2016 Belmont Stakes Contenders, Post Positions & Odds
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POST POSITION 11 - Exaggerator is clearly a first rate equine competitor but you have to think his connections often think back to his second place in the Kentucky Derby and wonder what might have been had he been a little faster and able to run down Nyquist. Had that transpired, we'd be talking about the prospect of back-to-back Triple Crown winners. Even so, he's got a chance to win two of the three Triple Crown races and finish second in the other. That's no joke.
The son of 2007 Belmont Stakes runner-up and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin is a battle-tested veteran having made nine consecutive graded stakes starts with eight in-the-money finishes, including his stretch-drive surge to win the Preakness. Exaggerator has been at his best on sloppy and sealed tracks with victories in the Santa Anita Derby and Preakness sandwiched around a second-place Kentucky Derby effort in which he finished just 1 1/4-lengths behind the lead. Exaggerator has posted three consecutive Beyer Speed Figures of triple digits, including a 101 in the Kentucky Derby in his longest career race at 1 1/4 miles.
Prior to his second place finish in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes win he was still something of a question mark despite winning the Santa Anita Derby. Earned a handful of Kentucky Derby qualification points in last year's Delta Downs Derby Jackpot as a two year old. Punched his ticket to Churchill Downs with a win in a sloppy and muddy Santa Anita Derby. A strong presence in the other two Kentucky Derby prep races at Santa Anita, finishing second in the San Vincente to Nyquist. Took third in the San Vincente behind two other potential Derby runners, Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux, his brother Kent Desormeaux the jockey. Make sure to follow Kent Desormeaux's status-he checked in to alcohol rehab in Utah on May 31 but plans to ride in the Belmont. Exaggerator has proven to be a very capable and versatile colt with the only question now the same as every other horse in the field is facing-can he deal with the Belmont distance?
POST POSITION 4 - A career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 96 in the Kentucky Derby suggests Suddenbreakingnews is on the upswing as he enters the Belmont off a five-week layoff. First or second in seven of his nine career starts, the bay surged late in the Derby to finish fifth. A son of Mineshaft out of Uchitel, a daughter of 2005 Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, Suddenbreakingnews won the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park as a 2-year-old, and took the Grade 3 Southwest in February. It was recently discovered he was not a gelding, but a ridgling.
Finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Before that, he won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Fifth in the Rebel Stakes, rebounded to finish second in the Arkansas Derby. Has a `cult following' but serious horse players very concerned about his tendency to find traffic and not get out of it.
His proponents point to his `bred for distance' pedigree and his consistency. With the exception of the Rebel Stakes and Kentucky Derby has finished first or second in seven of his nine career races. If the perception that he's `bred for distance' is legit the 1 1/2 mile Belmont Stakes course will be the place to show it.
POST POSITION 5 - Todd Pletcher is sending his big bay colt of Medaglia d'Oro out of Bending Strings, is set to take on the field in the 148th Belmont Stakes. Stradivari doesn't have that much experience under his belt having only started in four races, the last being the Preakness Stakes. He place fourth behind Exaggerator, Cherry Wine and Kentucky Derby winner, Nyquist. He's proving quickly that he can keep up with the pace for the Test of the Champion.
Still very inexperienced against top level competition but a ton of potential. Finished fourth in his debut, won a MSW at Gulfstream Park followed by an allowance race at Keeneland. Didn't qualify for the Kentucky Derby, finished a respectable fourth in the Preakness Stakes right behind the fading Nyquist. That's a body of work that would earn Stradivari an `incomplete' in a college course but he's got plenty of supporters and is currently the #3 choice in UK bookmakers' future odds.
POST POSITION 3 - One of two likely Belmont runners for trainer Dale Romans, Cherrywine is a hard horse to get excited about. His proponents point to the second place finish in the Preakness over a muddy track. His detractors suggest that his Preakness finish was due to his being the beneficiary of the off track and a strange race form and pace.
One of two horses ever to finish in front of Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, the son of Paddy O'Prado barely missed making the Derby field, but has been rapidly improving as he rises through graded stakes company. He began 2016 as an allowance winner before placing in a trio of graded stakes. Two decent but not great finishes in Kentucky Derby prep races (3rd in the Blue Grass Stakes, 4th in the Rebel Stakes) is his only other stakes experience. Didn't qualify for the Derby, giving even less context for his Preakness finish. His biggest critics see a lot of similarities between Cherrywine and 2015 Preakness runner up Tale of Verve (also on a muddy track). Tale of Verve got a lot of love heading into the Belmont but finished seventh. Hasn't been in the top five of a race since.
POST POSITION 2 - Was a question mark before the Kentucky Derby and his sixth place finish provided no answers. Destin won the March 12 Tampa Bay Derby and before that the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Ran a 100 Beyer in the Derby and for that reason his connections have kept him out of any more prep races. Ran the Kentucky Derby on an 8 week layoff which didn't help.
A more reasonable five week layoff here. Quality connections to be sure-trained by Todd Pletcher, jockey Javier Castellano. Not sure how he wins the Belmont though he does provide some much needed early speed that could help the closers in the field.
BRODY'S CAUSE 20-1
POST POSITION 12 - The other Dale Romans horse in the Belmont field and another huge question mark. Finished 7th in the Kentucky Derby. Before that, won the Blue Grass Stakes as Todd Pletcher's Zulu laid an egg. 7th in the Tampa Bay Derby, 3rd in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Won the Breeders' Futurity. Some horse racing experts generally like Brody's Cause and think he could blossom later in the year.
If he could handle the distance might back into an `in the money' finish with the right pace and form.
POST POSITION 10 - Finished 9th in the Kentucky Derby and fifth in the Preakness. In theory, nothing suggests that he'll be a factor in the Belmont but the reality is that once you get past Exaggerator there's plenty of marginal talent and big question marks in the field. Might be a good horse to use underneath in exotics since I expect his odds to go up once live betting begins. He might not be a great horse but he's likely a better horse than his Belmont post-time odds could suggest.
GOVERNOR MALIBU 12-1
POST POSITION 1 - Trained by the underrate Christophe Clement, Governor Malibu has never finished out of the money in his career races with two wins, three seconds and a third. Finished second in his stakes debut, the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont in May. The familiarity with the track helps but going from 1 1/8 miles in his last race to 1 1/2 miles here is a brutal jump. Will come at a high price and not a bad horse. Might be worth using underneath in exotics.
POST POSITION 13 - Took six races to break his maiden but performed well in the two Kentucky Derby prep stakes events he entered. Took third in the Rebel Stakes, won the Arkansas Derby with a very strong closing effort and a nice ride from jockey Ricardo Santana. Was the big winner in the Arkansas Derby and the beneficiary of the bad showing by Bob Baffert's Cupid. At 11-1, the gray colt surged from dead last to win the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby by 1 1/4 lengths, besting 11 others including fellow Belmont Stakes probable Suddenbreakingnews. The son of Wood Memoral winner Tapit has not raced since a 13th-place Derby showing, skipping the Preakness to run fresh in the Belmont. Overall, he is 2-4-1 from nine career starts.
Before the Kentucky Derby the line on Creator was that `racing experts still trying to figure him out'. The 13th he turned in in the Kentucky Derby didn't answer any questions. A strong closer who has more of a chance with the speed of Gettysburg in the race. The problem is that he's in a field full of strong closers.
POST POSITION 6 - A bit of intrigue behind the entry of Gettysburg. He's been trained by Todd Pletcher for WinStar Farms for his entire career. Pletcher has two other horses in the race so to avoid conflict of interest Steve Asmussen will train Gettysburg for the Preakness.
Asmussen is already training the WinStar owned Creator. And here's the fun part-Gettysburg is the front running, pace setting speed horse that the field was missing. And guess who having a speed horse in the field will benefit the most? That would be Asmussen's Creator and Pletcher's Stradivari and Destin. Not sure that a horse can be a `sacrificial lamb' but if it's possible that's what Gettysburg is.
TROJAN NATION 30-1
POST POSITION 9 - The only maiden horse running in this year's Belmont Stakes. The Street Cry colt earned his spot in this year's Kentucky Derby by sneaking up the rail and placing second behind, Outwork. He recently finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and his connections decided to skip the Preakness. He is now entered into the field for the 148Th Running of the Belmont Stakes.
Finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes as an 81-1 long-shot thanks to a weak field and perfect pace. Before that had never finished higher than third in five MSW's trying to break his maiden. Finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby and for some reason he's being entered here. Don't expect him to get his first career win in the Belmont Stakes.
SEEKING THE SOUL 30-1
POST POSITION 7 - Separated by little more than 700 miles and just shy of an hour, Charles Fipke's homebreds joined the Triple Crown trail almost simultaneously on May 29 when Seeking the Soul beat a maiden special weight field by a neck at Churchill Downs and was followed 51 minutes later by Forever d'Oro at Belmont Park, who posted a nose victory in a maiden special weight.
Two career starts, a second at Fairgrounds in February and a 5th at Churchill Downs in May. Both were MSW's and at 6 and 6 1/2 furlongs respectively. Some horses thrive at longer distances but don't see much reason to back such an inexperienced horse making a huge jump in distance against a solid field of contenders.
FOREVER D'ORO 30-1
POST POSITION 8 - The Medaglia d'Oro colt trained by Dallas Stewart is now set to enter the field for the Belmont Stakes. Half brother to multiple graded stakes winner Unbridled Forever, he has finished 5th at best in two maiden special weight races. Forever d'Oro changed his stars when the colt broke his maiden despite a poor break. He will take on the field and try for his second win.
`D'Oro' means `gold' in Italian. That's more to go on than this horse's racing career which consists of his maiden race, a 1 1/16 mile win here at Belmont in late May. Dallas Stewart can't seriously be entering two horses with a combined three races and no stakes experience? Might be a better choice than stablemate Seeking The Soul since he's won at this track and went more than a mile in his only career start.
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