06/13/2011 1:58PM

Belmont Day-ja Vu

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Deja VuAs the field for the 143rd Belmont Stakes slogged under the finish line Saturday, I suspect that many a horseplayer was seized with the same burning question that I was: Umm, who's the three horse?

Even if you could make out the silks of the first three under the wire through the mist and gloom, you might have been confused.

The pink and orange of George and Lori Hall? Weren't their Triple Crown horses supposed to be Pants on Fire and Nacho Man? The familiar blue and orange of Repole Stable? Remember Uncle Mo? The red dots on white of Live Oak Plantation? Weren't those the silks of To Honor and Serve?

Instead, it was the Ruler on Ice, Stay Thirsty and Brilliant Speed, the second-stringers or late bloomers from those three outfits, that ran 1-2-3 in this wet and weird Belmont Stakes. It was 5 1/4 lengths back from Brilliant Speed to the 1-2 finishers from the Derby and Preakness -- Derby runner-up Nehro in fourth, Preakness winner Shackleford in 5th, and Derby winner/Preakness runner-up Animal Kingdom in 6th after a wild journey.

It was deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra once said. A year earlier, a pretty formful Belmont Day had taken a sudden turn into unpredictable longshot territory when Winchester won the Manhattan and Drosselmeyer took the Belmont. This time it was Mission Approved and Ruler on Ice, who were even longer shots than their win odds of 21-1 and 24-1 would suggests. (The daily double of those two came back $1,988 for $2, a 993-to-1 shot.) Horses just don't seem to go off at higher than 30-1 in the win pool on these big days any more, and who can blame people for stabbing at horses with little to recommend them on paper given the outcomes?

Here's another similarity between last year's and this year's Belmont Day: The most impressive performance of the afternoon came in a six-furlong race and was delivered by Trappe Shot. Last year, the Mill House colt won an allowance race in sizzling time, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 on a day when D'Funyybone got a 100 winning the Woody Stephens and Drosselmeyer got a 94 in the Belmont. This time, Trappe Shot posted a stunning victory in the G2 True Borth, earning a Beyer of 112 and making him look like a serious challenger to Big Drama as the nation's top sprinter.

After five early races won by three favorites and two second choices, the stakes action began with the G1 Acorn, which may or may not be part of the New York Filly Triple Crown, or the Betfair Exchange Wagering Triple Tiara, or whatever we're calling the chaotically uncoordinated 3-year-old filly races this year. Turbulent Descent was beaten at 3-to-5, but she was sort of an odds-on favorite by default -- a very good filly with by far the most accomplished resume, but with no particular edge on the field and untested outside California. She ran an excellent race but It's Tricky ran right back to the dominant form she held at Aqueduct over the winter before throwing in a clunker in the Florida Oaks. It's Tricky may have benefiited from the wet track but she's very good in her own right.

Then came the True North, where Trappe Shot put on a dazzling show, thrashing multiple stakes-winners This One's For Phil, Calibrachoa and D'Funnybone by 8 1/2 lengths in 1:08.86. The Tapit colt showed last summer he can't extend his brilliance much beyond a mile, but is a seriously fast horse who's going to be a handful in any race at a mile or less. He wasn't quite ready for the Met Mile but I'd have loved to see what he might have done there.

Next up was the Woody Stephens, where no one but Justin Phillip did much running. The 3-year-old's final time of 1:23.56 for 7f doesn't look too good next to Trappe Shot's 1:08.86, but the track was getting goopier by the minute and he did go his opening half in a snazzy 44.45 while hellbent on denying Travelin Man the lead. To me the most surprising thing about the race was how it was bet -- Arch Traveler the clear favorite at 8-5?

The Just a Game was my lone wagering bright spot. I thought C S Silk was a serious ciontender as a classy front-runner in a paceless field, and thought 6-1 would be a square price, so 12-1 was a big overlay in my mind and a $145 exacta with Fantasia was unbelievable. I'm getting dangerously married to Fantasia, as I thought this was the third straight time that a race set up poorly for her and she rallied impressively anyway. I feel doomed to keep chasing her.

I had managed to screw up the pick-6 by then but was sitting pretty in the late pick-4 going into the Manhattan, 6x6 for 50 cents and with some $1 and $1.50 presses, but could not have come up with either winner if I'd gone 8x8. Nor can I whine about Mission Approved's or Ruler on Ice's perfect trips since my 8x8 would not have included the runners-up in either race, Bim Bam or Stay Thirsty. I can not redboard either result or say that I think handicappers missed anything or could have divined either winner with more or different study. You just turn the page and move on.

Before doing so, I will say that I thought Animal Kingdom, who obviously had no chance after the incident after the start, was as close to sensational as you can be while finishing 6th as the favorite. That run he made around the turn, picking off horses as he stormed from oblivion to a moment of contention before understandably tiring, was as impressive an effort as anything that happened during these Triple Crown races. If they ran the race again next month on a dry track, I would bet him without hesitation at 5-2 against this crew.

The one good thing about the Belmont outcome is that it's going to force these horses to run against one another this summer and fall. The Animal Kingdom camp had assumed they would win this race and could spend the summer doing unconventional things like running in grass races, the 3-year-old championship safely in hand after winning the Derby and Belmont. Now the Haskell and Travers take on greater importance, and the way is even clear for someone new to step up and step into contention.

I've taken only one quick look at Wednesday's Belmont card, where a $1.1 million carryover  awaits. It's a doozy, with five of the six races on the grass, three of them turf sprints, and not for the faint of heart. I'll take a swing with what's left of my battered bankroll, but even with whales and syndicates sending in five-digit plays, I won't be shocked if it carries again.

tom dabom More than 1 year ago
The Belmont might seem unexplicable, but the 9 horse faultering is what helped make sense of the race. According to my program, the race seemed divided into two groups, the 2 thru 6 and the 9 thru 12. With more speed to the outside, the race to the rail gave the inside group an advantage, especially since the outside group had that accident. Thankfully, no body was hurt. The Derby had a similar setup and the 1 horse was injured. My program showed the 3 or 12 for 1st. The 3 won.
Walt P. More than 1 year ago
It's quite interesting on how everyone is saying how tough this pick-six is: It may prove to be much tougher, but at least the method I use has it as a $96 wager, and that's only going into the second tier on two occasions (going all top-tier is only a $16 ticket). This could change depending on what races (if any) are switched to the main track, so I'll list the horses I would use on each surface in the top tier (plus the second tier horses in a couple of cases): Race 4 -- Turf: 7/6-5, Dirt: 6-5 Race 5 -- Turf: 2-4, Dirt: 3-4 Race 6 -- 3-8 Race 7 -- Turf: 9, Dirt: 13 Race 8 -- Turf: 11/8, Dirt: 5 Race 9 -- Turf: 1-8, Dirt: 8 It's going to be a very interesting sequence to say the least, one that probably will pay a lot more than it would otherwise due to the huge carryover.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
All Bloggers, I'm not sure why so many believe the winner was without a shot or not bred for the Belmont except to say they don't know how to read past the Sire & Dam when looking at a pedigree. They are stuck in a mindset that includes no original thought and leaves the largest part of a pedigree (the middle) unexplored. Pedigree in the hands of a neophyte is a detriment . If you don't know how to use pedigree in races like this you are better off not pretending you do and ignoring what you read about it from experts that are spreading the conventional dogma which is practically worthless as a betting device. The only thing flukey about the winner is that he didn't have to contend with Animal due to the poor ride he was given , AGAIN. From a PP perspective the horse had beaten the Wood Memorial winner and ran the Preakness 3rd to a HD. Not exactly a no-hoper. He had improved works with blinks and a trainer that is not showing desperation when trying blinks like most trainers are. He was a contender wet or dry.
SamG More than 1 year ago
I'm taking a flyer on Popplestone in the 4th.William Quirin wrote one of my favorite handicapping books which is dated now but still makes for good reading on a cold winter night.I think it was Thoroughbred Handicapping:State of the Art.He talks about trainers and spec about J.R.S. Fisher shipping live longshots to Belmont to win turf races.Popplestone was previously trained by John R.S. Fisher and is now trained by Jack Fisher.I don't know who Jack is but I'm guessing a son.Anyway it caught my eye and at around 20-1 I have to bet a few dollars.Popplestone does have some turf breeding and finished 2nd in a training race at the distance May 28. My tiny pick 6 play is 3,7,​WT,2,​WT,5,6,10,​WT,5,7,​WT,11,​WT,1.Good luck Steve and to anybody else brave or crazy enough to try to hit it on this card.
Shadowjazz More than 1 year ago
Steve, I agree that Animal Kingdom's move into contention was thrilling, but here is the rub. Amidst all the grousing by John Velasquez about how Rajiv Maragh took AK out of the race no one is saying anything about the ride that Velasquez gave AK after the incident at the start. To me, the ride reminded me of nothing so much as the one given to Mine That Bird by Calvin Borel when MTB came 3rd in the Belmont. Borel moved way too soon that day, but at least he had an excuse - he had no familiarity with Belmont and misjudged the distance to the finish. Velasquez, on the other hand, lives at Belmont and should have known the track better than almost anyone on Saturday. What he didn't seem to know was his horse. Animal Kingdom has a fantastic closing kick - but only for about 1/4 to 3/8ths of a mile. The horse closed like the wind for almost exactly that distance and then ran out of steam. One could argue that, if Velasquez had been more patient, Animal Kingdom would have made the most brilliant come from behind win of the Belmont in recent history.
Christine R More than 1 year ago
Gracefully put as I dont know anyone who said "man...I made out like a bandit" - but some lucky folks did - name pickers and stretch armstrongs (reachers) and a lottery player or two. One of the best things you have taught me is when nothing makes sense TURN THE PAGE and go on. Hopefully the group will prove over the summer that the CLASSIC race was not a waste - that a name or two will bloom into something beautiful by BC time. I have to be a KINGDOM fan same as you....the greatest valor shown in defeat...I gained ALOT of appreciation while working with racehorses...and you wont find that courage but a few in a lifetime - like shooting stars from the sky. He had every right to be tired after the previous 5 weeks - Ill remember THAT performance every time I need courage facing challenges as much as I will some crowned champions before him. Thats what I will take with me from the 2011 belmont...before doing as you do...turning the page
SD More than 1 year ago
Not that I should be concerning myself with this, but I got to thinking: if you hit the pick 6, do you also get the consolation payouts for that bet? For example, if you somehow hit a straight pk6 (only a $2 play), would you get one 6/6 payout and six 5/6 payouts, or just the 1 6/6 winner? [You would get no consos on a straight $2 one-horse-per-race winning ticket. You get a conso for every combo that has exactly one "wrong answer" in it. If you bought a $128 ticket with two horses per race -- 1,2/1,2/1,2/1,2/1,2/1,2 -- and #1 won every race, you would have one 6 of 6 (the 1/1/1/1/1/1) and six 5-of-6 consos (the 2/1/1/1/1/1, the 1/2/1/1/1/1, the 1/1/2/1/1/1 etc.) -SC]
Barry Smith More than 1 year ago
Steve : You frequently bring up the possibility of "Buying" the entire sequence. Not that I'm in a position to consider such a move, but what goes into the politics of doing such a thing? Do you just hope for as many scratches as possible to reduce your cost and go for it or would you also exclude your "X-outs" as well to further reduce your cost but sweat out the possibility one of them jumps up and bites you? [I only bring up "buying" a sequence to illustrate how many combos there are, not to suggest that I would actually do it. -SC]
Bill Todd More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve...not related to this story (don't know how to contact you,otherwise) but I do know you are the authority re: wagering pools....QUESTION Sunda 6/12 - Race 2 MNR - ( I Had this horse to win, only)....went off @46/1, finishes 3rd for $169.80!! to show...how does that happen?? Was there only 4 or 5 bucks to show on him?? That's a BIG show price. [There was 3-to-5 shot in the race who finished 4th, so I assume someone lost a big show bet on him. The $14.40 winner paid $24.00 to show. -SC] --
horatio More than 1 year ago
There is a reason why there remains but a single Derby-Belmont winner on this earth. (and why there has been but one Derby-Belmont-Travers winner in what approaches 70 years!)