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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Monday, June 1, 2015


"That horse is as good as any horse I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen some good ones and I’ve been on some good ones, and I was on a good one [Rock Hard Ten] today. Smarty really reminded me of Secretariat the way he pulled away."
Gary Stevens, discussing Smarty Jones’ 11.5 lengthsromp in the 2004 Preakness Stakes

"He just keeps on getting better and keeps on getting stronger. He is special. It doesn’t look like he got down on his belly today. I know we have horse left. I’m going to be under the impression that he’s going to be tough to beat in the Belmont."
Trainer Richard Dutrow after the undefeated Big Brown won the 2009 Preakness Stakes by 5.75 lengths under a hand ride.

California Chrome, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will be the focus of everyone’s attention, as indicated by the throng of media that had begun assembling hours before the arrival of the van, which received a police escort from the Throgs Neck Bridge to the racetrack and had helicopters circling above.
Steve Haskin - Bloodhorse


Yes indeed, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners since 1978, all 13 of them, have been rock stars as they prepare for the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown immortality...and of course the Triple Crown itself has become more and more the focus of attention year in and year out, in large part due to the failure of those 13e to get the job done.

And just as we were a year ago and as we were in 2009 with Big Brown, in 2004 with Smarty Jones, 2003 with Funny Cide, 2002 with War Emblem and on and on, the "punditocracy" and the world of celebrity that pays attention to three (if that many) races a year is once again enthralled by the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. And once again the voices of and surrounding thoroughbred racing are equally convinced that "this will be the year."

Over the weekend TVG had a brief survey of about 10-12 knowledgeable racing people (from jockeys to trainers to writers) and all but one said that American Pharoah was going to win the Belmont Stakes. In fairness, as many who said he’d win said it in a "hope he does it for racing" manner, but tabbed him the winner nonetheless.

Can American Pharoah win the Belmont and become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978? Of course he "can."

Will American Pharoah win the Belmont Stakes and become the first 3-year old since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown after 13 others have failed for one reason or another to accomplish the feat? Let’s answer it this way: by predicting what (in a general consensus manner of speaking) the majority of the same experts who are pulling for him or believe he will win it will have to say on Sunday and Monday when questioned about the Belmont Stakes.

"If American Pharoah couldn’t win the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown, I don’t know if we’ll ever see another Triple Crown winner in our lifetime."


Horse racing is just like pro football. True fans are absorbed by the majesty of the competition. They are enthralled by the opportunity to measure their own hard worked analysis and opinion against those of the other fans. And while there is a handful of each who love their sports for the pure majesty of competition, the majority of pro football and thoroughbred fans measure their success against their fellow "experts" by putting their money on the line.

Whether it is a MSW race on a Wednesday or the Belmont Stakes this Saturday, where a lot more money is involved, those players are still looking to prove their meddle by cashing in when correct on that analysis.


From a purely financial standpoint...what serious players call "value" the answer is no. Just take a look at the off odds and finish of the last 7 three-year olds since 1997 that entered the Belmont Stakes after winning the Derby and Preakness.

2014 - California Chrome...4-5 - dead-heated for fourth.
2009 - Big Brown...3-10 - did not finish.
2004 - Smarty Jones...3-10 - second.
2003 - Funny Side...1-1 - third.
2002 - War Emblem...6-5 - eighth.
1999 - Charismatic...8-5 - third.
1998 - Real Quiet...4-5 - second.
1997 - Silver Charm...1-1 - second.
There are only two questions to be asked. (One) at this point has American Pharoah proven to be the best 3-year old of his generation...YES! (Two) is American Pharoah a "good bet" to win the Belmont and claim the Triple Crown...NO!


So if we are looking to the past history of who has won the Belmont Stakes when the Derby and Preakness winner hasn’t, when we are looking for the patterns of training that has resulted in Belmont Stakes success, when we are analyzing the merits of some of the under-the radar Belmont Stakes entrants for 2015 what do we focus on?

The best ways to answer those types of questions is to take a brief look at the seven colts (Carpe Diem and The Truth Or Else were withdrawn just as this was being written) that were still prospective runners as of Monday, June 1 and connect a few of their exploits to those of past Belmont Stakes success stories. A more in depth Belmont Stakes preview will be published in these pages on Thursday 6/4.

FRAMMENTO - If you want to whittle down your Belmont Stakes short(er) list you could choose to do so by looking at this guy’s past performances. He is still eligible for non-winners of two lifetime and was a distant 4th in the Blue Grass Stakes and 11th in the Kentucky Derby. But how about a few twists. Mike Smith (who rode the aforementioned Palace Malice to Belmont Stakes glory) will take the mount for the first time and will do so for trainer Nick Zito whose 8th place Kentucky Derby and second place Blue Grass Stakes runner Birdstone upset Smarty Jones’ Triple Crown quest in 2004.

FROSTED - The well-foundationed Tapit colt will be making his fifth graded stakes try of 2015 after taking the five week break between his late rallying-after minor troubled trip for fourth in the Derby. The Kieran McLaughlin trained and New York based colt has worked flawlessly over the surface since the Belmont Stakes and will be once again piloted by Joel Rosario who rode Tonalist to last year’s Triple Crown denying upset of California Chrome.

KEEN ICE - Like Frammento this Dale Romans trainee is still eligible for no-winners of two races lifetime. He has been well beaten by Frosted, twice, Carpe Diem and American Pharoah (in the Kentucky Derby in his most recent) so on paper the continued confidence by his connections is questionable. But for supporters of long-winded stayers, the fact that he actually made up ground in the lane and passed 6 rivals while 7 wide, gives those looking for the one underneath longshot that pumps up the exotics some hope. And, oh yeah, last year Romans entered a horse that was similarly questionable on paper...Medal Count...and that one came within a length (despite a tough trip finished third in the Belmont) of pulling the 25-1 upset.

MADEFROMLUCKY - One of two Todd Pletcher runners, now that Carpe Diem has been declared, this last out Peter Pan winner will likely be a longer price than Materiality, but for an angle player with a long term memory of Belmont Stakes angles might prove the most successful of the trio. Fresh out of the Peter Pan Stakes this son of Lookin’ At Lucky would not have to move forward very much to join Coastal, who began the 13 try drought by beating Spectacular Bid in 1979 and Tonalist, who continued it last year as well as previous Peter Pan to Belmont success such as A.P. Indy, Colonial Affair and Drosselmeyer. In fact, in 2010 the top two Peter Pan finishers, Fly Down and Drosslemeyer simply reversed themselves in the Belmont and last year Commissioner followed Tonalist home second in both the Peter Pan and Belmont. Must improve after running behind AP in both Rebel and Arkansas Derby but has been working well.

MATERIALITY - If any horse has the upside to improve following the Derby-Preakness Break-Belmont sequence this lightly raced Pletcher colt is the one to do it. Bad start and tough trip in the Derby still resulted in a good 6th in Louisville and with that experience under his belt the Florida Derby winner has every reason to improve. It is also worth noting that those who ran in the Florida Derby have stayed around long enough to factor in recent Belmont Stakes...Orb (3rd in 2013), Union Rags (won in 2012), Stay Thirsty (2nd in 2011) and Dunkirk (2nd in 2009.)

MUBTAAHIJ - While it is difficult to get an angle on this guy since his North American debut was in the Kentucky Derby it has to be considered a positive that he is bred to handle the 10 furlong distance and that very craft trainer Michael De Kock, who is meticulous when it comes to his conditioning regimens (especially the kind of feed he uses - which is why he trained in Illinois prior to the Derby) shipped early to Belmont and has had the cot out regularly...he has actually gone to the clocker every 3-4 days (an unheard of regimen) so why would he be a surprised...especially second time in the states, often a good race.

TALE OF VERVE - Few saw him coming in the Preakness, although the longshot exploits of Golden Soul and Commanding Curve (each second at huge odds in the 2013 and 2014 Kentucky Derby respectively) by this same trainer, Dallas Stewart were well extolled on these pages leading up to the race as he was one of the four horses used underneath American Pharoah for the $124.50 Exacta. Whether he will continue to move forward with his late development remains a question mark.


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