Short answer: Pace makes the race.
Long answer: Keep reading…
The odds-makers have made Mine That Bird and Virginia-bred Charitable Man the two favorites for tomorrow's Belmont Stakes. Charitable Man comes from the same nursery that produced Florida Derby winner and injured Kentucky Derby contender Quality Road.
The two reasons Charitable Man will win the Belmont is because of pace and pedigree. Those two things, plus being the betting favorite, don’t bode well for the hard nosed Mine That Bird.
Because the Belmont is long...longer than the Derby by one-quarter of a mile, many folks believe it’s a closers race off the form of horses that make a mad charge down Churchill Downs very long stretch. But due to the distance and the configuration of the track, the Belmont is not typically a closers race.
It’s a tactical speed race and it’s been won off, or near, the front end many more times than by a last jump closer. Of course, don’t tell Real Quiet’s connections that as they still probably have nightmares about Victory Gallop getting up in the final strides...
But, generally speaking, the long race with a slow pace won’t favor Mine That Bird. While he’s already proved that he is both talented and tough, he will have to prove he is versatile in his running style if he is going to give jockey Calvin Borel a first-ever Jockey Triple Crown.
Charitable Man on the other hand has tactical speed and a stalkers style. That should put him in a better position in a race with limited speed. If it turns into a bicycle race with the frontrunners slowing the pace to a crawl it’s likely to suit Charitable Man better than the Derby winner.
That brings us to pedigree, and in a 12 furlong race pedigree should come into play. Both horses are by Belmont Stakes winners and both of their sires are having good years. Powered by the Derby winner's $1.7 million in earnings, Birdstone is 19th on the General Sire list with two stakes winners.
Just two spots back in 21st, Lemon Drop Kid is doing it the old fashion way—he has nine stakes winners this year and five of them are graded stakes winners. Both stallions have over $2.3 in progeny earnings so far this year, and that ain't chump change.
On the dam side, Charitable Man has more muscle. While the Derby winner’s dam’s family is solid it doesn’t compare on paper to Charitable Man’s.
His dam, Charitabledonation is a listed stakes winner and her granddam is a half-sister to Exceller who, among other accomplishments, defeated two Triple Crown winners in the one-and-a-half-mile Jockey Clug Gold Cup at Belmont. CM's pedigree includes the champion Capote and the very useful Florida stallion Baldski.
Then there is the “favorite thing.” In the past 20 years, only four favorites have won the race – A.P. Indy (1991), Thunder Gulch (1995), Point Given (2001) and Afleet Alex (2005).
Notable disappointments this decade include War Emblem (8th in '02), Funny Cide (3rd in '03), Smarty Jones (2nd in '04), Curlin (2nd in '07) and Big Brown's spectacular flame out last year.
And yes, we know we're ignoring all the other horses. And, yes, Dunkirk, one of Zitos horses or another longshot could win the race, but Kentucky (from whence they come) is not ACC country...so they get no love here.