Owner Jess Jackson's decision not to run Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra in next Saturday's final leg of the Triple Crown dramatically improves Charitable Man's chances of earning a victory in the Belmont Stakes.
First, the colt was sired by Lemon Drop Kid, the winner of the 1999 Belmont and Travers stakes, two of the most prestigious races for three-year-olds in American racing. The Lemon Drop Kid added to his resume with victories as a four-year-old in such important stakes races as the Brooklyn, Suburban, Whitney handicaps, and the Woodward Stakes.
Lemon Drop Kid is much more than a one trick-pony. He's proving himself in the breeding shed as well, siring 35 stakes winners, including Lemons Forever, the winner of the 2006 Kentucky Oaks, Citronnade, Gamely Stakes; and Christmas Kid, first across the finish line in the Ashland Stakes.
Second, Charitable Man has the connections.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, conditioned Jazil, the long shot winner of the 2006 Belmont Stakes. It was McLaughlin's first Triple Crown victory.
The year before, McLaughlin's Closing Argument, nearly pulled off another classic upset, ultimately finishing second at odds of more than 70-1 in the Kentucky Derby.
In addition to Charitable Man, McLaughlin also has another crack three-year-old in training, Mr. Fantasy, who captured the Grade III Withers Stakes.
McLaughlin also has trained such Eclipse Award contenders as Invasor, Henny Hughes, and Flashy Bull; all winners of Grade I stakes races. So he knows what it takes to compete at the highest echelon of thoroughbred racing.
Alan Garcia will be riding Charitable Man, as he has in four previous starts. Garcia is a young jockey at the top of his game.
Garcia, who won the Grade Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park aboard Brisbon on Memorial Day, is also an experienced hand on the New York racing circuit. He won the Saratoga meet last summer, and he won last year's Belmont Stakes with Da'Tara for trainer Nick Zito.
Next, Charitable Man has the racing resume.
Charitable Man signaled that he was a horse with a promising future right off the bat, galloping to an 11 1/2-length victory in his racing debut at Saratoga in August. He followed that effort with a two-length victory at seven furlongs in the Grade II Belmont Futurity a month later.
Charitable Man sustained a saucer fracture to his shin late in the year. His first race back off the layoff was in the Grade II Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. McLaughlin said his charge didn't like the synthetic surface as he finished a well-beaten seventh behind winner General Quarters.
Back home at Belmont, Charitable Man won the Grade II Peter Pan by nearly four lengths. His winning time of 1:47.13 over 1 1/8 miles was the fourth-fastest in stakes history.
Two of the three horses who ran faster times than Charitable Man fared well in the Belmont Stakes. Coastal won the event in 1979 and Slew o' Gold finished second in 1983.
Oratory holds the Peter Pan stakes record, but his connections passed on the Belmont in 2005.
Yet, a victory in the Peter Pan hasn't exactly served as a springboard to success in the Belmont.
Since 1990, 14 Peter Pan winners have tried the Belmont and only one, A.P. Indy(1992), has found the winner's circle. Three others, Citadeed(1995), Sunday Break(2002), and Sunriver(2006) each finished third.
If you subscribe to the theory that a horse, in order to win the Belmont Stakes, must have raced across the track at least once in its lifetime, well, that's even more reason to like Charitable Man.
Brave Victory and Charitable Man are the only entrants who have run before at Belmont Park.
Charitable Man, however, is the real horse for the course, having won both of his races at the Belmont Park oval.
Be advised, too, that Charitable Man and Mine That Bird are the only two horses who are multiple graded stakes winners. Since graded stakes usually attract the best horses-and the best purses-Charitable Man and Mine That Bird should enjoy a considerable advantage in class over the other runners.
Finally, Charitable Man's racing style augers well for success.
Previous Belmonts show that a horse that is in the lead or close to it more often than not wins the race. Zito-trained Miner's Escape, with Rachel Alexandra's defection, will likely set the pace with Charitable Man, a classic stalker, next in line to pick up the pieces if Miner's Escape falters.
Several of the other Belmont probables such as Mine That Bird, Mr. Hot Stuff, Dunkirk, and Brave Victory have done their best running by coming from well off the pace.