The End of the Trail – The Belmont Stakes

We see overwhelming morning line favorites scratch occasionally. In the Belmont? The eve of a possible triple crown? Once in a blue moon. While one balloon bursts for 2012, another gets a shot of air: The Belmont is now a viable betting race. We’ll have two horses taking the majority of the money as opposed to one, with a few “outsiders” now given a legitimate chance. Unfortunately, 6-1 is no longer a possibility for the one horse yours truly considered competition for I’ll Have Another.

I’ve stuck by Union Rags all spring and donated to the win pool generously on May 5th. He enters this race as a fresh competitor after skipping the Preakness, and is training out of his skin for Mike Matz. Julien Leparoux hit the bench after two troubled trips aboard ‘Rags, as Belmont regular John Velazquez takes the reins. Yes, there is the detention barn hoopla that takes him out of his home base at Fair Hill. Yes, he does not have the record on paper at two turns that he does at one. However, consider the trouble this horse has encountered in those events and you still have a very talented, fresh animal in the best of care. Consider:

1. Union Rags was most likely not cranked to the gills for the Florida Derby. He ran by the field like they were standing still in the Fountain of Youth, but who wants to see two races like that in a row prior to the biggest challenge of his life? Not me.

2. I am sick of hearing excuses in the derby too, but the horse really didn’t get a clear run until the last half of the race. He didn’t give up in defeat, and who’s to say how much was left in the tank afterwards?

3. A lot of horses in recent history have won the Belmont after skipping the Preakness. Most trainers would give their horse a similar window of time (five weeks) to rest after the grueling Derby, and without a triple crown to race for Mike Matz laid U.R. off with the Belmont as a target.

Horses like Dullahan and Street Life take a lot of money in the Belmont, but generally are so exhausted by the quarter pole that their late kick is all but done. Paynter is bred for this much ground and then some, but like stablemate Bodemeister is pretty much raw talent at this point playing catch-up with the seasoned three year olds. My Adonis will be underneath in my tickets simply based on connections and breeding. Kelly Breen obviously knew more than most with Ruler On Ice, and while he didn’t turn out to be a superstar he was prepared for the race of his life on Belmont Day. He’s not up to par on class with some of these but his tactical speed with give Ramon Dominguez options.

This is what the end of the trail looks like when the driver of the bandwagon is gone. Good luck to all in the Belmont!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann is entering her second year as Canterbury’s Paddock Analyst after previously serving in a similar role at Lincoln Racecourse and Columbus Ag Park. She blogs about both local and National racing.

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