Belmont Stakes 2011: 5 Horses In Best Spots To Win Third Leg of Triple Crown
The Kentucky Derby may be the best known event in horse racing, and the Preakness may be the most critical in the chase for the Triple Crown, but the Belmont Stakes is the most grueling and, therefore, arguably the most prestigious.
A mile and a half is certainly a long way to run, opening the door for several horses to rebound from a slow start and challenge the leader after the last turn.
And although there is a clear-cut favorite in this year's field, if the Kentucky Derby and Preakness were any indication, that is not the right method for predicting the race's winner.
No. 5: Mucho Macho Man
Trainer: Kathy Ritvo
Kentucky Derby: 3rd
Preakness Stakes: 6th
Belmont Stakes Odds: 10-to-1
Post Position: 10
Despite a disappointing sixth at the Preakness, there are still plenty of experts out there who really like this horse on Saturday. His trainer's story of perseverance (Ritvo is a heart transplant patient) would make for a nice story.
He did finish very strong at the Derby and given the extra quarter-mile, that could prove to be enough to overtake Animal Kingdom or one of the other stars down the stretch.
No. 4: Master of Hounds
Trainer: Aidan O'Brien
Kentucky Derby: 5th
Preakness Stakes: Did not race
Belmont Stakes Odds: 6-to-1
Post Position: 1
The extra few weeks of rest—the result of not racing at the Preakness—may give him a slight advantage over the other favorites, but this horse is usually not short on stamina.
O'Brien's horse didn't start off great at Churchill Downs, mired in 15th place at one point, but he surged during the last quarter to climb all the way up to fifth. Given the extra length at the Belmont, that could be a decisive factor at Elmont.
No. 3: Shackleford
Trainer: Dale Romans
Kentucky Derby: 4th
Preakness Stakes: WINNER
Belmont Stakes Odds: 5-to-1
Post Position: 12
Be sure not to read too much into his demeanor as he is loaded into the gates!
At the Preakness his angst prior to taking his post prompted many experts to declare him spent: they were wrong, as he stole the lead down the stretch.
But because Animal Kingdom was breathing down his neck as they crossed the finish line, those same experts aren't terribly confident that he'll have the energy to last through the grueling mile-and-a-half terrain at the Belmont.
No. 2: Nehro
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Kentucky Derby: 2nd
Preakness Stakes: did not race
Belmont Stakes Odds: 7-to-2
Post Position: 6
Nehro may only have one win to his credit and ran only one race during the two months prior to the Belmont, but he is as much a threat to Animal Kingdom as anyone, as proven during the Kentucky Derby.
He'll need a burst even better than the one he showed at Churchill Downs to emerge victorious at the end of the mile-and-a-half Belmont.
He did catch a pretty favorable spot in the pole positioning which is something to keep an eye on.
No. 1: Animal Kingdom
Trainer: H. Graham Motion
Kentucky Derby: WINNER
Preakness Stakes: 2nd
Belmont Stakes Odds: 9-to-4
Post Position: 9
It's not quite accurate to call the Derby winner a "no brainer," but he's clearly the favorite after seeing the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Besides the win at Churchill Downs, he was another 1/16th short of overtaking Shackleford at the Preakness.
Now that may suggest he will be a bit "spent" coming into the Belmont--especially given the length--but since he has placed in all six of his races, it's hard to think he won't be there at the end.