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Belmont Stakes 2011: 5 Horses In Best Spots To Win Third Leg of Triple Crown

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJune 8, 2011

Belmont Stakes 2011: 5 Horses In Best Spots To Win Third Leg of Triple Crown

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    BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 21:  Jockey Jesus Castanon guides Shackleford #5 (C) out of the fourth turn to win the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 21, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    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

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    ELMONT, NY - JUNE 08:  Exercise rider Heriberto Pulgar runs Mucho Macho Man during a morning training session in preparation for The Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 8, 2011 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    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

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:  Master of Hounds trains during the morning exercise session in preparation for the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    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

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    BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 21:  Jockey Jesus Castanon guides Shackleford #5 out of the fourth turn to win the 136th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 21, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    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

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    LOUISVILLE, KY - MAY 05:  Nehro is lead on to the track in preparation for the 137th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 5, 2011 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    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

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    ELMONT, NY - JUNE 08:  Animal Kingdom looks on after a morning training session in preparation for The Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 8, 2011 in Elmont, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    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.

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