06/07/2010 11:00PM

Belmont was flawed jewel


NEW YORK - Perhaps the victory by Drosselmeyer in Saturday's Belmont Stakes will prove to be the turning point in the career of a colt who had been a disappointing underachiever. Or, perhaps this victory by Drosselmeyer will prove to be an indictment of the group that contested the last leg of the 2010 Triple Crown. My crystal ball is in the shop, so I don't know which one it will be. But if I had to make a line on it, I would make "an indictment" option the 3-5 favorite.

That is because this Belmont Stakes, which lacked the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners, felt eerily similar to the last two such Belmont Stakes. Jazil, in 2006, and Commendable, in 2000, were the last two to win Belmonts in which the Derby and Preakness winners did not participate. Neither had won a stakes before his Belmont score, and the same is true of Drosselmeyer. Neither won a race of any sort after his Belmont. We don't know about Drosselmeyer yet. But beyond winning a Triple Crown race, neither Jazil nor Commendable did anything really special winning his Belmont, and the same is true of Drosselmeyer.

What Drosselmeyer did in his customary grinding style was to catch the pacesetting First Dude and outfinish Fly Down through a final quarter-mile that felt a lot longer than 26.60 seconds. Now, while Saturday's fast main track at Belmont Park was on the dull side (but without bias, unlike last year when the rail was by far the place to be on Belmont Day), Drosselmeyer's final time of 2:31.57 for the 1 1/2 miles was slow. Really slow. This was the slowest Belmont Stakes since Thunder Gulch's (2:32) in 1995, which was the slowest fast-track Belmont since Bounding Home's (2:32.20) in 1944. Drosselmeyer's winning Beyer Speed Figure was only 94, the lowest since Beyers were first published for the Belmont back in 1990, and just the second to fail to reach triple digits. The other was for Da' Tara, who earned a 99 in his 38-1 upset of the 2008 Belmont and who went 0 for 11 the rest of his career.

The good news is that this Belmont provided trainer Bill Mott with his first victory in a Triple Crown race. Mott has for decades been one of the best trainers in this country and was the youngest trainer to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 45 in 1998. It's good to see this conspicuous hole on his r sum filled.

The other noteworthy accomplishment was by WinStar Farm, which owns Drosselmeyer and also owns the Derby winner, Super Saver. WinStar was able to win two-thirds of this year's Triple Crown with different horses -- quite an achievement even if WinStar, which clearly does nothing in a small way, has 47 3-year-olds listed on its website stable roster. Be warned: WinStar has 71 2-year-olds listed on the roster.

Other impressions from Belmont Stakes Day:

I find it interesting that a big deal isn't being made over how jockey Ramon Dominguez really let up on First Dude in the final strides of the Belmont before being passed and beaten for second by a neck by Fly Down. A big deal was made when virtually the identical thing happened in the Kentucky Derby with Kent Desormeaux and Paddy O'Prado. For the record, I thought the whole thing in the Derby concerning Desormeaux and Paddy O'Prado, who was nailed for second in the last jumps by Ice Box, was much ado about nothing. Paddy O'Prado seemed to me like he was clearly on fumes at the end of the Derby, and who knows what would have happened had Desormeaux reached down and cracked him one more time. But none of those possibilities included saving second.

I feel the same way about First Dude in the Belmont. First Dude was put into an all-out drive five-sixteenths of a mile from the finish, and he was empty when Dominguez let up on him late. I don't think First Dude was going to go any faster if Dominguez hit him one more time. I think Fly Down would have nailed him for second, anyway.

But it is interesting that Dominguez isn't being held to the same standard as Desormeaux was. It's also an interesting coincidence that both First Dude and Paddy O'Prado are trained by Dale Romans.

In regards to First Dude, speaking as a person who picked him and wagered on him, I cannot complain. First Dude got away with as easy a lead as I could have hoped for (49.19 seconds, 1:14.94) and just wasn't good enough. No excuses.

* Sure, Gio Ponti encountered a fair amount of traffic in the Woodford Reserve Manhattan. But Gio Ponti still gained a narrow lead mere strides from the wire, only to be nailed by the 21-1 Winchester. Sorry, a double Eclipse Award winner in 2009 like Gio Ponti should not lose to a marginal performer like Winchester after getting the lead late. Of course, Gio Ponti was making his first start since finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup. Yours truly has maintained for years in this space that the majority of American-based horses who compete in the Dubai World Cup are never the same afterward, and have listed the post-Dubai Cup record of all American-based horses, even the isolated exceptions, as proof. Let's see if Gio Ponti is able to prove to be an exception.

* With all due respect to D' Funnybone - who made it 6 for 7 in his career in races under a mile in a perfect-trip romp in the Woody Stephens Stakes - the best 3-year-old sprinter Saturday at Belmont was Trappe Shot. Trappe Shot looked like a genuine Grade 1 horse making a show of a strong allowance field, running faster than D' Funnybone did going the same distance two races later.