Belmont Stakes 2013: Top Storylines in 3rd Leg of Triple Crown
The 2013 Belmont Stakes is quickly approaching, as it's only one week away from the finale of horse racing's Triple Crown series.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb failed to advance his bid for the sport's ultimate honor by finishing fourth at the Preakness Stakes, which was won by the race's second-longest shot, Oxbow. Those two figure to be among the top competitors in this race, too.
However, even without the possibility of an individual Triple Crown winner, there are plenty of other compelling storylines to keep an eye on at Belmont Park on June 8.
Let's take a closer look at the showdown between the two prior jewel-capturing horses, as well as the other developments to monitor in Elmont, N.Y.
Orb versus Oxbow
There's still a possibility that Orb won't run, but indications leading up to the race seem to point to him doing so.
Jerry Bossert of the New York Daily News initially tweeted that the odds of Orb saddling up in the final Triple Crown race were rather optimistic, but there was still room for doubt.
Trainer Shug McGaughey just told me Orb is 70-30 to run in the Belmont Stakes— Jerry Bossert (@JBossertNYDN) May 27, 2013
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey then was singing a slightly different tune a few days later, per HRTV:
Shug McGaughey said Orb remains probable for Belmont. Status will be updated to definite if Shug is pleased with Sunday's work.— HRTV (@HRTVinsider) May 30, 2013
Orb will likely enter as the No. 1 favorite should he run, and his combination of size and speed translates well to the lengthy 12 furlongs. Traffic problems thwarted his game plan at the Preakness, but this course gives him more time to make up ground should he fall behind early.
Jockey Joel Rosario is the leading money winner amongst his peers in 2013, but Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens has triumphed three times at the Belmont Stakes. If there were any doubts about his skills at age 50, he put them to rest in riding Oxbow to victory in the Preakness.
The only concern with Oxbow is that he's not the biggest horse and is more of a sprinter, but his wire-to-wire win at Pimlico to capture the Middle Jewel suggests he can maintain a fleet cruising speed.
That adds plenty of intrigue to the Belmont by itself, and it will certainly be exciting to see how Orb bounces back and whether Oxbow can handle this physically demanding of a track.
Rose Napravnik and Unlimited Budget
A female jockey and a filly horse create a formidable tandem in a bid for a triumph at Belmont Park. Napravnik mounted Mylute at the Kentucky Derby and improved her record-setting finish at Churchill Downs by finishing fifth.
Mylute went on to finish the Preakness in third at Pimlico Race Course, which was essentially Napravnik's home track and where she began her career at age 17.
The Downey Profile highlighted the development that allowed Napravnik and Unlimited Budget to slide into the field:
Code West out of Belmont Stakes, officially frees up Rosie Napravnik to ride Unlimited Budget.— The Downey Profile (@DowneyProfile) June 1, 2013
Julie Krone rode Colonial Affair to victory in 1993 in the Belmont Stakes, and remains the only female jockey to win. Rags to Riches finished first in 2007, becoming the first filly since 1905 to do so and just the third in history.
Trainer Todd Pletcher was the one who mentored Rags to Riches, and Unlimited Budget is another of his pupils. In short, there is the potential for landmark achievements for both horse and jockey, and it would give trainer Todd Pletcher a truly unique Triple Crown win in 2013.
Todd Pletcher's Five Entries
This is the last chance the widely respected trainer Pletcher has of winning a Triple Crown race this season. The possibility of boasting two filly winners exists with Unlimited Budget, which is fascinating in and of itself, but there are four other contenders that give him a shot.
Most notable among the bunch is Revolutionary, who came in third place at the Kentucky Derby but didn't run in the Preakness Stakes. That makes him extremely fresh for Belmont Park.
Revolutionary is physically imposing and showcased endurance at Churchill Downs in placing third. Jockey Javier Castellano rode him to a win at both the Louisiana Derby and Grade III Withers Stakes, where the horse showed the ability to explode down the final straightaway:
Who should be the morning-line favorite for the Belmont Stakes?
Castellano boasts a 2006 Preakness win mounting Bernardini and has finished as the runner-up at this race twice. He's been among the most consistent jockeys in finishing third on the earnings list in 2011 and second last year.
No jockey other than Rosario has earned more money this season, either.
Palace Malice will be ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who was in the saddle at Churchill Downs but had his horse going too fast in leading the race early. He must pace him better this time around to have a chance.
Two-time Belmont winner John Velazquez should be a factor with Overanalyze, while Midnight Taboo—who's listed as a possible entry—is considered more of a long shot.
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