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Race of the Week – Belmont Stakes

BelmontThe rite of spring for three year old thoroughbreds meets its conclusion this Saturday in the Belmont Stakes. With two strong Triple Crown victories in the books, one would think the winners would scare more runners off – not the case. A nearly capacity gate of fourteen is lined up for the final leg of the Triple Crown, including both the derby and Preakness winner. Before we dig into this year’s edition, a short review of the recent fortune of each in recent history:

Year    Kentucky Derby Winner                   Preakness Winner

2012    I’ll Have Another – Did Not Run *

2011    Animal Kingdom – 6th                          Shackleford – 5th

2010    Super Saver – Did Not Run                  Lookin at Lucky – Did Not Run

2009    Mine that Bird – 2nd                             Rachel Alexandra – Did Not Run

2008    Big Brown – Did Not Finish *

2007    Street Sense – Did Not Run                 Curlin – 2nd

2006    Barbaro – Did Not Run                         Bernardini – Did Not Run

2005    Giacomo – 7th                                      Afleet Alex – 1st

2004    Smarty Jones – 3rd *

2003    Funny Cide – 3rd *

2002    War Emblem – 8th *

2001    Monarchos – 3rd                                  Point Given – 1st

2000   Fusaichi Pegasus – Did Not Run          Red Bullet – Did Not Run

1999    Charismatic – 3rd *

1998    Real Quiet – 2nd *

1997    Silver Charm – 2nd *

1996    Grindstone – Did Not Run                   Louis Quatorze – 4th

1995    Thunder Gulch – 1st                          Timber Country – Did Not Run

1994    Go for Gin – 2nd                                Tabasco Cat – 1st

1993    Sea Hero – 7th                                   Prairie Bayou – Did Not Finish

1992    Lil E Tee – Did Not Run                      Pine Bluff – 3rd

1991    Strike the Gold – 2nd                          Hansel – 1st

1990   Unbridled – 4th                                    Summer Squall – Did Not Run

1989   Sunday Silence – 2nd *

1988   Winning Colors – 6th                           Risen Star – 1st

* Designates horse that won first two legs of the Triple Crown.

So do we run to the run-all-day type in Orb or do you go with the school of thought that says he’s on his way down in his form cycle and hope that Oxbow has another rabbit in his hat? The past five years have been brutal on the three-year-olds as far as trail castoffs, but the rubber match more often than not has gone the way of the Preakness winner. Though this is a small sample and in a lot of cases the Preakness winner ended up being simply a better horse in the long run, it is interesting to note.

Fillies are taken seriously if they jump into the TC foray, as shown by the off odds of both victresses in recent times, Rags to Riches and Rachel Alexandra. Todd Pletcher trained the former and sees this as the best possible spot for his Unlimited Budget and Rosie Napravnik… who am I to disagree? I am obviously very biased in this viewpoint, as I’m usually rooting for a filly to beat the boys… but doesn’t she have as legitimate of a shot as any? She was undefeated prior to the Oaks and took on one of the better editions I can remember in 2013. She didn’t run a bad race; it was just her typical, steady effort. Her cruising speed will benefit her more than an explosive kick, and if Rosie can reason with this filly and get her to relax she has every chance to put another Belmont in the girl’s corner. She did get a little antsy in the Oaks but that kind of crowd will do that to a filly. Hopefully the Belmont crowd doesn’t make her go bonkers…

Obviously Revolutionary will get his share of play off his Derby performance, and if Union Rags can do it why can’t he? This was the hype horse for the Derby whose name hasn’t graced many tongues in the media recently, but only probably due to his price in both races. He’s at a lukewarm 9-2 morning line for the Belmont and should end up a tad lower than that simply based on the visual appeal of his last race. Yes, Borel can carve out a trip for a horse at Churchill but does that necessarily translate to a better race with two extra furlongs to get tired? I’m more intrigued by a horse of his type for his ability to make his own trips, and that isn’t always at the top of the list for my criteria in Belmont selections. A mile and a half is enough time to overcome trouble of most sorts (Unless you’re War Emblem) and getting the best trip in the world is irrelevant if you run out of gas. Honestly, if any of Pletcher’s colts blew him away in the past few weeks the filly would not be in the picture.

One thing’s for sure… Gary Stevens painted a big bull’s eye on his back a few weeks ago. Don’t count any closer out of this edition of the Belmont, and count on a crowded finish.

The Dark Star Cup

Briefly, I’ll address the Saturday feature this weekend – one very dear to me. The Dark Star Cup has a spiffy first lineup, and one surprisingly not overdone with early speed.

Dark Cheering

Midwest has two entered, the speedy Southern Dude appearing to be the stronger of the uncoupled entry. He’s run before against (and beaten) Signsealndeliver, who enters fresh off a score on Illinois Champions Day. He survived an inquiry that day but was deemed best over his former-claimer stablemate, B Two Special.

Both of these will have to deal with another quality Hawthorne invader named I’ll Show Them. He may have captured the best race of them all over Calmer than You and ANOTHER Brueggemann trainee named Catfienated. His record on our main track is spotless and the six and a half furlong distance shouldn’t bother the son of Smarty Jones. The Robertson’s also bring two into the ring, with new face Ismael Grande in to track down the speedy Bet Seattle – winner of the Honor the Hero Stakes on Memorial Day. The winner of the Dowd Mile, Unsaddled Glory also joins the fray and fast-closing Clear to Canada makes his return to Canterbury as well. Dark may have settled in on the favorite given the chance, but that will be a hard role to establish in a field of this depth.

Good luck this weekend – hopefully it brings us all plenty of wings, wagers & winners!

This blog was written by Canterbury Paddock Analyst Angela Hermann. Angela Hermann serves as the Track Analyst for Hawthorne Racecourse in Cicero, Illinois and the summer of 2013 marks her third year in a similar capacity at Canterbury Park.