Belmont Stakes Predictions 2013: Last-Minute Picks and Analysis
Heading into Saturday's Belmont Stakes, there are numerous angles to consider as you analyze the deep, competitive 14-horse field. As if finding the winner in such a large field was not hard enough, the foreboding weather forecast throws another element into the mix.
This field of sophomores will be challenged in a way that none have been so far in their careers. The demanding distance of a mile and a half is a new obstacle for all of them and some will relish the challenge while others will struggle.
We are down to the wire for the 145th Belmont Stakes. Here are some last-minute predictions on how this exciting race will play out as these three-year-olds compete for their place in history.
Prediction: The Weather Will Play a Big Role in the Outcome
The weather forecast for New York is looking ominous and at this point it seems highly likely there will be an off track. That scenario bodes very well for some contenders and for others it makes the challenge even more difficult.
To make it even more complicated, there are different types of off tracks. A very sloppy surface that has been sealed will likely play kindly to speed where as a thick, deep, muddy track that is drying out may actually make it more difficult for the front-runners.
Some horses in this field have proven themselves to be off-track specialists. Freedom Child excelled over a sloppy track in the Peter Pan Stakes and is a very legitimate, dangerous front-running threat if he gets that surface again.
Kentucky Derby champion Orb proved that an off track is not an issue for him in Louisville and he should have no issue if he again catches a wet track. Derby runner-up Golden Soul is another one who moves up considerably if the track is wet and you can bet trainer Dallas Stewart is doing a rain dance right about now.
Prediction: Oxbow Will Bounce
Going into the Preakness Stakes, on paper Oxbow had all the makings of a horse that was ready to bounce off a series of strong races.
Instead, he proved a lot of people wrong and thanks to expert handling by jockey Gary Stevens, he controlled the pace and stole the race on the lead.
This colt is extremely tenacious but has had six challenging races this season. In the Preakness, he recorded an uncharacteristically high Beyer Speed Figure of 106 and it will be difficult for him to replicate that sort of performance.
He revealed in the Kentucky Derby that he may have some distance limitations and that, coupled with such a huge effort last time, makes him look like a horse ready to take a big step backward.
Prediction: Pace Will Make the Race
In the Belmont Stakes, pace can play even more critical of a role than it normally does. Because all of the horses are unproven at a mile-and-a-half, jockeys may be more conservative on the front end to try to ensure that their mount still has some gas in the tank for the stretch.
With several horses who have a ton of early speed, it is unlikely Gary Stevens will be able to outsmart the field a second time and let Oxbow coast through soft fractions early. But, Oxbow really is best when he is forwardly placed so Stevens will have little choice but to contest the lead.
Also, a main danger on the lead is going to be Freedom Child, particularly over an off track. He is the type that opens up a clear advantage early and makes the rest of the field chase him. If he secures too much of an early lead, he may be hard to catch and every rider in the race is going to be very aware of that.
Prediction: The Belmont Stakes Will Not Be Ladies' Day
While it is very easy to root for jockey Rosie Napravnik taking on the boys aboard the lone filly in the race, Unlimited Budget, the pair have their work cut out for them in this year's Belmont Stakes.
In 2007, Rags to Riches entered the Belmont Stakes with an impressive record and was fresh off a victory in the Kentucky Oaks. In addition to her resume, she was bred to win the Belmont Stakes. Her sire, A.P. Indy, won the race himself and she was a half-sister to Jazil, the winner of the Belmont the year before. In addition, she was a big, robust filly and had the physical stature necessarily to compete against male rivals.
Unlimited Budget, like Rags to Riches, is trained by Todd Pletcher and is also a big-bodied, strong filly. The similarities end there.
Prediction: Fresh Horses Will Be Dangerous
With the daunting distance of a mile-and-a-half in the Belmont Stakes, going into the race with a fresh horse can be advantageous.
After various levels of success in the Kentucky Derby, many trainers opted to sit out the Preakness and instead come into the Belmont Stakes ready for a top effort.
Orb, Oxbow and Will Take Charge are the three horses of the 14-horse field that will have competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown. Eventually, the wear and tear of that rigorous schedule will begin to take effect and that could give an edge to a more rested rival.
Of the horses that skipped the Preakness after the Derby, Revolutionary may be the most formidable of the bunch. With a stellar distance pedigree and a consistent record, this colt may be able to improve off his third-place finish in the Derby.
Prediction: Incognito Is a Live Longshot
Though he is relatively unproven and his one effort so far against stakes company was a lackluster performance, Kiaran McLaughlin's Incognito could be a deceptively live longshot in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.
Of all the horses in the field, this colt is the best bred to handle a mile-and-a-half. His father is Belmont Stakes winner A.P. Indy, one of the most influential modern sires. His offspring are known for their stamina and talent.
This colt's impressive pedigree does not end there. His dam is a mare named Octave, a multiple Grade 1 winner who did her best running at a mile-and-a-quarter.
Incognito will have to prove that he is a top-tier horse in this race, but that pedigree may kick into play in the middle of Belmont Park's long stretch and make him an upset contender.
Prediction: Orb Will Get Redemption in the Belmont Stakes
Though his effort in the Preakness Stakes did unveil some chinks in his armor, Orb still heads into the Belmont Stakes with a lot of upside.
With his classic pedigree, long stride and stamina, he seems engineered for the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes. The potential off track should be no issue for him as his greatest achievement came on a rainy Saturday in May under the Twin Spires.
The greatest vote of confidence in this horse is simply the fact that trainer Shug McGaughey believes in him enough to enter him in the Belmont. This is a trainer who errs on the conservative side and would not have targeted this race unless he legitimately thought his colt had a chance to win.
When Orb does win the Belmont Stakes, it will be a bittersweet triumph. The Triple Crown was so close and yet so far again this year.