06/07/2017 5:00PM

Belmont Stakes: Who is bred for the distance?

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tapwrit's pedigree suggests that he can handle the 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont Stakes.

The 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont Stakes will be uncharted territory for all 12 horses entered in Saturday’s race, and most of them will never stare down a race of that length again.

The Kentucky Derby poses a similar test at 1 1/4 miles five weeks earlier, but history has shown that the winners of the Derby and Belmont can be very different types of horses.

For lack of prior form at 1 1/2 miles to determine who can best handle the distance Saturday, pedigree becomes an important factor in identifying potential stamina ability. A helpful way to quantify and compare a horse’s potential distance ability is by measuring the average winning distance of his sire and dam’s progeny.

While it is not an airtight system for identifying winners, AWD figures can provide a snapshot of a sire or dam’s general ability to impart stamina to his or her offspring. In many cases, this can help bettors find longer-priced horses who are capable of filling out exotics based on their natural stamina.

An entry’s AWD placing in a race’s field is determined by ranking each sire and dam by their respective AWD figures and adding those numbers to create a combined score. Runners with lower combined scores are by horses with the most successful history of producing runners at a distance.

Horse Sire Rank Dam Rank Combined Score Rank
Tapwrit 2 4 6 1
Epicharis 5 1 6 1
Irish War Cry 1 8 9 3
Lookin at Lee 4 5 9 3
Gormley 6 3 9 3
Patch 7 2 9 3
J Boys Echo 3 12 15 7
Senior Investment 10 7 17 8
Multiplier 8 9 17 8
Twisted Tom 12 6 18 10
Hollywood Handsome 9 11 20 11
Meantime 11 10 21 12

Two of the last three horses to top the Belmont Stakes combined AWD rankings finished in the money: 2014 runner-up Commissioner and 2015 third-place finisher Keen Ice.

Comparing the AWD figures for this year’s class of Belmont sires and dams, Grade 2 winner Tapwrit and Japanese import Epicharis appear to be best equipped to handle the 1 1/2 miles.

Tapwrit also topped this year’s Kentucky Derby AWD rankings and finished sixth after being bothered badly at the start and steadily gaining position in the stretch.

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Owned by the high-powered partnership of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Bridlewood Farm, and Robert LaPenta, Tapwrit is the only horse in the Belmont field whose sire and dam both ranked fourth or higher in their respective categories.

Tapwrit is sired by Gainesway resident Tapit, who ranks second among Belmont sires with an AWD of 7.53 furlongs. This means the 1,887 races won by sons or daughters of the perennial leading sire were contested at an average distance of roughly 7 1/2 furlongs.

Tapit has already proven himself as a prolific sire of Belmont Stakes runners, led by last year’s winner, Creator, 2016 third-place finisher Lani, 2014 winner Tonalist, and 2015 runner-up Frosted.

Stallion Horse in Belmont Crops of Racing Age Average Racing Distance (Furlongs) Average Winning Distance (Furlongs)
Curlin Irish War Cry 6 7.66 7.63
Tapit Tapwrit 10 7.53 7.53
Mineshaft J Boys Echo 11 7.27 7.31
Lookin at Lucky Lookin at Lee 4 7.25 7.27
Gold Allure Epicharis 11 7.42 7.26
Malibu Moon Gormley 15 7.18 7.09
Union Rags Patch 2 7.26 7.01
The Factor Multiplier 2 6.71 6.92
Tapizar Hollywood Handsome 2 6.70 6.66
Discreetly Mine Senior Investment 4 6.56 6.48
Shackleford Meantime 2 6.68 6.46
Creative Cause Twisted Tom 2 6.77 6.46

Grade 1 winner Appealing Zophie, the dam of Tapwrit, finished fourth among the mothers of Belmont runners, with three winners from five runners winning at an average distance of 7.93 furlongs. Tapwrit is the biggest contributor to her number, with wins at a mile and 1 1/16 miles. Daddy in the Dark, by Bernardini, has won up to 1 1/8 miles.

Epicharis is a multiple Japanese stakes winner, and his dam, the Carnegie mare Stapes Mitsuko, led all Belmont mares with an AWD of 8.85 furlongs from six winners.

It is the second consecutive year that the dam of a Japanese-based Belmont Stakes runner topped her category, following Heavenly Romance, the dam of Lani. Heavenly Romance sent Lani to a third-place finish with an outstanding AWD of 9.73 furlongs.

Stapes Mitsuko is one of just three mares in her Belmont class with an AWD greater than a mile, the others being the dams of Patch and Gormley.

Her first foal, the Heart’s Cry gelding Meisho Naruto, has won six times going 1 1/8 miles or longer. Danon Artist, also by Heart’s Cry, won his maiden at roughly 1 1/4 miles, while full brother Odin Barrows graduated at 1 1/16 miles.

Epicharis, by Gold Allure, has never raced at a distance shorter than a mile in five starts, winning twice at both a mile and 1 1/8 miles. Gold Allure finished fifth among the Belmont sires with an AWD of 7.26 furlongs.

Mare Horse in Belmont Starters Winners Average Winning Distance (Furlongs)
Stapes Mitsuko Epicharis 7 6 8.85
Windyindy Patch 3 3 8.43
Race to Urga Gormley 1 1 8.00
Appealing Zophie Tapwrit 5 3 7.93
Langara Lass Lookin at Lee 5 4 7.81
Tiffany Twisted Twisted Tom 6 6 7.49
Plaid Senior Investment 4 4 7.45
Irish Sovereign Irish War Cry 6 6 7.35
Trippi Street Multiplier 3 3 7.26
Livermore Leslie Meantime 11 10 7.24
Ladyflickerflacker Hollywood Handsome 2 2 7.11
Letgomyecho J Boys Echo 7 5 6.80

Epicharis is owned by U. Carrot Farm.

Irish War Cry was one of four horses tied for third in the AWD rankings, along with Lookin At Lee, Gormley, and Patch.

Irish War Cry’s sire, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, topped this year’s Belmont sires with an AWD of 7.63 furlongs.

Curlin, who finished second in the 2007 Belmont Stakes, is the sire of 2013 winner Palace Malice from his first crop. He was also represented by 2015 third-place finisher Keen Ice.

Curlin has had a runner finish in the money in at least one Triple Crown race each year since his debut crop of 3-year-olds was eligible, and Irish War Cry will be his final chance to continue that streak in 2017.