06/07/2010 12:00AM

Little speed may go a long way in Belmont

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PHILADELPHIA - I like the Belmont Stakes. I have always liked the Belmont Stakes.

I know it is an anachronism, that the 1 1/2-mile distance is kind of silly in this throwaway era. I like the race anyway.

Secretariat gets the blame. Never saw anything like it. Never will see anything like it again.

The race is fun because the horses start in front of the grandstand and end right where they start. The grouches can complain. I will not be dissuaded.

And I will try to pick the winner, hit the superfecta, or both.

Until the colt was entered in the Preakness, I had never heard of First Dude. Then, he nearly won the race. Now, he might be the speed of the Belmont Stakes. He absolutely would have been the speed had Todd Pletcher not noticed that the race had zero pace other than First Dude. So, he entered Interactif. Don't think he did it because he plans on Interactif sitting back and making one run.

Still, I can't imagine the pace will be very quick. I bet the Derby on the theory that the pace would knock out most of the speed horses. That was right. Every other theory of mine was wrong.

The Preakness appeared to have little early speed. It played out that way as First Dude, the surprise leader, never stopped trying.

The Belmont does not look all that complicated. The pace will be moderate. And speed horses should be dangerous.

Speed worked for Secretariat. My memory is he went pretty fast early. And kept going fast.

Speaking of going fast early and continuing to go fast, I was dazzled by Quality Road's Met Mile. Three horses got the baton.

Le Grand Cru ran with Quality Road early. Warrior's Reward ran at Quality Road on the turn. Musket Man made a serious run at Quality Road in the stretch.

Quality Road, racing without any relay help, just kept running fast.

It looked a lot like Rachel Alexandra's Woodward without the cliffhanger ending that may have taken so much out of the great filly that she is just now starting to recover her top form.

After all that, Quality Road's final quarter-mile was 24.54 seconds. The colt looked like he had more to give at the wire. If Quality Road loses this year, some horse is going to have to run really fast to beat him.

Quality Road, Zenyatta, and Rachel at Churchill in November. We can hope.

One man who loved the sport would have been thrilled to see that race.

Beyer Associates began 25 years ago with a small cooperative among Andrew Beyer, Mark Hopkins, Randy Moss, and myself.

Through the years, the team has grown, as the Beyer Figures began to get published and we covered every track in North America.

Dennis Harp came aboard a while back. He loved doing the figures. He was, as Beyer said, "obsessively precise about his work."

Dennis did the Beyers in Illinois, Northern California, and the Pacific Northwest. If you were playing those circuits, you were getting figures that were as good as humans can make them.

"He had been interested in racing for most of his adult life, and had done Beyer-type speed figures long before he became associated with us," Beyer said. "He was passionate about dealing with the smallest nuances of the figure-making process."

Harp, 71, died two weeks ago. I spoke with Dennis a few times on the phone and exchanged e-mails on fig-related issues. He knew the game and knew the figs. When a horse shipped from one of his circuits to one of mine, I knew his figures needed no scrutiny.

Harp had two master's degrees, one in business administration and one in social work. Dennis and his wife, Sylvia, lived in San Jose, Calif.

To do the figures, one needs to be analytical, mathematical, and relentless. Dennis was all of those.

"He loved that job," Sylvia told Beyer. "He never would have retired. It was his heart's desire."

We here at Beyer Central will miss Dennis's work. And we will miss him.

Dennis Harp was buried with a copy of Daily Racing Form.