The 2011 Belmont Stakes were the most surprising race of the Triple Crown. In fact, it was surprising before it even began, as the track turned muddy today, completely changing odds and betting patterns.
Most of the horses ended up finishing either far better than expected or far worse, with the potential exceptions being Isn't He Perfect, who finished last, and Nehro, who finished fourth.
The winner of the race was perhaps most surprising of all, as it was a horse who was never among the favorites.
Here are the six biggest surprises and disappointments from this year's Belmont Stakes. Yes, at least half the field this year can easily have the tag "surprising" or "disappointing" attributed to them.
I don't consider his finish all that surprising personally, but it seems that many other people did. In short, Shackleford's outing at the Belmont was pretty much the same as his outing at the Kentucky Derby.
Shackleford started off great, leading for most of the race. However, as they hit the final turn, he slowed down and tired out, falling to fifth place when all was said and done.
Those who felt that his stamina would be an issue (me) saw this coming, but those who bet on him are very disappointed.
Brilliant Speed was a rather popular dark horse pick as the track became muddy leading up to the Belmont. Needless to say, he did not disappoint those who felt he could make it in the top three.
The horse handled the outside track pretty well, showing that he had an advantage on the muddier track, and was able to cruise to a third place finish.
Master of Hounds was one of those horses whose odds seemed surprisingly low for most of the week, generally in the 10-1 range. As a result, I figured he would at least be in the top half of the group when they crossed the finish line.
Instead, the horse finished a paltry tenth, and never really came close to competing, perhaps the result of starting on the rail on the long, muddy track.
One horse I definitely did not see coming was Stay Thirsty. The horse stayed with the pack most of the race but, when Shackleford fell off, the horse was the one that took his place, charging up the rail.
The end result was a close second place finish, which should make any of those who bet on Stay Thirsty happy.
I was a bit concerned about fatigue with Animal Kingdom since he has been in so many races, but I thought he could pull it together and possibly win despite the muddy track. Myself and many others were definitely wrong on that one.
Like the Preakness, Animal Kingdom started off slow in the back and struggled to get things going. Unlike the Preakness, he was unable to charge and never got back in the race. He finished a very disappointing sixth.
There's no question that the winner of the Belmont Stakes in this case would be the most surprising one. After all, the horse was a longshot—while his Kentucky Derby performance was good, it was considered deceptive.
Ruler of Ice silenced all critics by pulling into the lead as Shackleford failed down the stretch, and refusing to give it up, ending the racing Triple Crown on a surprising note.