A Different Twist for One Belmont Starter

Let's start off by saying what has happened in the past often has no bearing on what is going to happen in the future. In Thoroughbred racing, they call them past performances for a reason. And sometimes you will find similarities between present horses and horses of the past that at the very least will prove interesting, whether they have any bearing on the result of a race or not. 

With such a seemingly wide-open field in this year's Belmont Stakes, I couldn't help but find interesting a comparison between probable starter Twisted Tom and former Belmont winner Ruler On Ice.

Before getting to that, it must be stated that pedigree-wise, Twisted Tom, was born for the Belmont Stakes. His dam is by a Belmont winner, his second dam is by a Belmont winner, his third dam is by a Belmont winner, and his fourth dam is by the sire of a Belmont winner. To take it even one step further, the fourth dam's sire is out of a mare by a Belmont winner.

The respective Belmont winners in question are Thunder Gulch, Seattle Slew, Stage Door Johnny, and the fourth dam is by Exclusive Native, the sire of Affirmed. Exclusive Native's broodmare sire is Shut Out. Of these Belmont winners, two (Seattle Slew and Affirmed) are Triple Crown winners, two (Thunder Gulch and Shut Out) also won the Kentucky Derby, and Stage Door Johnny prevented an extremely controversial Triple Crown sweep by defeating Forward Pass, who was placed first on the eventual disqualification of Dancer's Image before romping in the Preakness.

The more I looked at Twisted Tom's past performances and watched his races, the more I kept remembering the 2011 Belmont Stakes victory by Ruler On Ice. I vividly recall seeing his bright orange silks stalking the pace the whole way at odds of 24-1 and commenting to my colleague Lenny Shulman, "Those silks just won't go away." And they never did, crossing the finish line three-quarters of a length in front of the Todd Pletcher-trained Stay Thirsty.

So, why would Twisted Tom remind me of Ruler On Ice? Well, they both for the most part have the same running style; both are geldings; Twisted Tom was born on April 1 and Ruler On Ice was born on April 2; both horses had last run in Maryland's Federico Tesio Stakes of all races, with Twisted Tom finishing first and Ruler On Ice finishing second; both horses had run in allowance races on the inner track at Aqueduct earlier in the year, Twisted Tom winning on January 28 and Ruler On Ice finishing second on February 4; both horses showed vast improvement with the addition of blinkers—Ruler On Ice wore blinkers for the first time in the Belmont and Twisted Tom is three-for-three since being equipped with blinkers; and Twisted Tom was one-for-three at 2 with no placings, while Ruler On Ice was one-for-two at 2 with no placings.

While we are on the subject of interesting comparisons that most likely will prove useless, if you're looking for a bomb exacta, the horse Ruler On Ice defeated in the Belmont, Stay Thirsty, had won one race as a 3-year-old, a 3 1/4-length victory in the Gotham Stakes before finishing 12th in the Kentucky Derby. In this year's Belmont is J Boys Echo, who scored a 3 1/2-length victory in the Gotham Stakes before finishing 15th in the Kentucky Derby. Hey, I realize I'm trying to make foie gras out of chopped liver, but at least it's kind of fun trying.

You have to admit, however, with all the grasping for straws, you can't knock this colt's Belmont Stakes pedigree, and with so few horses in the field who are bred to be true mile and a half horses (he and Epicharis are the two that should relish the distance) bloodlines could play an important part in the outcome.

There are a few others who should get the mile and a half, with mention having to be made of Patch, who is by a Belmont winner (Union Rags) out of a mare by a Belmont winner (A.P. Indy) and is inbred top and bottom to Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Secretariat. But Union Rags probably wasn't a true mile and a half horse and was classy enough to take advantage of a dream trip along the inside and the last-minute defection of Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another to just catch the pacesetting Paynter (who also was not a true mile and a half horse) in the final strides.

So, you can lump all this together just in case you're looking for reasons to bet on Twisted Tom, as twisted as some of those reasons may be.

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