Haskin's Belmont Report: More to Incognito Than You Think

There certainly is no pressure on Kiaran McLaughlin as he prepares Goldolphin’s Incognito for Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. For McLaughlin and the Godolphin/Darley brain trust, this is one of those typical “everything to gain and nothing to lose” scenarios.

McLaughlin is relying strictly on pedigree in his belief that the regally bred son of A.P. Indy – Octave, by Unbridled’s Song has some sort of chance of making an impact on the finish of the mile and a half race.

That’s not to say there isn’t talent and heart to back that up, but at this point, the handsome gray colt is unproven against top-class company and even McLaughlin admits, “He’ll go a mile and a half, I just don’t know how fast.”

So, what kind of case can one make for a horse whose only stakes appearance resulted in a 15 3/4-length defeat and whose highest Beyer Speed Figure has been a paltry 86?

First off, let’s go back to the colt’s maiden victory on March 16. He was coming off a fast-closing neck defeat to Mr. Palmer, who went on to win the Private Terms Stakes easily and then finish a fast-closing fourth in the Wood Memorial. In that maiden score, he tracked a slow pace going a flat mile and came home his final two quarters in :24 and :24 3/5 to win going away by 3 1/4 lengths.

Anyone who saw his next race, a first level allowance race against older horses, had to come away with a tremendous appreciation for the colts courage, toughness, and determination.

Trapped behind a wall of horses in the stretch, he was bumped soundly, ran up on a horse’s heels and stumbled, nearly falling. Somehow, he was able to recover and get back in stride. He was steered to the inside for room by jockey Mike Luzzi and proceeded to go between two horses. But just as he got to the opening, both horses closed it up quickly and he found himself sandwiched in tight quarters. But he wasn’t about to back out of it. Instead, he bulled his way through, knocking both horses out of his way. Once he finally got in the clear, he kicked in to another gear. Winning seemed unlikely, but he kept coming and amazingly got up to win by a nose. He may have earned only an 86 Beyer, but, considering what he overcame, you can add a number of points to that figure had he had a clear run.

Then came his stakes debut in the Peter Pan, for which he was bet down to 7-2. Although his past performances lines would indicate he tired, losing 10 lengths from the opening quarter to the finish, it was just the opposite. He broke sharply over the sloppy track and seemed to be in good position as they headed down the backstretch. But Luzzi decided to move him in behind horses. Incognito apparently did not like the slop being kicked back in his face and proceeded to take himself out of the race, dropping back abruptly, and was not seen on the TV screen until they straightened into the stretch.

Still behind horses, Luzzi saw the rail was clear and steered Incognito to the inside. Once he rid himself of the kickback, the colt took off and began picking off horses. By then, however, Freedom Child, who had led every step of the way, was long gone. He was 10 in front at the eighth pole and continued to widen, winning by 13 ¼ lengths. Incognito was just getting rolling, and although he finished fifth, he was beaten two photos for third. After the wire, he kept building up steam and actually flew by the winner galloping out, which means he had to make up 16 lengths in less than a furlong, and just kept going.

It was that final furlong and the gallop-out that encouraged his connections to try for the Belmont, knowing the mile and a half distance will only help him.

“That’s why we’re running him,” McLaughlin said after watching the colt work a solid :48 1/5 over the training track Monday. “Luzzi said he didn’t like the kickback. He doesn’t have the Sheets numbers, so he’s not going to be a wise-guy horse.”

With rain forecast for Friday and Saturday, many people will toss him after the way he reacted to the slop hitting him, but he did run a good third, closing a lot of ground, in a mile maiden race over a muddy track back in January. He has plenty of strong slop influences in his pedigree top and bottom, and his dam, Octave, ran a super race in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in the slop, rallying from 12th to finish third, beaten only a half-length. She also finished second in the Kentucky Oaks, run over a muddy track.

Incognito is not the type of horse who is going to give you that quick acceleration, and at times he looks as if he’s going nowhere on the far turn, despite being pushed on. He is, however, the type of horse you can never give up on, because it takes a while for him to get going, and once he does, he just keeps coming. And one thing we do know about him is he has the heart and guts and the will to win, and the ability to overcome adversity.

What we don’t know about him is his class against top company and how much talent is there, at least at this point in his career. The speed figures say he’s not fast, and that may be true, but fast speed numbers often are not a major prerequisite to winning the Belmont. Just look at Commendable, Drosselmeyer, Da’ Tara, Ruler On Ice and a host of “slow” horses who managed to pick up a piece of it, such as Atigun, Anak Nakal, Andromeda’s Hero, Nolan’s Cat, Royal Assault, and Thomas Jo, all of whom finished in the money in the Belmont at huge prices.

Whether or not he proves he belongs in this year’s Belmont, Incognito has already shown one of the main qualities you look for in a Thoroughbred – heart. If there is a dogfight, especially at the end of a mile and a half race, he’s the kind of horse you want to have your money on.


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This year's Belmont Stakes is a strong field. I can't see a staying plodder like Incognito winning it. Freedom Child looks set to squander the opposition and if it rains he'll disappear on the front end like the legendary Houdini.  Orb, Overanalyze and Golden Soul are the main dangers.

03 Jun 2013 4:41 PM

Great article Steve.  I cannot wait to go to the Belmont on Saturday!!!  I would like to see the Derby winner, Orb redeem himself too and agree with what you said on the Podcast that it would be the best case scenario overall for racing and mainstream fans.  I would be ok if Oxbow won as well.  Two legs of the triple crown races are better than winning one.  Now Mike Repole's Unlimited Budget, a filly, is in the mix!  I was there when the "Mighty Curlin" got beat by Rags.  Although it would be cool for a filly to win again I would prefer Orb return to form and show us that being caught at the rail was his Preakness undoing.  It is a full field which is nice to see too.  Is Revolutionary in it?  He wasn't bad in the Derby slop and he is more rested having skipped the Preakness.  Yes, General Pletcher has put the women's army corps. in charge here!

We had torrential downpours in NJ today, Monday.  Rain is forecast for Friday, hopefully not all of Saturday and it clears by then.  This past Saturday was gorgeous, figures.  Oh well, my designer chapeau is done and I'm going anything but "incognito."

Good Luck to all and may all horses by safe.

03 Jun 2013 7:18 PM
Junie Wise

After reding yor article it looks like a "White Bridle" Ex.Box....Incognito, Golden Soul

Lets Get Lucky!!!!!!

03 Jun 2013 8:04 PM


I indicated that Revolutionary was Mr. Pletcher's best hope for his second Derby victory. You comprehensively dismissed my assessment and cited Verrazano and Overanalyze as superior colts. Well, when Revolutionary hit the post in 3rd both were still running.

Again no love for Revolutionary  and renewed confidence in Overanalyze. I am interested to know what drives your love for this colt under achieving colt?

Are you Overanalyzing the PPs of the this colt? You certainly Overanalyzed Verrazano when you specified that he was the King Kong in Mr. Pletcher's stable. You will recall I advised you that he would have a better chance of making it to the top of the Empire State Building than winning the Derby.

Are you remotely aware that three of the horses that finished behind Revolutionary occupied the top three slots in the Preakness. Unless bringing back Revoutionary for a competitive effort is above Mr. Pletcher's pay grade, he must be the colt to beat with the 4 to 5 between starts.

You highlighted Golden Soul and I like this colt. I think longer is better for him. My only concern is the fact that his best races have been at CD. The surface at CD seems to favor turf type horses. His pedigree screams turf.

I will have to use him in my wagers irrespective of my concerns.

03 Jun 2013 8:23 PM

Thanks Steve. Heart, guts and determination are unique qualities in any horse and especially a race horse. I will be keeping an eye on Incognito during the race. I always love to hear your perspective on the horses.  

03 Jun 2013 8:40 PM
Bill Two

This is one race where it pays to keep an open mind.  The horses you mentioned that blew up the tote board didn't all look much on paper, but a mile and a half over that big oval can render form obsolete.  Nobody knows how these horses will react to going that far.  A lot of the jocks are stymied by the distance and the track.  When do you move?  I think this is the most difficult of all races to handicap. A stout pedigree seems essential, but after that I'm not sure what to look for.  I've never been too successful trying to handicap this race.  Da Tara, Commendable, etc.  Are you kidding me???

03 Jun 2013 9:30 PM
Jeff Hall

I really like Golden Soul and Palace Malice but would'nt dare leave Incognito off my tickets at 1.5 miles!  Heart & Pedigree will have him in the mix late in this one!  

03 Jun 2013 9:32 PM
Lo At The Races

I would not be surprised at all to see Incognito hit the board in the Belmont Stakes. The Kiaran McLaughlin racing stable has been on fire lately sending out one live horse after another. Add to that Incognito's classic breeding and the 'Darley factor' and you have the formula for a blockbuster performance. Maybe he picks up a piece late for a $7.00 show mutual. Sounds like a good bet to me.

03 Jun 2013 10:27 PM

Oh, Steve, I remember you wrote about Incognito in April right after his allowance race, noting that he demonstrated in that race the epitome of what the Thoroughbred is all about.  I read the various write-ups about him, as well as watched the YouTube video with comments by the TVG guys many times and have shared that video and your comments.  I'm still on Orb's bandwagon, but if the race is to be an upset, I would love to see Incognito come into his own in that race.  Sometimes as you are no doubt keenly aware some horses will have a flash of brilliance and then they never come back to that earlier form.  Being an A.P. Indy colt, let's hope he just keeps going. Even if a TC is not on the line, this year's Belmont Stakes is shaping up to be an interesting one to say the least!  Can't wait!

03 Jun 2013 11:17 PM
Paula Higgins

I would also love to see Orb take this race. Next Unlimited Budget. But Orb is where my heart is in the Belmont. I have always preferred the Belmont and the Breeders Cup Classic over the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.  To me they are the true tests of a champion. Good luck to all of them.

03 Jun 2013 11:38 PM
Mystical Song

You don't see too many Unbridled Songs win mile and a quarter stakes races of the Grade I type, but Octave did. There tremendous damside distance breeding there to account for it.

Steve, you offered one opinion as to Incognito's performance in the Peter Pan, citing the "kickback effect." I have a different one. The connections were already thinking ahead to the Belmont. They weren't trying to win the Peter Pan race. It was merely a prep race for the Belmont. The regally bred son of A.P. Indy stays under the radar, while people get mesmerized by big speed numbers, in a race that is rarely ever about speed. Incognito is a must use in the Belmont.

04 Jun 2013 3:36 AM

Well, it seems if you have a horse with four legs and a pulse, you are eligible for the Belmont this year. I had high hopes for this season, but if one of these "long shots "prevails, it will be less than stellar.

The very best outcome will be a great performance by Orb. I can't see Oxbow winning this race.

Oh well, there's always next year!

04 Jun 2013 7:52 AM

Incognito was produced from a G1 winning mare. This category of broodmares based in the US rarely produce champion caliber 3YOs. They have not been associated with Derby winners in the last 40 or more years. However, they have had success in the Preakness and Belmont.

Bernardini a son of the Gl winner Cara Rafaela won the Preakness and Drosselmeyer a son of G1 winner Golden Ballet won the Belmont. Incognito like Bernardini was sired by A P Indy and is also out of a mare from the Mr. Prospector broodmare line. Despite the similarity in their pedigrees, the two colts are worlds apart.  Incognito lacks the speed and class of Bernardini and is more comparable to Drosselmeyer who possessed a similar grinding running style.

Although Incognito has a lot in common with Drosselmeyer, it must be noted that Drosselmeyer finished 2nd in the G2 Dwyer and 3rd in the G2 LA Derby prior to his Belmont victory.  Incognito was not even considered for the Wood contested over 9F a distance that is considered favorable for his running style. I recognized that the Wood is a G1 but it must be noted that the eventual Peter Pan winner Freedom Child was entered  in the Wood with only MSW victory to his credit.

This is an appropriate time to cite my discontent with handling of this colt. He is a colt that needs a lot of ground to be seen at his best. Despite this fact, his trainer chose to bypass many 9F races and kept him in NY racing against substandard competition. He was a fast closing 2nd to Mr. Palmer who contested the Wood and finished a creditable 4th. Why was Incognito left in his stall on Wood day?  There were scores of 9F Derby preps all over the country and all were bypassed. Suddenly the Belmont that includes the first three finishers in the Derby, the Preakness winner and scored of graded stakes winners is considered an appropriate spot for a colt that has kept away from serious competition during the run up to the Derby.

If this well bred colt needs a lot of ground, why has he only contested one 9F race? I like the colt but I cannot have any confidence in a trainer that hides from serious competition prior to the Derby and then ventures to take on those from which he has been hiding in a Triple Crown race.

04 Jun 2013 8:14 AM
Love 'em all

So far this year ... the "Os" have it!  Incognito's first name doesn't begin with an "o" (though he has one in the middle and one at the end) ... but his dam's name surely does.  Octave.  How nice to have her son in this year's Belmont ... and I do wish him the best.

Rags to Riches was THE favorite but Octave was the second favorite filly in 2007.  October 2010, Anne Eberhardt featured Octave in her 'Through the Lens' where Incognito was mentioned ... but was nameless at the time.  


Cheers to the "0s".

04 Jun 2013 10:30 AM
Mister Frisky

Another Sheikh Mohammed special.I will pass.The Wood runners haven't made a dent in the first two TC races,and won't Saturday.Orb got the class, Oxbow got the guts.Those two over Rev,WTC,and Golden Soul if sloppy.

04 Jun 2013 10:39 AM
Age of Reason

Coldfacts, my dear friend...Why do you think Incognito's G1 dam is noteworthy when the very Colt Whom Thou Lovest (Revolutionary) is out of a grade 1 winner? With three of the Derby's top four finishers coming directly from the A.P. Indy line (and how many mares has Malibu Moon typically bred the last several years?), citing any number of statistical opinions about the past is a complete non sequitur when trying to predict the future. The relationship between bloodline "trends" and the Triple Crown has been broken up quite recently in recent years, and (as in 2013) quite spectacularly. Keep an open mind: you never know who might walk in.

04 Jun 2013 10:42 AM

i've never bought the argument that a horse is ever entered into a race with no concern for winning or at least hitting the board--every race lost, effects a horse's value as a stallion.

every race lost also effects a horse's race mentality--you don't want a horse to become a accustomed to losing...the risk is too great to that it becomes a habit.

and after the recent article on bloodhorse in which it was disclosed that lasix buffers lactic acid--which is clear and potent performance enhancer--any horse without that benefit competing against horses with it, is at such a huge disadvantage, especially as the distances get longer and the lactic acid gets higher, that sadly, i can't see any but a super horse with a real chance of overcoming it...it would be nice to be proven wrong, but i wouldn't bet on it...

04 Jun 2013 11:58 AM

I agree with Steve in that Incognito has a shot, and that his breeding is toughness and distance.  I don't like the Unbridled's Song (U.S.)in the pedigree though.  Unsoundness and distance limitations are his trademark.  I agree with Mystical Song in that you don't see to many U.S's winning at 1 1/4 miles.  You also don't see too many Greys by A.P. Indy.  This colt is a live long shot and he might just run down his cousing ORB in the final yards.  You can bet I will have a bet on him to do just that.

04 Jun 2013 12:42 PM
Indiana Johnny

Steve, what horses do you think the slop hurts, or helps the most in the Belmont?

I may lean a little more heavy on Golden Soul and Revoultionary on top of tri/super. They both ran well in the slop in the Ky. Derby, and are more rested than Orb and Oxbow. Although I've really liked Orb since the Fl. Derby, this may be too much for him too soon in the top spot.

On one ticket I may play a Golden soul, Rev. "with" Gold. soul, Rev., Overanaylze, Orb "with" Gold. soul, Rev., Overanaylze, Orb,

Palice Malice and Incognito.

And, on a smaller one, single Overanaylze on top of the same.

He has shown some ability in the past, although inconsistent. Maybe the jock change to J. Velaquez will help at Belmont. I've kinda liked Overanaylze before the Derby, had him tied up in some bets then, and hoping he'll redeem himself in the Belmont, or I'll get burned on him again.

04 Jun 2013 1:14 PM

His bloodlines speak volumes, but the weather prognosticators and lack of experience at this level will seal his fate. The Belmont Stakes are part of his learning curve. Incognito lives up to his name here. We won't see the real offspring of A.P. Indy/Octave until his next race when he'll blow us away with his ability.

I look to Revolutionary to pull a rabbit out of a hat at Belmont, and bring the sun out of hiding on an otherwise cloudy day.

04 Jun 2013 3:03 PM
Old Yeller

Mr.Haskin, Looks like a big field for this years Belmont, question # 1 I always thought that all the big races except the Derby were limited to 14 horses ? 2nd question do you think that of all the Triple Crown races the Belmont is the one where post position means the least because of the extra distance.Just like to hear your opinion on this. What do you think of Rev's chance in is the Belmont. Will Calvin Boreal keep the mount? Thanks.

04 Jun 2013 3:46 PM

You would presume that Orb's class will prevail but if it's wet I would be surprised by a run away win by Freedom Child.

As for Incognito, I agree with Steve, his last race was not as bad as first thought. A definite wild card.

It's going to be a very intriguing race and post positions may actually be more important than usual. I'm excited.

04 Jun 2013 5:29 PM

In the Belmont, I don't look at the sire line, my focus is on the mare and her pedigree (stamina).

Revolutionary, Incognito, Will Take Charge, and Orb all have strong bottom pedigree lines.  I am particularly focused on Revolutionary and Incognito.

Incognito's dam's female line top and bottom is replete with stamina.

Revolutionary has the added benefit of a Buckpasser mare on the tail side of his pedigree, again replete with stamina.

Revolutionary, Will Take Charge, and Incognito all have one of the greatest long distance runners of all time in their female line, Princequillo, broodmare sire of Secretariat.

I must put Orb in the mix, solely depending on his broodmare sire's female line, which explodes with stamina past the 5x.

Of course, since 2007, I have won the Belmont only 50% of the time.

Since 2005, 7 of the 8 winners of the Belmont, had strong Princequillo influences in the tail side of their pedigree.  

04 Jun 2013 7:03 PM

Davids, in the Belmont, I don't think post position will be that important; it's a mile and a half.

04 Jun 2013 9:54 PM

Incognito, having one's true identity concealed.  I like the name.

04 Jun 2013 10:11 PM


If you look at the pattern of Overanalyze's victories you'll see that he's due for the win in the Belmont. I like him in there with Johnny V but I think that Freedom Child stands in his way and is about to show that his Peter Pan score was no flash in the pan. Besides, its around this time of year that the AP Indys start to bloom.

Re:Golden Soul, I agree that he has turf pedigree but he'll certainly relish the distance and is getting good right now.

Freedom Child is my firm selection.

05 Jun 2013 1:04 AM


Revolutionary is a bit overrated and will be hard pressed to turn the tables on his superiors from the Derby. He was comprehensively outgunned at Chuchill Downs by Orb and Golden Soul.

05 Jun 2013 1:07 AM

Age of Reason,

Revolutionary was my choice for the Derby. I was not pleased with the tactics employed by CB. He was given too much to do. Calvin us realize that he cannot win the Derby leaving every time either from last or second to last.

Golden Soul whom he defeated handily in the LA Derby was ahead of him in the Derby and he drew post position #4. He was the only horse that finished on the board that was stuck along the rails for 9 1/2F.

He made a move at the top of the stretch but could not sustain it. The inside portion of the track was oocupir by Oxbow

05 Jun 2013 8:09 AM

Age of Reason,

A G1 winning mare is overdue to produce a Derby winner. One has to take a shot if an offspring on one of these mares show above average ability.

Revolutionary was my choice for the Derby. I was not pleased with the tactics employed by CB. He was given too much to do. Calvin must come to the realization that he cannot win the Derby leaving   from either last or second to last every time.

Golden Soul whom Revolutionary defeated handily in the LA Derby was ahead of him from post position #4.

He was the only horse that finished on the board that was stuck along the rails for 9 1/2F.

He made a move at the top of the stretch but could not sustain it. His run was either compromised by the fact that he was on the inside portion of the track or he was a short horse entering the Derby.

Oxbow occupied the inner portion of the track for along way as well. He returned to win the Preakness. Now it's time for Revolutionary to secure a outside draw and justify my confidence.

He will again be my key horse  

05 Jun 2013 8:20 AM


Freedom Child's dam was sired by Deputy Minister. This is significant as Deputy  Minister was dam sire of Belmont winners Rags To Riches, Jazil and Sarava. He was also dam sire of Belmont runner up Curlin.

Freedom Child is also a May foal and May foals have won several Belmonts. Birdstone and Victory Gallop's  who are May foals proved to be spoilers for the Triple Crown attempts for Smarty Jones and Real Quiet.

The more experienced Orb had to be fully extended to defeat FC when he was making his second start. He had Derby 3rd place finisher Revolutionary behind him so he does have a lot of upside.

He has a very awkward galloping action and this could be due to the fact that he is a Ridgling. His stride do no suggest he will be effective at 12F as he tends to pound the ground with his high leg action.

I like him but visually he does not move smooth enough to distribute the requisite energy to stay 12F.

06 Jun 2013 12:14 PM

Sorry Coldfacts, Deputy Minister was a sprinter.  We can thank the AP Indy female line for Rags to Riches stamina.

06 Jun 2013 9:46 PM

well steve you were correct about oxbow so im not going to overlook your opion.

06 Jun 2013 11:24 PM

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