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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

A THUMBNAIL SKETCH OF ALL BELMONT-154 COMBATANTS

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, June 7. 2022 – There is no question that impressive Peter Pan Stakes winner We The People has been the buzz horse in the weeks leading up Belmont 154.

As the highly likely loose leader, especially now with rail position, he will enjoy a tactical advantage plus an important recent race over the track.

Here’s the Skinny on the Test of the Champion entrants:

1-WE THE PEOPLE 2-1: As stated, he undoubtedly will have an early advantage curling into the lower first turn, especially given last weekend’s sharp blowout. His Peter Pan was visually impressive and was run in fast time. The eight horse field ensures this will be a rider’s race. Some rival is likely to pressure him at some point, likely midway down the backstretch, then we’ll find out about his ultimate class and ability to stay a mile and a half. The “now horse.”

2-SKIPPYLONGSTOCKING 20-1 His wide draw in the Preakness Stakes did him no favors and he raced wide throughout, even wider entering the lane. In relative terms, he did well to be beaten 7-1/2 lengths following his good third in the Wood Memorial previously, a race that was better than most observers believed pre-Preakness results.

3-NEST 8-1  She may or may not be a better filly than the Oaks winner, Kentucky Oaks trips having somewhat of an effect. Luis Saez timed secret Oath’s late run perfectly while Nest, compelled to move earlier as the race was run, made a longer run, harder to sustain. And there’s no telling how much her huge effort winning Keeneland’s Ashland previously affected her in Louisville. No distance worries here given her lengthy pedigree. Of course, Todd Pletcher has won three of these, including one with tomboy Rags To Riches.

4-RICH STRIKE 7-2  Given the storylines, he would be my sentimental choice. Not only that, but he has the look of an improving three-year-old. His training at Churchill Downs and his Belmont gallops look spot on. Sharpened, he will be closer to the pace than his past performances indicate. His trainer says that if Ritchie is within six lengths of the lead midway of the far turn, they had better watch out. Eric Reed knows his horse. The trainer’s demeanor pre- and post-Derby gives him credibility. And his horse just might be “the best horse” in this. That’s why they run the races.

5-CREATIVE MINISTER 6-1  Here’s another peaking runner and improving at the right time. His allowance score on the Derby undercard was notable for its dominance, and he was a very good third in Baltimore. Going longer and given a softer pace, he’s another contender that may wind up in good mid-pack position. He’s certainly live and he’s capable. Ken McPeek knows how to do this.

6-MO DONEGAL 5-2  Along with his filly stablemate, they have had a good five weeks since Derby weekend. Another deep closer that might not have too much work to do given the Belmont pace dynamics, his late run is relentless and he never fails to fire. Props for his Derby effort–and I understand his late rally was pace-advantaged. But hanging one’s handicapping hat on that variable might prove costly. This is a very nice colt that has been training purposefully alongside his stablemate.

7-GOLDEN GLIDER 20-1  Mark Casse knows how to do this, too, and we have had several conversations about this guy. I have been a fan since Tampa Bay Downs and even made a Derby Future wager in Las Vega on this guy, so we like him. But not to win this and will take him for a slice of the vertical pie. Two things in his favor: His one-paced style suits the Belmont trip and he never stops trying. Showed class to win place photo in the Peter Pan.

8-BARBER ROAD 10-1  He’s what old-schoolers such as I would call a real sweetheart. He has six exacta finishes in nine lifetime runs, including two victories. He’s yet another who finishes his races relentlessly but even through he’s an off-the-pace type capable of dropping in to save ground, his wide draw did him no favors. Saving some ground is no automatic despite the rider’s wishes. Perhaps the worst thing he could do would be to jump too sharply from the barrier.

Horseplayers have another four days to sort this all out.

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9 Responses

  1. hey john,
    as a horseplay for 52 years, i find this years belmont stakes day card disappointing. yes there are a few good
    betting races, but 4 5 horse fields, with odds on favorites in most of those. a couple of other 6 and 7 horse races,
    and that’s before scratches. john what gives, huge purses and no one is running their horses. i wouldn’t go to belmont
    park that day, if nyra paid my way in. am i wrong. thanks, regards mutuel mitch.

  2. First, Mitch, realize that at the higher levels of the game, given in some cases obscenely large purses, horsemen go searching all of the country for the softest spot for the biggest pots.
    Secondly, I believe in the theory that overmatched horses can hurt themselves by overextending vs faster, classier rivals.
    Third, many of the short fields have to do with the quality in the race. For instance, if you owned a horse that would have to defeat Malathaat and Letruska, or Speakers Corner and Flightline, would you risk your horse for third money?
    I understand it’s horse racing and that anything can happen. but i would keep my horse in the barn and seek another spot in which I can be the post time favorite, or thereabouts.
    And, finally, with respect to Saturday and, for now, universal forecasts calling for significant rain, what if your horse doesn’t perform on a sealed wet track, or doesn’t have the kind of speed needed to stay in the first flight of horses that have a wet-speed bias in their favor, why run.
    The stars that appear Saturday have been expected to appear for the past month at least. Old school racetrackers tell you you don’t go hunting for bear with a switch.
    I’m not justifying anything here Mitch. I just know how the game is usually played.

    1. JP,
      Entering one’s horse where one believes it has a chance to win makes perfect sense, but it is a very subjective exercise where potential for improvement can be at least as significant as record of accomplishment.

      Rich Strike’s connections did not expect him to win the Derby and look what happened!

      One of your signature phrases is “That’s why they run the races.” Perhaps you should add “You can’t win unless you run” to your repertoire.

      This year’s Met Mile miniscule field promises to be even less competitve than last year’s tiny offering, and even less entertaining unless Flightline sets a new record by an overwhelming margin ala Secretariet in the Belmont.

      Happy Saver seems competitive here (though he has not yet won without LASIX), but why isn’t the classy, speedy, streaking Olympiad; the horse that beat him last time?

      Aloha West figures to improve, and possibly regain his BC Sprint winning form, so why isn’t his last out conqueror, Jackie’s Warrior; winner of the Champagne at 2 and the Pat Day Mile at 3 (both one turn)? Asmussen is not known for ducking opponents, so why is he hiding JW in Friday’s True North?

      1. Trying to remember, was it Steve Forbert: “You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play”

        And you’re right about improving in leaps and bounds, but that generally applies to two- and three-year-olds. Yes, some elders improve with age, even up to six, especially if newly gelded.

        IMHO, think you’re mistaken if you believe the Met Mile will be a walkover: Speaker’s Corner is a very, very good horse.

        Of course, we should have known that result on the last Monday in May…!

  3. P.S. Mitch,
    I’ve not seen the entries beyond the Belmont, so there’s that. May revisit this after doing so…

  4. There are 13 races at Belmont on Saturday. Check the post times. NINE HOURS OF ACTION ! Anyone want to bet all 13 races ? I sure don’t. Eat a sandwich, get an ice cream cone, have a drink or two. Omit the 5 and 6 horse fields. That still leaves 8 races. Don’t turn Belmont Day or Travers Day into an endurance test. Give yourself a reasonable chance at a profitable day, have fun and pace yourself like those 3-year-olds going a mile and a half. Even with scratches, there should be plenty of opportunities. Latest forecast I saw is for about three-tenths of an inch of rain by Belmont Stakes post time.

    # of horses in the 13 races:

    8, 9 (1 coupled entry), 5, 5, 7, 6, 5, 13, 5, 10, 8, 12 (10 plus 2 AEs), 16 (12 plus 4 AEs).

    1. We’ve have seen a lot of pushback on field size. Welcome to the 21st racing century. But there was a tad of good news here, if weather handicappers are correct. Less than a half inch of rain would probably help Big Sandy, not hurt it…

  5. Gotta give props to Flightline for coming. All along I thought the only obstacle to a duel with Life is Good in the Met Mile would be the Cali people not wanting to ship to face Life Is Good on his home track; turns out, Flightline was coming and LIG is the one staying in the barn. Now I’ll root for a jaw dropping performance by Flightline

    1. The Met Mile is the perfect venue for a wow performance. But don’t be shocked if Speaker’s Corner makes it a horse race; I certainly won’t be. He may not be Capital B as brilliant as Flightline but do believe he’s capital C classy.

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