06/05/2013 3:19PM

Dick Jerardi: Here's hoping the Belmont Stakes pace will be easier to figure

Barbara D. Livingston
I was confident there were several legitimate speed horses in the Preakness, none of them named Oxbow.

I was very confident the Kentucky Derby pace would be moderate and closers would be at a disadvantage. I was equally confident that there were several legitimate speed horses in the Preakness, none of them named Oxbow.

If you are going to be wrong, you may as well be spectacularly wrong. If you are not cashing, you are not cashing.

In my defense, did anybody see Palace Malice in front and flying? Did anybody see Oxbow with an easy lead?

Certainly, Mike Smith (Palace Malice) and Gary Stevens (Oxbow) did not imagine any of it. Smith could not stop it. Stevens could not believe it.

The results, obviously, had something to do with the respective paces. The issue for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes is to decide how much.

Orb was nearly 10 lengths better than Oxbow in the Derby, nine lengths worse in the Preakness.

[BELMONT STAKES: Live updates and video from Belmont Park]

I walked out of Churchill Downs with some wise DRF minds, and we all concluded that Oxbow had run best of the horses that the paper would indicate did not run well. He had been near the hot pace, right there at the quarter pole and did not fade as badly as most others.

What I thought that meant for the Preakness is that Oxbow might have a chance to hit the board at an overlaid price. I did not see him cruising to the front and dominating the race.

I walked out of Pimlico thinking that Orb never looked comfortable on the inside. I did not realize until later when I looked at all the replays and read the chart footnotes that the rail was really no place to be on Preakness Day.

If Orb had won the Derby in a vacuum, I would have assumed the hot pace made him look far better than he actually is. But it was the colt’s fifth consecutive victory.

If there was one thing I was certain of in the Preakness, it was that Orb would run his typically solid race. He did not have to win, but I never considered a floundering fourth.

Were five straight wins the aberration or one bad loss? That seems like an easy answer, especially if you accept that the rail really was bad and that Orb really was uncomfortable not being outside and able to unleash his long stride without traffic.

My feelings about Orb are not that much different than after the Derby. When I started to hear superstar, I cringed. I thought then and think now that Orb is a tough, consistent horse with a world-class trainer and world-class jockey, but not a transcendent horse that is going to be able to dominate.

Those kinds of horses reveal themselves by how fast they run. We do Beyer figures to identify the horses that are on another level.

Orb is not that horse. Neither is Oxbow. Or any other horse in this 14-horse Belmont field.

What we have are some pretty solid horses that are still running after the prep race grind and the crucible of the Triple Crown itself. We can only hope most of them are still running by fall.

Ten horses in this Belmont field ran in the Derby, which suggests this is a more resilient group that we have had in recent years. That, by itself, is cause for celebration.

So would a win by Orb or Oxbow. Or Freedom Child, who certainly appears best of the horses that are new to the Triple Crown.

Like Orb and Oxbow, we know Freedom Child can run fast under optimum conditions. Did Freedom Child win the Peter Pan by 13 1/4 lengths and get a 99 Beyer because the race was in the slop and he caught a field with no early speed? Or did Freedom Child just announce he has caught up to the others and may be about to pass them?

There are so many questions going into the final Triple Crown exam for 2013. I can explain the results of the first two legs pretty easily now that I have seen how the races were run.

If they only had “in-race’’ betting here, I would have been all over Orb and Oxbow after a quarter mile. Alas, we still have to bet before they come out of the starting gate. And this spring, how they started has had everything to do with how they finished.

Ray Sousa More than 1 year ago
The way the track is playing this saturday there will be a mad dash to the rail from the start and the horse that gets there and secures position will have a very good shot....unfortunately the BELMONT track crew have decided to make this into a paved highway a la santa anita and hopefully there wont any break downs...but on these hard surfaces that haven been compacted to a stupid degree it always a risk.
Merrily Fantus More than 1 year ago
Oxbow, Will take Charge (at long last) and Orb, PMalice.
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
joe More than 1 year ago
Like your picks except toss Will take Charge, he will not hit the board.
Paul Neville More than 1 year ago
Orb,revolutionary, freedom child, incognito. Tri box, and super box
edb More than 1 year ago
Two probable winners are Revolutionary and Orb. Longer distance helps the wandering Revolutionary overcome his late break problem and he is the only one who can outfinish Orb. Pace should be 6f in 1:13ish and Oxbow gets swallowed up. So many coming in the race with clunker race in the derby. I'll try Vyjack and Unlimited Budget to fill in tri and super.
Bill Foley More than 1 year ago
While you're doing your handicapping, remember that jockeys whol regularly or at least occasionally ride at Belmont have an edge. It's a track like no other. Riders who aren't familiar with the layout can easily get "lost" on the far turn.
James G Romano More than 1 year ago
Yeah,but which big name jockey needs to be reminded of that?I`m sure that most 'big name' jocks have ridden on it,,, keeping notes,,,
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
This is the greatest n/a jockey race ever run annually, because it's at Belmont Park. The regular jocks have a huge edge to say the least. Out of town jocks lose their bearings at some point and move wrong.
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Belmont pace is going to be hot, especially if its slop which is forecast. Too many gunners, distance challenged in this one that won't try to see if they can steal it. Plus they get the early race visibility, some calls, makes owners happy. The legitimate contenders will stalk and win.
George Sudduth More than 1 year ago
again.depends on how the weather and the track holdup
Christian Gannon More than 1 year ago
First, hot paces in the Derby should be expected. It seems regardless of "speed talent", every year the first 6 panels are run in extreme haste. I ALWAYS figure on a fast pace in the Derby and I almost always select stakers and closers; deep closers if it turns up sloppy. Why anyone would assume a slow pace in the Derby is a mystery to me. Second, Belmont is ALL about breeding angles & big longshots--- This year? Take Incognito, Freedom Child, and Revolutionary (I know, not a long shot, but best of the Preakness skippers) in your exacta boxes. Look for AP Indy breeding lines, and if sloppy, Malibu Moon also (double strength), although as much as I like Orb and his connections, he is plum tuckered out at this stage. I see him in the money as 'show' potential at best.
John Hanley More than 1 year ago
A little off the subject but is it me or do the Beyers always seem to be too high on a sloppy track? I constantly see a horse with a 15 plus Beyer best and then look at the track condition and notice it was sloppy that day. Anyone else notice this trend or am I nuts? Probably the latter.
dazed and confused More than 1 year ago
Obviously Paranoid Schizophrenic, but think you nailed it with the Beyer observation. Good Luck Saturday.....
George Sudduth More than 1 year ago
ENAMMELD More than 1 year ago
Andy still selling those things...lmao
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
I have always thought the Belmont Stakes is the most difficult of the three classics to handicap and nothing I have seen lately sways me from that opinion. The biggest reason is the breeding: none of these horses were bred with the Belmont in mind -- not even Orb. Factor that into the idiosyncratic nature of the Belmont track and the unfamiliarity of the jockeys with the distance and in some cases the track itself and you really have quite a few questions. Whoever was able to see DaTara or Commendable or Ruler on Ice prior to their victories is far more prescient than me. After watching Alysheba put away Bet Twice in the first two legs of their classic series who could say in confidence that Bet Twice would blow away Alysheba in the Belmont Stakes? Who could have predicted the Big Brown debacle? For those old enough to remember, who would have gone out on a limb and predicted Bold Forbes - a horse even his trainer had some doubts about in regards to distance - could win the Belmont? you just never know about this race. This year you've got a nice big field of horses - at least half of which look like they have some kind of chance. Maybe more than half. Tough game.
Easy call More than 1 year ago
I remember Bold Forbes quite well! I thought he was a great horse but a mile and a half? I bet MacKenzie Bridge (a huge 17+ hands horse) and Great Contractor (a future legit Gr 1 distance horse). They came flying down the stretch but Angel Cordero had nursed Bold Forbes away from the rail and relaxed him enough to have enough left to win. The most masterful ride of Cordero's career of many such feats.
Bill Kaup More than 1 year ago
Amen to all of that. I remember Darryl McHargue on MacKenzie Bridge flying down the stretch to just miss catching Bold Forbes. Remember Honest Pleasure? If it wasn't for him Bold Forbes just might have been a Triple Crown winner.
Don Wise More than 1 year ago
I'm not giving up on Orb who should be going for the triple. Revolutionary should get the distance but Oxbow being the speed in the race could seal the deal for 2 in a row. If I were to play a Tri box (and I will) it'll be Orb, Palace Malice & Revolutionary. Then too you've got consider the sloppy track that might be coming. Orb, Revolutionary and then maybe Golden Soul
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
Oxbow not the speed in the race. Freedom Child runs one way, Frac Daddy already known tobe going. Gary S not gonna get to sit ez in this one.