Belmont Analysis: Go With the Phlow

As I said before the Preakness, you really don’t think I’m going against American Pharoah now after having him ranked No. 1 since February and stating then he had superstar potential and looked to be something special. This is the race that no doubt will determine his place in the history books. There are Triple Crown winners and then there is everyone else. We’ll see if he belongs in the pantheon of immortals or in the chapters with all those who came so close and had to settle as footnotes of history.

I have stated all week the reasons why I feel he is different than the others who have tried to sweep the Triple Crown in the past 37 years. In short, he has proven to be flawless in every category. He simply does everything right, to the point where it’s kind of scary. Until he shows otherwise, he is the perfect racehorse.

Although it would not be surprising at all to see him win off by eight or 10 lengths, we have been down this road before and are well aware the Belmont Stakes always seems to offer these nasty little surprises that no one can figure on ahead of time. As Ahmed Zayat said, if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be. It’s out of everyone’s hands right now, so we’ll see what destiny has in store for this horse.

American Pharoah won’t be lacking for competition, and I have to say, that in the case of Frosted, another horse I have been high on for a long time, we really don’t know how good this version of Frosted is. And by this version, I’m referring to the horse who made a major transformation after the Fountain of Youth Stakes, thanks to the handy work of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin that included adjustments to his newly added blinkers, changing riders to Joel Rosario and having him work Frosted behind two other horses, and finally having a procedure done to free his airways after it appeared that he had displaced in the Fountain of Youth. The horse that emerged from all this ran super to win the Wood Memorial and ran another terrific race in the Kentucky Derby, flying past horses from the back of pack, but running out of real estate, finishing a fast-closing fourth. His sire, Tapit, sired last year’s Belmont winner Tonalist, and Frosted has a strong female family to go with it.

So, in many ways, we really don’t know what we’re dealing with in Frosted. He has been training brilliantly, with very strong works and equally strong gallops. He’s been going smoothly over the track with no flaws at all. So, if American Pharoah makes any mistakes, Frosted definitely is a horse who can take advantage of them. This is a very good horse in his own right, who should be much closer to the pace this time, and will be grinding away, hoping to wear down Pharoah in the stretch.

Another horse we really don’t know much about is Mubtaahij, despite his one-paced eighth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. If you’re looking for a dead-fit horse who is bred to go 1 1/2 miles, then you have to take one more shot with this colt, whose pedigree includes four English Derby winners, three Irish Derby winners, three Arc de Triomphe winners, two Arc runners-up, a St. Leger winner, a French Derby winner, a Dubai World Cup winner, a Washington D.C. International winner, and an English Derby runner-up.

The main reason to like this horse is the GPS system that monitors his every movement, which reveals that he loves Belmont Park and didn’t like Churchill Downs. That is revealed in the length of his stride at Belmont, which is noticeably longer than it was at Churchill Downs. Assistant Trevor Brown said he galloped him at Churchill after the Derby and he absolutely despised it, refusing to change leads. He also apparently did not like being stuck on the rail the entire Derby and unable to use his turn of foot. He just ran evenly throughout.

Since arriving at Belmont in mid-May, he has registered an amazing six works, and all signs – length of stride, number of strides, heart rate, recovery time, and speed – all have been extremely favorable. In his work on May 27, the GPS had him coming home his final three eighths in :11.7, :11.8, and :11.7.

As mentioned, the question simply is, is he good enough to compete on this level? We cannot gauge the quality of competition he faced in Dubai, so you can either go by the Derby and toss him or throw that race out, and figure, now that he has acclimated and found a surface he loves, he will show huge improvement. If he is indeed as good as he looked in the UAE Derby and is able to use that quick turn of foot this time, then he could prove to be a major threat to American Pharoah. It’s a guess, but at least there are vital statistics from the GPS that can possibly indicate a return to his Dubai form.

In looking at the rest of the field, Materiality, a gifted horse in his own right, has the speed to keep American Pharoah occupied, and we’ll see what the strategy will be from the far outside post. He is very lightly raced with only four career starts, and while we’ve seen other lightly raced horses perform well in the Belmont, there is still a question of how he’ll react to either outrunning American Pharoah and being pressed or the other way around.

His stablemate Madefromlucky has a graded stakes win over the track in the Peter Pan Stakes and has been showing good energy in his gallops. But he has been trounced twice already by American Pharoah, so there is the question of whether he’s in the class of the favorite, He’s sneaky in here, but can he turn the tables to such an extent that he can actually win? That is the question.

The other three – Keen Ice, Tale of Verve, and Frammento – are all deep closers and difficult to separate. Keen Ice and Frammento both had bad trips in the Derby, and it was Keen Ice who slammed Frammento out of his at the three-sixteenths pole after being bottled up in traffic and closed fast, despite not changing leads. Frammento also came from far back and was forced about eight to nine-wide at the head of the stretch. And let’s remember what Nick Zito’s horses have done in the Belmont Stakes. No matter what their form is, they run huge in the Test of the Champion.

And finally, we all saw what Tale of Verve did in the Preakness, and who knows how much improvement he has in him? He can move forward or regress, leaving him as another question mark.

So sorting all this out, I am sticking with American Pharoah, who fits every profile (as I’ve written this past week) of a Triple Crown winner and is still giving off very positive vibes. I will put Frosted and Mubtaahij behind him both ways to complete the exacta and trifecta.

And for a trifecta saver at a price, I’ll throw the three closers and Madefromlucky in for third to pick up a piece of it. It just doesn’t pay to play American Pharoah with Frosted and Materiality. That will not pay much at all.

Enjoy the race. It’s been a fun ride since January, but all good things must come to an end. And by Saturday evening the Triple Crown will be history and we’ll know pretty much where American Pharoah’s name will be mentioned in the annals of the sport.

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