with the more seasoned horses that will be running at Belmont.
Any horse can surprise in a Triple Crown event, but there are simply too many challengers with more experience and a better track record to feel comfortable putting any money on the colt.