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Updated on 06/09/2012 11:31AM
Belmont Stakes 2012: Dullahan tops cast of Triple Crown spoilers
ELMONT, N.Y. – On June 9, 2011, Dullahan made his first career start at Churchill Downs. He was sent off at odds of 4-1 in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race. Expectations among his connections were modest, so there was little disappointment when he finished third.
“I thought we had a talented horse that wanted to stretch out,” trainer Dale Romans said. “I just wanted to get a good race into him that day.”
On June 9, 2012 – Saturday – Dullahan will make his 10th career start in the $1 million Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park. He is listed as the 5-1 second choice on the morning lines of both Daily Racing Form ’s Mike Watchmaker and NYRA’s Eric Donovan. Expectations among his connections are exceedingly high.
“I think we’re the horse to beat,” Romans said.
When he says that, Romans means no disrespect to I’ll Have Another, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who seeks to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in Saturday’s Belmont. Romans just believes Dullahan is coming into the race in excellent form, having had five weeks to recover from his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“If I wasn’t in the race, I’d be on his bandwagon 100 percent thinking he is going to be tough to deny the Triple Crown,” Romans said of I’ll Have Another. “I just like my horse; I like the way he’s doing.”
Speaking of I’ll Have Another, Romans said, “I haven’t seen a chink in his armor, we just have to be better than him.”
Dullahan is a half-brother to Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner who finished second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont. Dullahan, owned by Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing, has won two Grade 1 races over Keeneland’s synthetic surface, but is winless in four starts on dirt, all at Churchill Downs.
His first two races were in sprints. He finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and third in the Derby.
There is a widely held belief that turf horses handle Churchill’s dirt surface better than any dirt surface. Romans has seen that to be the case in some instances. But he also believes Dullahan can handle any surface.
“I was never really sold on the fact that he had to run on turf or Poly,” Romans said. “I think he’s a talented horse who ran very well at Churchill; his brother won the Derby, he ran well on dirt his whole life.”
Noting that Dullahan worked four furlongs in 45.82 seconds at Belmont – the fastest of 66 works at the distance Sunday – Romans said that “was good enough to think that he is going to handle the dirt here no problem.”
Dullahan was only beaten 1 3/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby, forced to come to the stretch seven wide under Kent Desormeaux. Javier Castellano rides Dullahan in the Belmont.
While Romans wanted to wheel him back two weeks later in the Preakness, Crawford wanted to skip it.
Five of the last 12 Belmont winners ran in the Derby, skipped the Preakness, and won the Belmont – Summer Bird, 2009; Jazil, 2006; Birdstone, 2004; Empire Maker, 2003; and Commendable, 2000. Two other Belmont winners in that span – Rags to Riches and Ruler On Ice – also were running back in the same five-week time frame.
Crawford also noted that Take the Points, a son of Even the Score – the same sire as Dullahan – finished last in the Preakness Stakes but had previously won over Belmont’s dirt surface.
“Genetically, this surface seemed to be stronger for him than the Pimlico surface, which is so speed favoring,” Crawford said. “Running a horse three times in five weeks often knocks a horse out for some or all of the rest of the year or even the rest of their career. I thought the fairest thing for Dullahan was to bring him to the sire-making race and see what he could do here.”
Romans has since come around to believe that skipping the Preakness was the right move.
“Jerry was right about it,” Romans said. “This gives us the best opportunity to win a classic race. It gave me time to do more with him and train him to go a mile and a half.”
Toward that end, Romans worked Dullahan a mile at Churchill, a bit of an old-school move in an era where five-furlong works are the norm.
“He was doing so good, he seemed like the more I did with him the better he got,” Romans said. “I didn’t think it would knock him out at all. I thought it would do him a lot of good.”
Since racing has not had a Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, some people believe it would be good for the sport if I’ll Have Another completes the Triple Crown on Saturday.
If someone beats him, there are likely to be plenty of boos cascading down at the winning connections from the expected 100,000 fans at Belmont Park.
Romans says bring it on.
“A hundred thousand New Yorkers booing me would be just fine,” Romans said. “They’re all sportsmen though; they’d get over it the next day.”
Where the dickens is the article that shows the Beyer figures for the contenders ? I've hunted and hunted. I know I saw it on DRF somewhere.
Dullahan is a much better colt than he was when he lost those early races on dirt, but I don't necessarily buy the angle that 1 1/2 mi. will move him up. Long trips often take the punch out of the finishing moves of these kinds of horses. Biggest win was nine furlongs on Polytrack. Maybe that - and grass - are where his late close is most effective. Incidentally, odd how some horses that are slow getting going in their races make such flashy work horses. Dullahan's best shot might come if the track unexpectedly came up sloppy, which could compromise IHA. Same comment about late turn of foot applies to Union Rags. He needs to put in his surge after about a mile for it to work for him. Obviously, the Belmont doesn't allow for that. Both horses have a chance if IHA is knocked out by Preakness, not otherwise.
Dullahan has a super potent angle going for him. When you go from a journeyman rider to the best ranked jockey of 2012, that is HUGE. Same goes for Union Rags. JRL not quite as average as KD but positively worse than JRV. These two premier jockeys will "move up" both horses. Meaning no disrespect, I cannot see IHA defeating either of these two, and perhaps others as well.
His brother ran well on dirt his whole life ?? All but one of MTBs wins were on synthetic. No big deal really,but, don't these guys ever think before they speak. They are 1/2 brothers not brothers.
GiG, like your stuff. so who wins, IHA, U.Rags, or Paynter? Did u know Pat Murphy on the floor? very good friend of mine.
novice. over time ,do exactas,trifectas,or supers make more (or lose less) for bettors? also do win bets do better or show bets over time? or is it all pretty much equal?
Doug, the colt breezed this morning and looked great. However, if you don't mind, did the horse go back to eating regularly?
Still can't find an excuse for Dullahan in the Derby, I bet him knowing he had the perfect set-up. Over rated and under layed in the Belmont. The only scenario I could see him winning is either Rags or IHA move too soon on the turn which the other one might have to go too, they forget about Dullahan running at the end because they are all caught up with themselves. Plus, the track must be holding. Naw, I have a couple of other scenarios before that one so I will say Dullahan is the best of the other pretenders and gets 3rd behind IHA and Rags, Chalk
When a horse can cruise through under 1.10 at 6f, then surge through to win the Derby, he's going to be hard to beat here. He's done everything asked of him. so far.
Optimizer and Corey Nakatani will ruin the party .