05/30/2014 2:28PM

A Belmont Stakes trend that is difficult to deny

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In 2000, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas won the Belmont Stakes with Commendable, a colt who had raced in the Kentucky Derby and then skipped the Preakness.

Lukas has been a trend-setter in many ways during his legendary career, but little could he know what he was starting that day. In the 14 runnings of the Belmont since 2000, a total of seven horses have done what Commendable did: lose the Derby, skip the Preakness, win the Belmont.

A search of race charts could find no other Belmont winners prior to Commendable with this identical race pattern – which makes the 50-percent strike rate since 2000 a remarkable one indeed. Throughout Belmont history, a fair number of winners have sat out the first two Triple Crown events, and others have had a similar four- or five-week break before winning the Belmont. But this particular pattern clearly has been the most successful in recent times.

After Commendable, those winners were Empire Maker (2003), Birdstone (2004), Jazil (2006), Summer Bird (2009), Union Rags (2012), and Palace Malice (2013).

Four prospective starters in the 146th Belmont Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park fit this intriguing profile: Commanding Curve, second in the May 3 Derby; Wicked Strong (fourth); Samraat (fifth); and Medal Count (eighth).

Lukas said recently at his Churchill Downs barn that “probably the biggest factor in your favor is you get to train your horse into the Belmont, as opposed to tweaking or adjusting or fine-tuning, whatever you want to call it. You get back into the kind of rhythm you’d like to have going into any other race.”

Tim Ice, who won the 2009 Belmont with Summer Bird after the colt ran sixth in the Derby, said: “It’s got to be an advantage, maybe a slight one. You’re not having to run three times in five weeks against the caliber of horses that make these races so tough. You’ve got time to let the horse catch back up and be at its peak for the next one.”

Additional time between races probably is what has led Todd Pletcher, who won the Belmont last year with Palace Malice, to be more active in the Belmont than the Preakness. Pletcher, with 40 Derby starters, has run only seven horses in the Preakness versus 16 in the Belmont.

One of his Preakness starters was the 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, and, said Pletcher, “You’re pretty much compelled to run the Derby winner back at Pimlico. That’s not a bad situation to be in, obviously, because you’ve won the Derby, but in terms of getting the time you need for maximum performance, running three times in five weeks just isn’t something you’d normally do.”

California Chrome, the Derby and Preakness winner, will be conceding the presumed luxuries of time and rest to most of the opposition Saturday as he attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

“That’s what makes a Triple Crown winner so special, that they can overcome so much, whereas the other trainers and horses have these other options at their disposal,” Lukas said.

A four-time Belmont winner, Lukas had his only shot at a Triple Crown in 1999, when Charismatic ran third in the Belmont.

“If you’re training horses, time is your ally,” he said. “Always has been, always will be. The Triple Crown puts a lot of pressure on trainers and horses because you’re going for the record books and doing things you might not do otherwise. The really good horses seem to benefit from more time. It’s really important for most of them.”

Dale Romans, who will saddle Medal Count in the Belmont, said he does not discount the advantages of having more time but that he “would’ve run in the Preakness and Belmont, but the horse had already run three times in four weeks,” ending with the Derby, “and I didn’t want to push it.”

Romans added: “I don’t like having pat answers for a general concept like this, and I don’t think running three times in five weeks like the Derby winner is doing is that big a deal. It’s been done before – quite a bit, actually. But you see how some of these Derby horses have done skipping the Preakness and running back in New York, and you think, yeah, maybe there’s something to it.”

IDK 7 months ago
It is no fair to include any other horse into the Belmont if it skip one of the two champion races before. If only 2 horses ran in both Kentucky and Preakness those are the only that should race for the Belmont.
Kurt Sholar 7 months ago
Victor Espinoza: 2 for 67 lifetime at Belmont Park. That's got to make you feel good about your 1-2 Favorite going a mile and 1/2 first time. Good luck to all bettors!
Tony Volu 7 months ago
I ve been around the races for 61 years and my gut tells to bet the late closer but I read that closers don't do it ,so ill use a little savvy and take ca chrome cause he runs when asked .
Thomas Garvie 7 months ago
after reading the article above, it confirms my belief that Samraat is ready to run a big one in the Belmont, and provide the upset that's been a normal since 1978. I've lost before on races, so wagering on Samraat across the board won't be a big deal for me, but I do have a strong hunch he's the one that will be coming home the winner.
michael stapler 7 months ago
.California chromes last five races.... Clear Clear (by less lengths) Ridden out Driving Held on All five races took more energy to win. Play him for third and clean up. Too many races this year. The only problem is finding the winner. If General A Rod runs, I would bet out on him.
Ann 7 months ago
The Derby chart is misleading - it should read 'under wraps'. And if you can count them, it is 'fewer' lengths, not less. Fewer dollars (because you can count them), less money (because it is amorphous).
OMAR 7 months ago
California Chrome last five races: win, win, win, win, win, Saturday: win, just leaves them behind atop the stretch, triple crown winner, Cal bred & awesome, lol...
John Cook 7 months ago
I think the best argument against Chrome is fatigue. And if you feel that way, it's really hard to like ROC or Gen a Rod.
David Voelker 7 months ago
CC is ready for a dominating effect. Only thing that will derail it is a rabbit. It will happen and Victor has to be ready.
Dan 7 months ago
Ive been saying this for a while now. You can analyze breeding, purchase price, race shape, whatever you want but the bottom line is that CC is a freak of nature that has developed significantly in his 3 year old season. He has been thru the rigors. He has won races at 4.5 furs, 5, 6, 1m,1 1/16, 1 1/8, 1 1/4 against full fields and good horses out here in Calif as well as out of the state. The people that say he can't get the distance have been saying that since he won at 6 furlongs. There has only been 2 horses lifetime that have won races at all of theses distances against top competition...Precisionist and Native Diver...couple of "freaks" in their own right wouldn't you say? Can this horse get a mile and a half? Of course not but neither can the others in reasonable time and the last quarter is probably coming home in 26 and change. I do know this...as far as Victor goes he has won his share of 1 1/2 races here out west so I don't see a big problem there. Chrome is just the best horse this year bar none. He is still sharp as a tack and other trainers will attest to that, he has actually gained weight since the series, he is skipping over the track which can be an obstacle and this horse looks like a complete standout. Especially if social doesn't go which appears to be the case after the gate issue this morning. The others in here are hoping something goes amiss. I'll bet the other trainers when they see the looks of this horse physically are actually amazed that this horse looks as fresh as the one they have...photos don't lie look at this animal! The only problem is there really is no serious value. So if your a true racing fan that goes through the trials and tribulations of this sport on somewhat of a daily basis you can only root for this horse to help the sport which is dying a slow one especially in Calif unless things turn around. Th excitement is part of the sport and we love this sport so go Chrome!!! What do you people think his final odds will be by the way? 6,7-5? Lefty
Charles Vitale 7 months ago
Now that my pick of Danza is out, my second pick will win this race even easier. COMMANDING CURVE will win this race by 5 Lengths. After running my computer program from the Derby - Curve coming from post 16 would have won this race coming from any post under 7 by 3 lengths. how can he (Curve) now win by 5 lengths if they come out of a side by side post? Rest – This is manly why there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner with a chance in the last 12 years (2 out of 3). Many of you know me by the name of Charliedogs. I have picked more Belmont winners using this program system. Here are the spilt times for Commanding Curve from the Derby. 25.3 – 22.3 – 24.3 – 24.2 – 26.2 – take a look at this second fraction (22.3) and he finished 2nd! Chrome ran 24.1 – this was a 10 length lead he had on Commanding Curve until 6F. Curve close that down to 5 lengths at the 1m. by now most horse had tired and he was getting bounds around in the stretch as where Chrome was clear. This will not happen in the Belmont, the field will be half to less the size of the Derby, leaving Curve to sit right behind him at the 1/8 pole only to take the lead and draw away on a tired Chrome.
Ray Lanfear 7 months ago
You are forgetting that CC likes cookies, and therefore "The Cookie Monster", will make history this Saturday.
sjm80s . 7 months ago
He is also leaving out of his foolishness that he spent 45 minutes on that California Chrome likes to bite, which according to my handicapping handbook, is a sign of a horse that takes no prisoners.
sjm80s . 7 months ago
You just made a fool of yourself to come up with a horse that was 38-1 running past deadwood and grabbing second place in the Derby to making him better, and by far, in the Belmont stakes. Dude, let it go.
jim lefferts 7 months ago
The Derby leaders took 24.43 seconds to run from the quarter to the half. Commanding Curve went from 12 lengths back to 11.5 lengths back. How do you up with 22.3? He went 24.36.
OMAR 7 months ago
Good luck with Commanding Curve comming any closer than 3rd or 4th, they are going 1-1/2 miles and at that distance closers have little chance, anything can happen but they don't call it "Big Sandy" for nothing, I think Ride On Curlin is the better of the closers but I hope he doesn't pass California Chrome, Cal Chrome has been nothing but nails!!!
sjm80s . 7 months ago
People were talking up Social Inclusion and I laughed. I can't help but laugh harder with so many chatting up Commanding Curve. Bet with everything you have, PLEASE!
jim lefferts 7 months ago
Why do you laugh? Who are you going to bet?
Peter R 7 months ago
Commanding Curve isn't winning but I may use him for third, given that he is a closer he may not be spent by race end
Anonymous 7 months ago
There is a stong chance that wicked strong will be on the front end and the race will be fixed
Lenny Mozingo 7 months ago
FIXED???? Hmmm, lets see...A chance at racing immortality, millions of dollars at stake....Sure......Prime candidate for a "fixed" race so some gambler can score a couple of grand.......Now go bet your 10,000 claiming race with the confidence that the race is "legit"........Give me strength!!!!